Street Fighter IV has come around for it’s fourth incarnation, this time disguised as Street Fighter X Tekken. I don’t think we’ve seen any fighting game engine get so much love since the CPSI & II versions of the Street Fighter II games. Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition were all released between Feb 2009 and December 2010. This is not including DLC that was released for the games. Street Fighter X Tekken is what I call the latest of the SFIV games. Capcom and Namco got together and crossed over their popular games with Capcom providing the SFIV engine. The SFIV engine, which was originally built on Taito’s Type X2 arcade hardware, is the spec that all SFIV games are based on. So with 3 companies providing DNA and one vision to millions of hungry gamers, Street Fighter X Tekken was born.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the SFIV engine at all. I can honestly say that it is an animated piece of artwork with great character design and truly a mark of brilliance by Ono. However, I’ve found issues with the move to 3D as opposed to traditional 2D sprite based game play. By using 3D characters, SFIV automatically had more accurate hit detection than any of it’s 2D games. This is a blessing on paper but the execution is marred by horrible net code. It’s much harder to counter certain attacks and I found myself being pummeled in the corner with no escape. Even pressing the punch or kick buttons would give me no resolve. This would only happen online and was inconsistent. SF has no combo breakers but I wasn’t getting hit by a combo, I was getting hit by a light kick or punch, which are very quick attacks. If I go back to playing SF3 Third Strike, this does not happen. I also scratched my head for hours trying to figure out how a simple light punch can take you out of a Super Art move. Call me old school, but I don’t remember ever being able to do this in any SF game prior to SFIV. This could be a design decision but it doesn’t make any sense to me. I know you could prevent a Super Art Hadoken with a ranged attack of your own, but this was just a punch.
Another issue with online game play were sound drop outs. So the first sound issue would be the music. It’s almost like a whole track would drop out leaving only sound effects behind. If that wasn’t bad enough, you’d also have games where you couldn’t hear any hit sounds from your opponent. You don’t realize the importance of sound in a fighting game until you can’t hear when your online opponent is hitting you. It’s truly annoying and I’m hearing it’s a bug in the game that’s happened to many other people. There’s also a load management issue, which is another design problem. Whether online or offline, but even more so offline, I’m always required to go back to the character selection screen after I lose a match. This means if I want to keep my same players and continue playing, I have to reselect them. This means unloading the game from memory, loading the character select screen and re-choosing my characters again. Why wasn’t there an option at the end of a game to continue with my same characters? This would have meant instantly restarting the game instead of wasting my time with unnecessary unloading and reloading. I chose Bob and Rufus (Team Fatman) to play the campaign with. Every time Akuma beat me, I had to go all the way back and reselect Bob and Rufus and reload the same level over again. In Tekken 6 you had the option to use the same character and not have to reload. What was Capcom thinking here?
I’d like to mention the issue with cheater AI that I’ve seen all throughout this SFIV series. Back in the early days of SFII, if you wanted to play against cheater AI, you would pick 8 stars and play all night until you beat the game. In SFIV, cheater AI exists in normal mode. What’s cheater AI? Well for instance, a human has to do a certain number of d-pad movements and button presses to pull special moves off. Let’s take the Hadoken for instance. It’s a half-moon with a light, medium or heavy punch. The computer however, doesn’t have hands and can simply do the move at will. There’s no window for error for the computer at all. If the computer wants to pull off a move, it will pull it off 100% of the time. Cheater AI exists in all fighters but it is the worst in these SFIV games. The first time I saw it was fighting Seth in the first SFIV. It was so bad that I never played single player again after beating him. The same issue exists with Akuma in this game, but also in early non-boss characters. Every human being has a window of error when pulling off special moves, even Daigo and Justin Wong. The computer is perfect. Just thought I’d point that out.
So, will fans of Tekken like this game? I don’t think so. While they’ve brought many of the move sets of the TK characters over, they don’t flow the same way they do on Tekken. Move execution replicates SFIV characters, which is very fast. SFIV veterans will take to the new characters faster than Tekken vets. Take Hwoarang, another favorite of mine from Tekken. He has no punches in this game. He’s a Tae Kwon Do expert and had a deadly spinning back punch and some other great jabs. All of them were left on the cutting room floor.
Capcom introduced a few new things to players. Tagging is new to the SFIV universe but an old game play mechanic made popular in Dead Or Alive 2. They’ve also introduced Gems. Gems are what I call fighting game perks. You configure your gems before you play and select the ones you want to use during game play. Gems are activated by doing regular or special moves or by blocking. With Gems active you can get more power, extra health, speed, blocking ability and a multitude of other things. They are broken down into 3 categories; Boosts, Assists and Log. I have no idea what Log is or why it’s there. The Pandora or Pandora’s Box, is the center of the SF X TK story mode. It’s actually more like a MacGuffin. It’s only there to enable a plot for the characters but more importantly, is another game mechanic. When Pandora is used, you kill yourself off to give your tag partner extra power and vitality. It also increases your Cross Gauge to maximum so you can do Super Arts and EX moves.
Graphically SF X TK is a beast. It’s full of vibrant colors and some of the best looking animated levels I’ve seen since MVC2. It’s truly a treat for the eyes and very old school. The character designs have always been great and they didn’t fail on rendering the Tekken characters in the SFIV universe. They fit right in stylistically, but I was disappointed that Lei Wu Long, one of the most unorthodox Tekken characters, didn’t make the cut. Poison is one of my favorite character designs. They really went all out to titillate fans of this character, regardless of her mythical gender.
Street Fighter X Tekken is a very ambitious title. The took characters from a 3D game and put them into a 2D game and made them fit well within the universe and game mechanics. I wish there was a deeper story as to how the characters got together in the same universe, but it’s assumed that they are already in the same universe. I’m more interested in seeing what Namco will do with Tekken X Street Fighter because their stories are always better. The online could use a major update. There’s lag and sound issues that need to be addressed. The cheater AI will bug you in SP mode, but it’s nothing to balk at. You might break a few controllers is all. Also, with the ability to pull off Quick Combos with the press of two buttons, Capcom has made this game more accessible to the non-hardcore ilk. SF heads will love it, Tekken heads will go back to Tekken 6 or Tekken Tag 2. I’m hoping we see a new engine from Capcom soon but with a new Darkstalkers already announced, it probably won’t happen til next generation.