It has been three years since Capcom released Street Fighter IV. Since then we’ve seen Super Street Fighter IV, and the Arcade Edition. Each of these releases brought subtle tweaks to the gameplay and added new characters to the roster. None of them departed too far from the core gameplay, which is by no means a bad thing; the SFIV engine is one of the most solid fighting game engines ever released. However, SFxT introduces a whole host of changes, not least of which is the tag-style fighting format whereby you fight alongside a partner. Under the hood, the command input parser has undergone a series of changes designed to make the game more accessible for beginners while still offering enough depth to reward experimentation and practice. The simplified input scheme takes little away from the depth and variety the game has to offer.
So far I’m just working through the trials in challenge mode, learning the characters and trying to gain an understanding of the new timings. Some of the Tekken characters have moves that contain unfamiliar patterns, which helps them hold true to their roots but is unfamiliar territory for someone with Street Fighter style reflexes. I’ve started there first in order to understand more about the input patterns of those characters. So far Xaioyu is my favorite from the Tekken roster, although I’ve only worked through the challenges for about five of the roster so far.
The new tutorial mode is a welcome addition for those either new to the genre or simply needing a refresher on the basics of combat. It also does a much better job of explaining the new features than has been achieved in previous editions. The challenge modes are definitely easier than before but reveal good information about the techniques that can be used to discover more in depth moves and strategies for each character.
The artwork is as spectacular as always. From the following introductory sequence to the rich backdrops, soundtrack, and character artwork, everything is top-notch. However, despite all the glamour much of the depth of Street Fighter X Tekken is embedded in the puzzle game for those who enjoy research, practice, and a quick-thinking game of rock, paper, scissors. The challenges and mission modes hint at the depth that can be enjoyed in training. Then there is the cerebral exercise of playing online. While most beginners will likely endure a streak of losses at first, a few studied replays will quickly give anyone a fighting chance. Taking a little time to understand a character, knowing how to block and manage range, and a bit of practice with execution transforms the game into a psychological stand-off where most of the play lies in anticipating your opponent’s moves and learning how to counter their tactics.
Another addition to the series is character customization. In prior editions of the game players could choose from a set of predetermined color schemes. However, in SFxT players can customize the color of each individual piece of clothing as well as changing the base outfit worn by each character. This should help to make characters feel a little more personalized when playing online.
The only real negative thing I’ve encountered so far is the effect used to signify that a gem has been activated. Gems are special items that can be equipped to a character to further customize them. Each gem grants a small boost to that character either in the form of an offense or defensive bonus, or other special effect. However, gems come with a set of criteria to active them during a fight. To notify a player that they have activated a gem their character will flash green and a sparkle sound is played. Unfortunately this feels like the character has been doused in lucky charms, which detracts slightly from the rough and tumble theme of the fight.
Now I’m looking forward to EVO 2012 even more!