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May 11, 2012
Street Fighter X Tekken Review for PS3

By Jason Van Horn

I find with age my tastes in gaming have changed quite a lot when it comes to some aspects. I used to love fighting games when I was younger and remember playing Street Fighter II for the first time on vacation with my family to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (I chose Blanka). I remember going to a pool with my cousins and besting a flash kick spamming Guile turtle with my Chun-Li and feeling like the best fighter in the world. I spent hours upon hours of unlocking every unlockable in Marvels vs Capcom 2 for the Dreamcast. With the latest game - Street Fighter X Tekken - I thought I'd be in fighting game heaven because you never see two powerhouse franchises such as these being brought together. Instead of heaven I'm in hell and very close to breaking a controller, a television, or something else fragile that's hanging about nearby.

The story of Street Fighter X Tekken concerns itself with Pandora's Box, a powerful artifact that fell from the skies. Seeing an opportunity, different characters throughout the history of Street Fighter and Tekken decide to adventure out to find the artifact and use its power how they best see fit. Fighting games rarely have stories so I'm always happy when at least some effort is put in, but the end results and conditions don't really tell much of a narrative at all. You can pick whatever characters you want, but you'll only get the ending credit story for whoever you chose as your opening character; no cutscene just a brief little paragraph about what happened after your character got to Pandora's Box. There are cutscenes actually in the game, but in order to get them you have to play the pre-designated duos the game has placed together; it's nice to get something from a pairing, but the stories still fall flat. The only other story elements you'll get are from the end of fight dialogue (if you picked one of the pre-designated teams) and an in-game cutscene that has you meeting your "rivals" before the next to last fight.

As you may have guessed from the previous paragraph, Street Fighter X Tekken features the tag system of Tekken Tag Tournament games where two characters are chosen and the loser is whoever loses a character first. Unlike the Marvel vs Capcom games where the loser is whoever loses all of their characters first, it's completely possible to lose a match with one character still sitting at full life simply because you were unable to tag them out. The tag system works relatively well, as you can cold tag in, perform a combo to tag in, or hit a special attack followed by a quick tag. The main problem is that the game features some special tag moves, which are very similar in input actions, so it's not uncommon to try and perform one thing and have something else happen by accident. You might try for a tag and end up calling for the computer to jump in and you both attack the enemy at once. You might try having the two-on-one tag and end up activating Pandora Mode, which is basically an instant game over unless you're good or get lucky. The game has too many mechanics happening to properly map them all to the controller.

The game has a ton of characters and it's especially nice to see them bring back some of the Street Fighter characters they did like Hugo who haven't been seen in quite some time. The other thing I really like about the characters is that Capcom did a great job at taking the Tekken characters, keeping what makes them feel special, and yet merging them into the gameplay possibilities of the Street Fighter franchise; this mostly comes into play by way of the high and low hitting combo chains and how it's possible to perform some crazy juggles if you know your team well. You'd think Street Fighter characters would instantly be better, but the ones who have harassed me the most are the Tekken characters in the hands of a good player (or either just one who memorizes one combo chain and spams it from the beginning of a match to the end). One thing I don't like is having DLC characters on the disc and making gamers pay to unlock them, as there are still twelve characters to unlock in the future through DLC purchases. I had no problem with the previous Street Fighter when they offered costumes because those are just skins and not a huge deal to me. When you take something gameplay defining like twelve extra characters and hold them ransom over players THEN I take offense. So theoretically you're going to be paying about $60 for the game, plus probably another $20 (if we're lucky) for the extra characters, so in actuality we'll be paying $80 for a regular game in this day and age.

Customization also plays a big part, as you can choose any character and play around with some settings in order to change how your favorite character looks (coloring everyone black, giving them a chrome like color, or giving them white Sephiroth hair doesn't make you look cool for the record). If my recollection is correct, more colors will be given away for free, while others will come at the cost of DLC - surprise!

