Street Fighter x Tekken
Platform(s): Xbox 360 and PS3
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
How can anybody disapprove of crossovers? There are plenty of classic crossovers that have the nerd in me frothing at the bit: Frankenstein v Dracula, Monsters v Aliens, X-Men v Avengers and Alien v Predator. OK, maybe not Alien v Predator, but the formula still stands. Even imaginary mash-ups such as Batman v Godzilla (which sounds amazing) get my frothiness frothing. Game developers know this and crossover games have become more and more popular since their days as mere arcade regulars.
The Marvel v Capcom fighting series has undoubtedly become one of the more popular and profitable examples, and Capcom, not one to let a lucrative series flounder, have come out with the newest iteration of their highly aggressive Street Fighter characters.
This time Ryu and co find themselves up against the darker universe of Tekken. Typically the plot behind fighting game crossovers is as flimsy as the paper the manual is printed on, and Street Fighter x Tekken (SFxT) is no different. A mysterious power cube (nobody tell Marvel's lawyers) has landed on earth and begins to alter the world as we know it. Fighters from the two different universes miraculously cross dimensions, come together and, empowered by the cube, decide to battle endlessly. Why? Well, because they can. This is never really a problem throughout the game because the plot is not the central component. A fighting game's appeal is usually based in the character roster, levels and fighting mechanics.
In terms of the character roster SFxT does very well. The 38 characters are more than most modern fighters ever bother with. A large roster is usually what gives a fighting game its legs, in lieu of a solid plot or other mechanics, and 38 characters (all with unique special moves) gives players time to explore combinations and tactics before the formula becomes tired. Though the large roster also means some fighters don't stand out as much as they should and the eerily similar character models mean the space isn't used as well as it could be for more unique characters.
In any fighting game the stages are as important a feature as the characters, and SFxT knocks the level design out of the park. The game has almost certainly come out with the most interesting stages for a fighting game in recent years. The stages, such as the space-based "Cosmic Elevator", tell a short story in parts through the three rounds and have a delightful attention to detail that fans will appreciate.
The mechanics of SFxT are more similar to Street Fighter than Tekken. There are features to spice up the fighting such as power gems that enhance aspects of your character, and Pandora mode which acts as a last ditch slow-suicide to eliminate players in the short time your character becomes more powerful. One of the main tactical changes made to the fights is the tag system (more Tekken than Street Fighter) in which when one character dies the player loses the round regardless of the health of the other character. This adds a level of thought to the matches as balancing character health with the powerful attacks that switch your avatars is a welcome addition to the tried and true "kill everything" style.
Still, SFxT doesn't hit all the right notes. Notably absent from the Xbox version is the online tag-team mode featured in the PlayStation version. Capcom say they have no plans to patch the issue, which smacks of lazy game design and a disrespect for consumers. Also, certain characters are already on the disc but locked. Capcom will make the characters available later, but for a price; around $20. Downloadable content (DLC) is nothing new, but when the extra characters are already finished, on the disc and deliberately withheld to generate more income, it seems almost petty on the studio's part and will surely serve to alienate some long-time fans.
On top of this, Capcom and Namco (the studio behind Tekken) have struck a deal to create Tekken x Street Fighter, a similar game more based around the mechanics of Tekken than Street Fighter. Not many details regarding the character roster or development exist, but the mere fact that this has been announced goes to show how much an exercise in money-making this franchise has become. Fans of both series will undoubtedly buy both games but the audacity of both companies to release a second game so similar at full price (hopefully without a similar downloadable content debacle) is shocking.
Street Fighter x Tekken is a fun and well-designed fighting game. It introduces some new mechanics which spice up the well-worn formula and has a good sized selection of characters. Sadly, this is marred by Capcom's behaviour in regard to DLC. Their assumption that fans of the two series will shell out for extra content is almost certainly correct, but the manner in which they are blatantly capitalising on players through DLC and the Tekken x Street Fighter version isn't behaviour that should be encouraged by giving them your money.