Capcom’s fighting games have revitalized gamers’ interest in this once-dormant genre. Can they continue their success with a mash-up of two of the greatest fighting franchises in Street Fighter X Tekken? I got my mitts on the Vita version of the game and after spending several hours playing through the online, offline and extra modes I am ready to report on why you should or shouldn’t pick up Capcom’s latest.
The Vita is one powerful machine, there is no questioning that, and Capcom has already proven that it is a viable platform for their versatile MT Framework engine. SfxT is no exception as the game runs and plays wonderfully on the hand-held. For fighting fans on the go this is certainly going to become a must buy to keep themselves brushed up while out and about. Casual fighting fans who may have gotten their fill of this blend of cross-over fighting action may feel they can skip the Vita version but Capcom hopes some included DLC sweetens the deal and entices PS3 users to double-dip.
Mechanics within a fighting game can make or break a title. If it is too simple one may label it a Smash Bros. rip-off, or worse say that it has no depth. If the game has too complex of a fighting system without graduating players into the deeper mechanics it can feel unplayable to newer players. The Street Fighter and Tekken series have taken a different approach to gameplay, in my opinion, and Capcom was faced with a tall order when they set the mandate of joining these two series together. For the most part the marriage of these two franchises has been handled smoothly.
In general players face-off on a 2D playing field similar to Street Fighter IV or Marvel VS Capcom. The game adds one new meter, the Cross Assault Gauge, which I will get to but for the most part it plays like a standard Capcom fighter. Different from the entries in either series main franchise titles is the ability to switch out your fighter at any time, as battles are 2 Vs. 2 with only one fighter out at a time. The trade off for this ability is that if either of your fighters dies its game over, the round ends. So unlike say a game like MVC you can not wear down your opponent and then switch characters hoping to clean up the mess. Managing health is essential in this game.
I’ve always been more of a Street Fighter player than a Tekken fan to be honest. The humor and over the top nature of the Tekken series has kept my interest from game to game but the varying move sets of characters, different styles and slightly more complex button inputs have kept me from becoming a serious player. Clearly, I prefer the repeating inputs featured in the Capcom series of games and here they have delivered a system that attempts to balance both. Each character can perform super moves (for the Capcom Side) or special grapple and martial moves (for the Tekken Side) at any time using the traditional Capcom Style inputs. This means that for the most part instead of pressing a direction and a series of buttons, like in Tekken, you’ll be using the more familiar half circle and Z patterns on the D-Pad usually combined with a single button. The strong focus on the ability to throw your opponent, either by touching the vita’s back panel (this can be reconfigured) or by pressing a single button lends some new strategies with the traditional Capcom characters.
In terms of Roster Street Fighter X Tekken is expansive. Featuring over 50 characters divided amongst the two franchises your favorites are certainly going to be present. The game even includes additional characters that cost an extra $15 on the consoles free of charge, as well as a DLC voucher for the PS3 version if you happen to own that. Whether you like shooting electric bolts with Blanka, devastating punches with Jin, Hadukens with Ken & Ruy or break-dancing with Christie there is something here for you.
I stuck to Sakura and Asuka for the majority of my time with the game. That’s not to say that I didn’t try other characters, I just found their combination of speed, lower meele attacks (Asuka) and the ability to use mid range projectiles and kicks (Sakura) to my liking. Once you’ve found a team that works for you, and trust me with all of the variation you will, you’ll be ready to throw out Cross Assaults and Cross Arts. These joint attacks add a third meter, in addition to the health and EX Special meters from previous games. Cross Assaults can be pulled off with a backward flick of the left joystick and two buttons, allowing you to control both characters at once. Provided one of your characters is not critically low on health this is a great way to finish a match. Cross Arts are joint attacks that launch a kind of cinematic event, each character performs a preset move such as launching your opponent in the air or hitting them with a devastating attack and then passing them off to your teammate for more of the same. These carry less risk of your characters taking direct damage due to their cinematic nature but they also have a lot shorter of a connection range in terms of execution.
I’ve probably gushed about how well the game plays, but what about performance? The vita is a capable machine, with its 512MB of ram and quadcore ARM processor but even that wasn’t enough to replicate the console experience completely. Graphically there is a loss of details in terms of backgrounds and character textures when compared with the console version. This isn’t to say it is a bad looking game–in fact, it looks fantastic for a portable rendition of a popular fighting game. But if you’ve played the other versions be prepared for a slight downgrade in the visual department. The great thing is that the frame rate appears to be locked at a solid 60 FPS and it never dipped during our playtime. The load-times were a little long however when compared to other vita games.
In terms of modes you get the full console experience right in the palm of your hand. Arcade Mode will test your skills against multiple sets of opponents before facing you off against a final boss. Unfortunately, at least for me and one other person who played the arcade mode alongside me, the difficulty spike in the single player mode once you reach the final boss is like hitting a brick wall head-on. The online mode also performed well in our tests, with only the slightest hints of lag from time to time. Nothing like the launch of the console version this past spring, which featured constant disconnects. The only new mode addition is Burst Kumite, which faces you off against endless waves of enemies AKA Arcade mode with no end. Its a nice enough addition; not really worth picking up alone, but it provides a challenge for hardcore players.
If you are a fighting fan and own a PS Vita you owe it to yourself to pick up Street Fighter X Tekken as soon as you can. Sure the console game launched with some problems, namely in terms of online, and the additional DLC characters were a kick in the shin but the Vita version remedies all of these. The inclusion of the DLC voucher for PS3 also sweetens the deal and hey it’s $20 cheaper than when the game hit consoles. A relatively lag free online experience is also nice just be aware there are some graphical sacrifices in order to keep things running smoothly and load times seem longer than the console port of the game. All in all this is one that will keep hardcore and casual fighting fans busy for awhile.