Firstly, I was blown away with how well the game manages to scrub up on Sony's handheld. Some characters may look a little washed out at first blush, but given some time to readjust, this ranks as one of the best looking games on the system. Animated backgrounds, a broad and bright colour palette, and peerless animation characterise what awaits you and your AMOLED screen.
There are some new features in the portable version which won't revolutionise how you play, but are appreciated regardless. First is the addition of quick select slots to the character select screen, that allows for you to pick from your most-recently used teams if you wish. Burst Kumite mode is your run-of-the-mill survival mode with an unlockable Pandora variant. I had a lot of fun with this mode, which is an ideal fit for gaming on the go. The Pandora variant gifts you with a rechargeable Cross Gauge and feels a little simple as a result; worse still, the off-putting sound that accompanies every fight in which you're in this state meant that I shelved it pretty quickly. There's also some pointless Augmented Reality and Near antics available to those with time to burn.
Whatchu talkin' bout Juri?
I should probably mention that the Vita version comes with twelve extra characters including Blanka, whose omission from the home console versions was the cause of some distress. The Street Fighter characters (save for maybe Elena) are all well-suited to the crossover's brand of combo and juggle-heavy action but, as is the case for the roster at large, the Tekken fighters have a hard time competing. All things considered, my extra time with the game has come with two glaring observations:
- The Namco side of the roster tends to get pinned down due to a wholesale lack of projectile attacks
- The general mechanics, which focus on common combos and quick hits, don't prove to be as enduring as recent entries from either franchise (or either publisher for that matter).
Concerns over longevity aside, my copy also came with redeemable codes for the additional fighters for my PS3 version, as well as alternate costumes for most of the starting cast. Considering these goodies would set you back more than twenty bucks, the Vita versions represents an undeniable value.
Controls are responsive, and the front and rear touch screen offer some more ways to bust out Quick Combos as well as your favourite moves when in a pinch. The rear touch inputs are placed a little too close to the shoulders for my liking, so I found myself performing throws with gay abandon. After a while, I decided to disable the rear touchpad as the unintentional grappling attempts often put me at great peril. The analogue sticks, d-pad, face buttons and front pad all work well though, and save for some trouble performing Super Arts and Cross Rushes, the game handles on par with its console brethren.
Touch controls are shoehorned into a lot of the menus, and this causes frustration given the small size of most tiles and items. Customising gem sets is still a laborious task, as the Vita version also lacks the ability to customise blanket configurations for all characters; it's one at a time, or nothing.
I should mention that I couldn't find a single match online. Now this may have something to do with the Vita not liking my home network setup or a paltry player community. Either way, fighting games usually live and die by their competitive scene, so this is a pretty big mark against the game. Poor (and I mean worse than woeful) sales figures in Japan lead me to believe that this is more an issue of numbers than logistics, truth be told. Regardless, I haven't been able to trial any of the network features, save for the aforementioned Near functionality.
The lack of live opponents wouldn't be such a big issue if the AI could hold its own. Unfortunately, even on its hardest difficulty level, Street Fighter X Tekken can be mastered with almost any combination of Capcom fighters. Hell, even some of the Tekken cast can bruise the best the AI can throw at you.
With a huge cast, system leading visuals and solid controls, the PlayStation Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken is a worthy addition to any fighting game lover's library. It may lack the depth and balance of the tag team efforts from each respective franchise and/or publisher, but it packs a lot of value: especially for those who also own the PlayStation 3 version. Highly recommended.