We’ve seen fighting games form unholy unions before. Both with each other, as in the case of the Capcom and SNK mash-ups, and with licensed properties like Marvel and DC. Capcom has arguably been the best at this, those alliances with SNK and the “Marvel Vs.” games have often been popular and critically acclaimed. This collision between the Street Fighter and Tekken universes, though, is a slightly different prospect.
Previous collaborations either allowed Capcom to impose its style wholly on the guest combatants — as in the “Marvel Vs.” series — or the guest franchise was sufficiently close in approach to Capcom’s own — as with the SNK collusions. Tekken has always been a different kind of game, more focussed on button combos than on quarter-circles. Street Fighter X Tekken not only works, it improves and diversifies what Capcom started with and evolves it into a different game.
Balloo couldn't do that.
It’s faster than the latest Street Fighter games, with the tag-team mechanic moving gameplay slightly in the direction of the “Marvel Vs.” games in terms of twitchy speed and strategy. SFXT is simpler though, with less intricate knowledge needed to pull off Ultras and some interesting ways to simplify things further. It seems that Capcom has finally conceded a few ways to make modern fighting games less impenetrable to newcomers.
It’s not all about making things easier for newcomers though, SFXT retains plenty of complicated mechanical gubbins that will need more than a passing understanding for anyone wishing to do really well at the game. These are all presented in lengthy tutorials which explain the elements of the charging Cross Gauge’s three bars. Essentially, this fills up as you fight and can be used to unleash more powerful attacks, counter into a launch or tag out mid-combo and have your partner continue the attack. A full gauge gives you the option to perform a Cross Art, kind of a two-man Ultra or a Cross Assault which has your partner join you for a few seconds of AI-controlled double teaming.
If your health meter falls below a quarter strength, you also have the option to risk Pandora. This is essentially a do-or-die wager that kills off the beleaguered fighter but awards a massive power boost to their partner. The boost only lasts for a brief time though, if the fight is not won in that time then the boosted combatant also falls.
The various complex mechanical systems can still be baffling and it certainly seems like it will take time for their intricacies to be uncovered. As with all the best fighting games, SFXT will not be something that players — even fighting game veterans — will become wholly proficient with in just a few days or even weeks. It should mature over time, with the best strategies and tactical choices taking months to be fully realised. With a huge roster of 38, the various partnerships available will also present a full spectrum of tactical options that should see some interesting debate among experts.
Another layer of tactical complexity is added with the new upgrade system. Gems can be assigned to your characters and provide buffs to certain aspects of their skill. As well as allowing Gems that make control input simpler, there are upgrades that increase attack, defence, vitality, speed, or your Cross Gauge capacity.
It looks great, so colourful and vivid.
Perhaps the most innovation in SFXT has come in the multiplayer aspects of the game. Along with the familiar online modes carried over from Street Fighter IV, there is a new cooperative mode which allows two tag team partners to team up and take on other pairings online. You can train with each other in a Briefing Room before each taking control of a team member in 2 vs 2 online battles. There’s also a kind of four-player battle royale mode called Scramble, which puts all four players on screen together in a four-way melée.
Netcode has, apparently, been improved upon since Street Fighter IV and now allows for the faster style of gameplay and the four-player elements but it was very buggy when tested. There were significant sound issues and plenty of smaller grievances which will need to be ironed out before release.
- Great balance of speed and tactics.
- Immense depth to tactical options.
- Simplified route of entry for newcomers, without sacrificing complexity.
- Looks great.
- New online options should be very interesting.
- Online is in desperate need of a bug-fixing patch.
- With so many tactical options, it will take months to fully comprehend.
Capcom has often been accused of iterating on its fighting games too much, with SFXT that’s definitely not the case. This is a fighting game which truly innovates in a number of key areas. It attempts to make it easier for newcomers to find a path into the myriad options and tactical load-outs without sacrificing any of the complexities which could make this a viable long-term option for the tournament scene. There’s only so much a developer can do within a genre, of course, but this feels like the first time in a while that big changes have been made with such resounding success.