Tuesday, April 10

Street Fighter X Tekken Review (PS3): Peanut Butter X Chocolate

Note: For my review of the Xbox 360 version, check out AusGamers!

I can't imagine how my fifteen-year-old self would have greeted the promise of Street Fighter X Tekken. Back in the days when fighting games were my religion and Tekken 3 and Street Fighter Alpha 3 were my daily prayers, the logistics of how Namco's quasi-3D brand of pugilism was to meld with Capcom's projectile flinging madness would have tormented me until its eventual release. Thankfully, I only had to know of its existence for two years before I could experience dream match-ups like King versus Zangief, or Rolento versus anyone with a pulse.

For the most part, Street Fighter X Tekken handles just like a beautiful, unrestrained dream. The visuals smack of colour and are styled in a fashion similar to Street Fighter IV. The action is scored with emphatic riffs and hyper-kinetic beats that match the intensity of the on screen action. There's also a bevy of move lists and mechanics to master: not so many as to make it inaccessible to genre veterans, but enough that you'll want to access the tutorial system before you encounter live opposition.

The greatest strength of this package is its roster, which offers the best of both worlds. There are few notable omissions (Blanka, anyone?), and those that made the initial cut offer a satisfying mix of old and new. It's worth noting that the PlayStation 3 and (the yet to be released) Vita versions have an additional five fighters at your disposal. These fighters don't add too much to the product, but I concede that I'd prefer to have the likes of Megaman and Cole (of inFamous fame) to be available for use as opposed to being locked away on the disc (source: Kotaku). The fighting system may employ more of the quarter and half circle maneuvers that are synonymous with the Street Fighter brand, however, feel assured that the Tekken characters can hold their own in a solely two dimensional playing field. The first to fall tag mechanics (similar to Tekken Tag Tournament) allow for encounters where speed is critical and momentum swings often.

Street Fighter X Tekken is best enjoyed like the fighters of old: with company in tow or on your lonesome. The story mode can be enjoyed solo and also supports co-operative play. There's a comprehensive training suite -- with Trials that allow you to master each character's move set and a Mission mode that tasks you with winning under certain conditions -- that's a step in the right direction, albeit far from able to teach newcomers effectively. Most importantly, the versus mode allows you to smite family and friends and bask in their collective shame. The controls also seem to hold up better in local play; maybe I'm a bit rusty, but I swear the block button wasn't working for the majority of the time that I fought online. It also goes without saying that the PlayStation controller (be it Sixaxis or DualShock 3) is far better suited to fighters than the standard Xbox 360 controller.

You'll need to have a firm grasp of gems, launchers, the do-or-die Pandora system and the plethora of fundamentals in order to be competitive in the online arena. Fights over the PlayStation Network ran at an acceptable speed, but the controls often felt unresponsive. Whether this had anything to do with the calibre of my opponents, I can't say. When compared to the Xbox 360 version, I'd say the PlayStation 3 held up slightly better when I was pitted against live opposition. To make matters worse, online bouts are plagued by a glitch that has the audio completely out of sync with the action on screen. It's not unplayable, but it's unfortunate that the online offering isn't as satisfying as offline play.

There are some annoying quirks that I discovered after sustained play on both versions. Firstly, the Xbox 360 versions appeared to run faster than the PlayStation 3 version. I had the PS3 version installed on my hard drive and fights still seemed to take longer to load when compared to the uninstalled 360 version. There's also no way to create gem sets that you can apply to all characters: you need to make these on an individual basis. Finally the DLC pricing model employed for this game is akin to extortion. It costs an additional forty dollars to purchase additional outfits for every character. Worse still, an additional twelve characters are locked away on the disc for players to buy at a later date.

Ultimately, the marks against this joyous union are few and -- in most cases -- have the potential to be remedied. Street Fighter X Tekken manages what I had previously thought unthinkable: merging the personalities, rosters and history of two stalwart franchises into one enjoyable package. If you have love for either brand of fisticuffs and you've got some friends to fight within close proximity, I can't recommend this highly enough.

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