Street Fighter X Tekken debuted on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 back in March, but Capcom's latest fighting extravaganza didn't make it to the PC until earlier this month. While it's a faithful translation of the core gameplay, the PC port lags behind its console brethren in networking performance, update patches and DLC availability.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Street Fighter X Tekken (pronounced Street Fighter Cross Tekken) takes some of the most popular characters from each fighting game universe and smashes them together for an ultimate fighting match-up. Because this is a Capcom-developed game, much of the fighting is Street Fighter inspired. With that said, there are still elements that are recognizably Tekken, such as the tag mechanic, four-button combos and how the life bars work. A Namco-developed Tekken X Street Fighter game with its roots firmly in the Tekken franchise is currently in the works, but we're not expecting to see anything substantial on that until well into next year.
Compared to prior games in the Street Fighter series, Street Fighter X Tekken stands out for its accessibility. Although the game engine is based on Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, the actual gameplay isn't nearly as technical as its predecessor. Moves have been simplified, timing windows are opened up and preset quick combos (triggered with a button press) all help ensure a low barrier to entry. Even the computer AI has been dumbed down, so new players making their way through arcade mode won't be frustrated.
Despite its focus on accessibility, Street Fighter X Tekken hasn't left advanced players out in the cold. There is still plenty of complexity layered in among the move sets, and those who take the time to master the intricacies will have a distinct advantage over everyone else. Skill is still king. Key to excelling is the aptly named Cross moves. Each of these is a standard move (identical across teams) that consumes part of the Cross Gauge.
The Cross Art is a two-character super combo that consumes a full Cross Gauge, but unleashes a devastating amount of damage if it connects. The action is automatic, so landing the first hit is crucial. Miss, and you're exposed. Cross Assault is similar, except both of your fighters are out at once, double-teaming your opponent. You control the action in assault, so make it count.
Cross Cancel is different from the other Cross moves, as it only uses a single character. Instead of calling your partner, the Cross Cancel is used to break an incoming attack chain and launch your opponent into the air. It requires solid timing, but if you can pull it off regularly, it'll quickly become a staple of your defense.
For those moments of desperation, there is Pandora. Available as an option once one of your characters falls below 25 percent health, it allows you to sacrifice the weakened teammate to greatly power up the other. The only catch is that once activated, you only have 10 seconds to win. Fail to obtain victory in this time, and it is an automatic loss. In most cases Pandora, isn't going to turn the tide, but in a close match, it's could determine a winner.
Players coming primarily from the Tekken series will appreciate the open-ended juggles available in Street Fighter X Tekken. All of the characters have a launcher move, as well as a launcher combo. Get a disabled opponent into the air, and with the right timing, you can keep him there while you unload.
Also of note is the gem system. Gems are a method of character customization that allows you to tweak your fighting style. Each gem offers a specific, limited time bonus once certain conditions are met. These bonuses can range from improved defense to an instant health boost. One set of gems will further simplify the control system, making special moves easier to perform. You can equip each fighter with up to three gems.
On the surface, the gems may sound like a gimmick, but once you start playing around with them, it's obvious that they are more than superficial. Two identical characters with different gem loadouts will play noticeably differently.
Visually, Street Fighter X Tekken is a treat. Characters and stages are both lavished with detail. Fighters are rendered in a colorful anime style, while backgrounds are loaded with fan service. Each of the 10 primary stages is packed with nods to the franchises. You'll see characters such as Blanka and E.Honda appearing in background graffiti as well as more esoteric references. These include the giant Servbot head in one level or the dinosaur in the Dino Crisis-inspired stage that air-boxes with gloves bearing what looks like an image of Tekken 3's Gon.
From a purely technical perspective, Street Fighter X Tekken improves on the Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition engine by a noticeable amount. Running on the same hardware at the same settings, we saw a nine percent increase in frame rate over the prior game. Basically, if either version of Super Street Fighter IV runs well on your PC, you won't have any issues with Street Fighter X Tekken.
Unfortunately, the increased performance only pertains to local games, as the updated netcode in Street Fighter X Tekken seems to be something of a mixed bag. When it works, it's great, but getting it to work is a crapshoot. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to why one opponent (with a full set of connection bars) would be laggy, while another with a partial set of bars would play smooth as butter. Matchmaking is somewhat odd, as it didn't seem to be totally random. At times, we would repeatedly face off against the same opponent in back-to-back ranked matches. Win or lose, variety of opponents is a good thing.
It doesn't help that the PC version of Street Fighter X Tekken is based on the original console version (rather than the current, patched version), so all of the online bugs that were present back in March are also present here. The most noticeable of these issues is the random sound dropping during online matchups. You'll be fighting, and some sound effects simply will not play.
All the sound effects play during offline matches; however, there's another issue with the sound there: The lip-synching is absolutely atrocious. Characters will finish speaking, but their mouths will keep moving. It looks like a badly dubbed kung-fu movie. There is also no rhyme or reason as to which characters default to English and which default to Japanese.
Another complaint has to do with the online player limitation. Just like the Xbox 360 version of the game, the PC version of Street Fighter X Tekken does not allow you to take two local players online from a single system. That feature is exclusive to the PlayStation 3. Making things worse is the fact that you're limited to a single online profile with the PC version. On the consoles, you can at least log out and let someone else log in with their gamertag to go a few rounds. Not so here. Only the gamertag that is registered with the game's serial number can play. Guests can play offline, with a local profile, but local profiles won't trigger Achievements.
Finally, there is the lack of DLC. Console players may be complaining about the disc-locked content slowly being dealt out over time (some with an extra price tag), but at least they have it. On the PC, there is nothing available in the store, not even the free costume color updates. Even the extra gem packs are MIA at the moment. If you want any of that content right away, you'll need to play on a console.
Street Fighter X Tekken on the PC has the advantage of playing nice with a wide variety of controllers. Because it recognizes classic PC gamepads as well as Xbox 360 controllers, there's a good chance that your favorite custom stick will work here.
As a fighting game, Street Fighter X Tekken is a solid offering that is sure to appeal to both Street Fighter and Tekken franchise fans. If the PC is your only gaming option and you play primarily offline, then go ahead and pick up this one up. You won't be disappointed. If you also game on a console, though, there is little reason to go PC. Sure, you can get a higher resolution image and minimal loading times, but in terms of overall patch level and feature set, the PC version is currently inferior to the console options.
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