I lied. I said a few months back that I wouldn’t be purchasing Street Fighter X Tekken on account of learning a valuable lesson on how Capcom does business. I was the fool that purchased the Limited Edition of Ordinary Marvel vs. Capcom 3, guffawed at the homogenous collector’s comic that was loosely attached to the tin case, then sold said case immediately because Ultimate Less-Ordinary Marvel vs. Capcom 3 happened. I had vowed then and there to never buy a first generation Capcom game again, after realizing Capcom games were now going to have multiple generations. But alas, the promises of rampant casual racism and Zangief piledriving a bear were too much, and Twisted Metal’s online service is still non-functional after some four patches. So let us get to piledriving wildlife.
Capcom did at least have enough disrespect to make me pay in other ways for my all-too-eager purchase. They made me wait one week before unlocking bonus characters Pac-Man-in-a-mech-suit and up-yours-Inafune-here’s-fat-MegaMan. Then they penalized me for waiting the week by making both of those characters grossly underwhelming to use in comparison to actual Street Fighting and Tekkening characters. Then they decided to remind us that playing these fighters online must always be an imperfect experience by having the sound effects all but vanish in online matches. It’s a weird glitch; the audio effects randomly not playing, not getting the gratification of hearing fist hit flesh and your favourite fighting game character yell out the name of his trademark attack. But hey, this fault is easily corrected by muting the game and turning up your podcast/Sammy Hagar album of choice, and coming off of Twisted Metal’s “wait five minutes to find out you couldn’t join the game”, having online play be almost functional is kind of a godsend.
I guess pitting Street Fighter characters against Tekken characters makes sense. We’ve already gotten the SNK/Capcom crossover a couple hundred people dreamed about a decade ago and we’re not getting Street Fighter X Mortal Kombat on account of that violence, and we’re not getting Street Fighter X UFC because no Street Fighter character has an answer to Georges St. Pierre’s double-leg takedown. So this is the next best thing and they kind of make it work. The things that I associate with Street Fighterish combat (throwing fireballs, jumping high, special attacks involving more crazier fireballs) are here, combined with the things that I think are associated with Tekken (long, long combos and a bear.) The result is a game that plays fast and involves punches in bunches of bunches. So many hits transition into other hits that launch your opponent in the air that lead into other hits, and you can usually guess what moves flow into what and actually be sort of correct. The end result is a game that floats just barely above button-mashing in that way that made so many non-fighting game fans think Tekken 3 was the bomb and everything after, well, less so the bomb.
Granted, there are still plenty of nuances for people that actually care about fighting games to pick up on and defeat the people that thought Tekken 3 was the bomb. One look at the very slow and annoying tutorial will reveal all kinds of confusingly-named systems in place. There’s the Cross Assault, the Cross Counter, the Cross Combo, the Cross Calamity, the Cross Eyes, the Crossed legs, the Sign of the Cross, the Criss Cross attack that makes the enemy jump and jump. There’s also all of that byzantine gem business, where you would be theoretically able to equip stat buffs that come into play after certain conditions are met. I feel that there might be something substantial to this whole gem business, like maybe I could come up with certain combinations that fit the way I play. The problem is that I have to go to a separate menu to equip these gem combinations on a per-character basis.
You know, in a game with about 40 characters. All of which are equipped with only 2 out of a possible 3 gems by default. That’s an awful lot of micromanagement that I can’t be arsed to get involved with. So I don’t. So I just kick back and fiddle around with the 40 characters at my own pace. And well, the characters are by and large kind of great. Well, I think so anyways, I can’t be made to play more Tekken 6 to find out if they’re really true to form. (Hey, does anyone in the Toronto area want my copy of Tekken 6?) The Tekken characters don’t feel like someone mapped Street Fighter-like moves to them against their will, as they’ll try to survive on their own with no need for smaltzy fireballs. And all of this action takes place in a two-on-two format with teammates randomly subbing out to complete each other’s combos; a very bro-ey maneuver, and your partners are presumably such tight buddies that the depleted health bar of one teammate will cause the other to instantaneously throw in the towel.
Like an actual Tekken game, Street Fighter X Tekken has more narrative than you can possibly care about. Even if the means to access the story are poorly communicated; you have to play as certain pairs of fighters, and the pairs are positioned next to each other on the character select screen in a manner that would only make sense once someone outside of the game tells you such. Once you do clue in, you get involved in a meaningless plot involving history’s first macguffan, Pandora’s Box causing people to fight each other. There is post-fight dialogue, there are some story bits, including a full-blown CG cutscene ending where nothing of note ever actually happens. I would recommend people play Arcade Mode and see what comes of Zangief and Rufus, but otherwise Arcade Mode exists largely to give your thumbs some buttons to press while Capcom servers look for an online match.
I want to say that Street Fighter X Tekken will appeal to the hardcore fighting game community and be a favourite of tournament players, but I don’t know. They were too busy ripping into my ethnicity, and the ethnicity of those around them. But as someone who plays fighters for the same reason I play other games, watch movies and cheer on fighting hobos, this game amuses me properly. There’s a goofy little mode called Scramble mode, where all four characters are on screen hurting each other, and it’s complete, untactical madness. There’s some kind of party mode potential there, and even beyond that, Street Fighter X Tekken is an ideal goof-around fighter.