Street Fighter X Tekken review
Crossover fighting games are often just about the characters – WHAT will HAPPEN when TWO worlds COLLIDE and so on. Rarely are they true crossbreeds like Street Fighter X Tekken, a game that takes the peerless Street Fighter IV as its base but adds a huge Tekken character roster and key mechanics from Namco’s series.
Most Street Fighter games have eventually found their way to the PC, but we’ve been largely spared the winding history of Tekken. There are two key differences, which Street Fighter X Tekken has a real go at bringing together. The first is that in Tekken each button maps to a specific limb on the fighter, as opposed to Street Fighter’s six-button system of light, medium and heavy punches and kicks. The second is the importance of ‘juggling’. In Tekken, when an opponent has been hit and is in mid-air, you can follow-up with attacks that can’t be blocked and will end only when that victim hits the ground. Keeping your opponent in the air can be tricky, but it’s always possible to tag a few extra hits on.
It’s a more fluid system than Street Fighter’s more rigid hierarchy of combos. There, a snappy input pulls off a devastatingly smooth series of moves. In Tekken things are a bit messier: there are fixed high-damage combos, but it’s possible to interject other moves, especially when your opponent’s not fighting back.
This finds its way into X Tekken in a brilliant way, one of the game’s shining successes, as the ability to combo from any low-damage attack into any higher-damage attack. For example, light kick into medium punch into heavy kick will produce a combo using any character, providing you get the timing right. Not only that, but this system is the basis of tagging in and out properly – which we’ll come to in a second.
First, the rules. Street Fighter X Tekken is a 2 vs 2 fighting game, with two fighters on screen at once and the ability to tag your team members in and out. Both fighters have their own health bar, which recharges to a degree when they’re off-screen, but the first knockout on either team decides the round. Learning when to tag in and out is by far the most important trick in the early stages of SF X Tekken. Although there’s a button combination for a straight switch, it leaves the incoming fighter vulnerable for a split-second and usually means eating a mega-combo.
The name of the game is switching mid-combo, which sounds complex but is easy thanks to the ability to combo into higher-damage blows. If you execute a combo with the strength of blows ascending, the last blow will be a heavy launcher attack (fighting jargon for ‘knocks them into the air’) and after it hits the characters instantly switch out – and the incoming fighter, if swift enough, can start juggling the airborne opposition.
In full flow Street Fighter X Tekken can turn up some incredible fights. There are back-and-forth grudge matches ending in Super combos, blood-and-thunder offensives that bully opponents to death, and knockdown- drag-out wars of attrition where the final blow is a light tap on the ankle. Sometimes whole flurries are exchanged without anything breaking at all, both fighters pirouetting away from the maelstrom in a brief second of calm before charging headlong back in.
More than anything else, it’s about team play, with the fights constantly punctuated by character switches. At its simplest this means launching an enemy when low on health, and storming in with a charged-up dragon punch. Often it can be used mid-combo, if you can manage some extremely tight timings, to pull off ridiculously long strings. At its most complex, or so it seems initially, switching can mean health-bar chomping multitasking where the victim doesn’t touch the ground.
It’s the most eye-catching aspect of Street Fighter X Tekken, and it also ends up as its Achilles’ Heel. When two fighters are facing each other, poking away and looking for an opening, it plays in a similar manner to Street Fighter IV. But as soon as that first hit lands all bets are off – you could be in for a few smacks around the chops, or 30 seconds of watching your guy get battered from pillar to post without a chance of intervening.