Another way you'll be able to customize characters is through the gem system, which is a unique but flawed system for both the casual, hardcore and tournament fighters. Each character comes with two presets, but you can go and change the gems to whatever you want; by performing certain actions, you can activate gems to make you stronger, recover health, gain meter faster, etc. The problem is that gems are supposed to be released as DLC too and you have to ask the question, "Why would Capcom make us pay for crappy gems?" The answer is they wouldn't, but would instead make the best gems possible in order to make people want to buy them in order to think they still have a chance at being competitive in the game. The big fighting tournaments even see the flaws of the system and have banned the usage of gems completely in many instances, even if they're gems available to everyone already.

At its core Street Fighter X Tekken is a fun game, but there are annoyances and poor gameplay decisions and performance issues everywhere you turn. The Arcade mode doesn't mix characters up, as you'll only play pre-designed teams such as those you'd use to see one of the special cutscenes. Do you want to fight against Ryu and Cammy playing together? Tough, because Ryu will only ever be with Ken and Cammy will only ever be with Chun-Li. One of the things I liked about Marvel vs Capcom 3 is that while you would start eventually seeing the same teams, for the most part the game did a great job at taking random characters and putting them on a team together, which helped me see the potential of some pairings I never did before. With Street Fighter X Tekken there is no chance to see unlikely pairings as the mode is too set in stone.

I also find the game's online multiplayer equally frustrating and poorly designed. You can't easily jump into a normal Player Match game now without having to create a lobby or join one where multiple players are and all you can do is wait until it's your turn to play. If you want instant gratification your only option is Ranked Matches, which gives you the option of playing people of similar skill level or anyone no matter the level involved, but the truth is that there is no "playing people of similar level." If I'm sitting at 0BP I expect to play other 0BP players or those up to 200BP if I'm being generous, but too often I find myself fighting high 1000BP players who of course tear me a new one; their ranking letter isn't even the same! It's hard to have fun when all you can do is watch you fail at every move and be countered at every opportunity. On top of that the sound is completely screwed up when playing online, which does throw my timing off and makes it hard to instantly know when you were hit if there's no thud or noise to indicate otherwise. I wish I knew what the problem was or why Capcom still hasn't fixed it, but only being able to hear half the action of a fight is a big issue.

One gameplay feature I like is the idea of co-op, where you can go through the Arcade Mode with another player (you each control one character and tag in and out when you deem it appropriate), play online together in a Ranked or Endless Match in much the same way, plus there's the Scramble Battles that have all four players on the screen at once, but it's more for giggles than anything serious.

Besides the Arcade Mode and online multiplayer, you can also go into Training Mode to practice fights under special conditions, and go into Challenge Mode to learn how to use the special moves of your characters and learn how to chain some simple and complex combos together.

Not much has changed graphically from the previous Street Fighter except for the addition of the Tekken characters who have managed to maintain their old look despite the Street Fighter coat of paint. The only drastic changes come from the backgrounds, which feature a ton of animation and action (so much so you almost want to take your eyes away from the actual fighting taking place on the screen). You'll see evil mammoths chasing you down in your hovercraft, ancient evils emerging while random objects float in the sky, billboards sliding into view, skateboarders tackling different areas of the background, and much more. The game has a few new lighting flourishes too, but mostly the game still just looks good (if slightly tweaked). As for sound the voice work of both the American and Japanese voices is well done, the sound effects are solid (when you can hear them that is), but the music ranges from annoying techno junk to more melodic and menacing pieces.

I was pumped and excited to play Street Fighter X Tekken and have been ever since it was first announced. The final game, however, leaves a lot to be desired in both the single-player and multiplayer modes. It feels like Capcom finished what they could, rushed the game out, and said they'd patch everything later through updates, DLC, or completely new versions of the game (though hopefully that won't be the case this time if there are twelve characters already waiting on the disc). The game features so many hurdles to jump that playing the game often feels more like work than actual fun. I'm determined to try and be good with at least one fighting game, but if it wasn't for that personal motivator I'd probably have traded the game in for a little store credit by now.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


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