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Street Fighter X Tekken Review

3
  • X360
  • PS3

Street Fighter X Tekken starts out with some amazingly fun updates to the classic Capcom style, but it's a real shame that the online mode is so awkward.

Law can really lay down the... uh...
Law can really lay down the... uh...

Street Fighter X Tekken is a good example of a game with a terrific and exciting core that manages to get brought down by just about everything that happens around it. The fighting system in SFXT makes interesting updates to Capcom's 2D fighting formula that make for a wilder game without going all Versus Series along the way. The characters from Namco's Tekken franchise fit into the action surprisingly well, with some updates to make them fit into Capcom's ways of doing things sitting alongside just enough of the old stuff to evoke the essence of Tekken. But it's only at its peak when you're sitting next to another player, locally engaging in SFXT's brand of tag battles. Online, I found it to be a bit of a mess, and the game's attempts at meaningful character customization fall victim to layers and layers of slow-moving menus and a bundle of additional content that only serves to further confuse the issue.

This game takes Street Fighter IV as its base and works forward from there, removing focus attacks, allowing way more in-air juggles, and adding an arsenal of quick, easy combo chains and a handful of tag moves to help you get one character exchanged for your other. It also brings in a forward roll while getting up that mimics some of Tekken's wake-up game. But, most importantly, it brings in a ton of Tekken characters. The developers haven't turned all of those Iron Fist fighters into carbon copies of the Street Fighters, though some concessions have been made to make them fit a little tighter into the Capcom format. Some moves that would have required a lot of button tapping before have been turned into more traditional Street Fighter specials. Hwoarang's flying air kicks (the "Hunting Hawk," if you will) have been converted to work via a simple hurricane kick-style motion. But some of the quick, button tapping combos of Tekken appear, as well. Kazuya's 1, 1, 2 punch combo appears in the game pretty much intact, for example. The attempts to include just enough Tekken stuff prevents the "new" characters from just feeling like a batch of characters that, for the most part, don't toss projectiles. But it also makes them slightly trickier to pick up and use. When you're going up against a seemingly endless parade of online fighters that pick two Street Fighter characters every single time (Ken/Ryu, unsurprisingly, seems to be kind of popular), getting a feel for the Tekken guys and attempting to apply the things you've picked up offline or in the training modes can be something of a chore.

Dan will take you through the training mode.
Dan will take you through the training mode.

In addition to picking a team of characters, you can further customize things by equipping your fighters with gems. These gems come in the form of if-then statements, sort of like "if you land 5 normal attacks, then your damage output is increased by 10 percent for 20 seconds." Some of the more substantial bonuses come with a penalty, like a lowered movement speed or decreased defense. There are also gems in place for lesser players, essentially turning on an Easy Operation style mode that makes it easier to do some moves, but these gems typically come with a substantial penalty. The gems themselves are an interesting idea, but the way they're implemented makes them more annoying than anything else.

For starters, you won't have every single gem at your disposal. Even if you pay extra for the game's special edition, which comes with 45 additional gems, there are still plenty of additional slots for post-release gems, presumably as part of a paid download. On top of that, some of the gems that come with the more expensive version of the game are arguably better than the standard gems, which is sort of gross. It's not quite a full on "pay to win" problem, but it sure feels close. The gems themselves are also difficult to implement as they must be assigned on a per-character basis, and the default gem loadouts given by the game are bad, utilizing only two of the three potential slots. This means that, unless you're the sort of person that's only going to ever select one or two teams of characters, you sort of need to drag your way through the gem menus for every single character to build even a standard set of gems. You can create two sets for each character and choose between them when selecting your team, but the ability to create a few universal sets that can be applied to any character would have provided a good option for people who don't feel like tweaking every single fighter.

If I could embed a sound file right here of the Tekken 2 announcer saying
If I could embed a sound file right here of the Tekken 2 announcer saying "PAUL PHOENIX," I would.

The offline portion of Street Fighter X Tekken has the modes you'd expect to see from a modern Capcom fighting game, including a story mode that includes FMV endings for the "official" teams, training and trial modes, and a collection of local multiplayer modes that allow up to four players to play at the same time. Online is the part that's potentially more interesting, but it's pretty broken in its current implementation. The game seems to be attempting to implement a GGPO-like system where the action can roll back to the last synched position really quickly whenever latency gets in the way, ideally resulting in smooth-feeling gameplay that's better than the average net code. But SFXT has always felt a little off to me over the Internet, specifically when it comes to blocking. I feel like I'm constantly saying "I totally blocked that" as I eat up combo after combo.

But the real problem is that the audio is completely broken during online matches. Sound effects stutter and get cut-off as the game rolls back and synchs up again, so voices don't play properly, hits don't have any sound associated with them, and the whole thing generally sounds like crap. Between these two probably-related things, the online feels pretty much unplayable whether you're going one-on-one in a ranked game or putting six players together in an endless lobby. The four-player scramble mode, which puts all four fighters on-screen at once, is just fine, but that mode is so insanely chaotic anyway that it sort of masks the other issues.

It's a shame that the online is so off, because like I said before, the core of Street Fighter X Tekken is really cool. Even if you decide to ignore the Tekken characters, the fighters you know well from previous Capcom fighting games feel different because of the game's juggle system. And the Tekken fighters bring the whole thing up to a rather large roster of playable characters, giving you plenty--almost too much, actually--to learn. With cleaner online play it'd be easier to recommend, but if you don't mind an extra helping of Internet weirdness or have enough locals nearby to let you compete offline, it can be a hell of a good time.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+