Ploughing through Street Fighter X Tekken’s surprisingly succinct tutorial mode, with purebred goof Dan filling you in on the basics via dippy text messages, it doesn’t take very long to become completely bewildered. Cross cancels, cross arts, cross assaults, launchers, quick combos, assist gems, boost gems, Pandoras… none of these manoeuvres are particularly difficult to understand or execute – far from it, in fact – but the tutorial represents such a barrage of fresh information that instantly taking it all on board is probably going to be the sole preserve of the dedicated Marvel vs Capcom massive. What quickly signals the fact that Street Fighter X Tekken is a very good game indeed is that after only a few bouts it all begins to feel like second nature.
Very broadly speaking this is essentially a new Street Fighter game, with all of the new cross actions replacing Street Fighter IV’s Focus device; with those crosses even being mapped to the same two buttons. It uses Street Fighter’s customary six button set-up and visually it’s as polished and distinctive as you’d expect from Capcom, and (somehow) even the unspeakably garish colour palette manages to be inviting rather than stomach-churning. And despite its impeccable hardcore credentials, this is a remarkably accessible videogame at its core. The invaluable quick combos and launchers involve nothing more complicated than simultaneously pressing two buttons at once, and whilst they’re somewhat lacking in raw power, they’re a grand primer for toe-dipping casuals who are looking to experiment a bit.
Briskly getting your head around the gem system is pretty crucial. Boost gems can do things like steadily replenish your vitality or increase the level of damage that you deal, and Assist gems are precisely that; trinkets that smooth the edges off some elements that newcomers may find initially taxing. They can simplify certain special moves or automate blocking for a period, and thus far (thankfully) none of them feel unjustly advantageous. There are so many different gems available – with many more destined to become available later as DLC – that it is quite tough to imagine that there aren’t a few heinously unbalanced combinations buried somewhere within them. For now though it’s a refreshingly unusual and perfectly functional mechanic, and it even adds a welcome smidgen of speculative guesswork to proceedings online.
It’s faster than SFIV and considerably less intimidating than MvC3, the plot is lobotomised bunkum (obviously) and SSFIV’s extensive, much-copied online suite reappears in fine style. Closed-minded Tekken aficionados will probably hold out for the (hopefully) still in-development Tekken X Street Fighter, but Namco Bandai truly have their work cut out if they plan on delivering something as sleek and moreish as this. If you’re a fan of both series’, you’ll likely derive a lot of pleasure from observing just how well Capcom have managed to uncover the common ground that nobody else really thought was there. This is very much Capcom’s shindig but Tekken’s flock never feel displaced, and the lack of projectiles and abundance of button combos won’t dishearten the flexible Street Fighter cognoscenti anyway. A match made in heaven, pretty much. Over to you, Namco.
Street Fighter X Tekken is currently due for release on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on Friday, March 9th 2012. A Playstation Vita version is planned for later in the year.
Watch the story trailer for Street Fighter X Tekken below: