28 Jun

In a show of cross-company collaboration that is literally unheard of across most gaming regions, Capcom and Namco Bandai have teamed up to bring us two fighting games featuring characters from almost anachronistic universes. The first of these, Street Fighter x Tekken, takes the best of what made Street Fighter IV amazing and tosses in some of the best mechanics from the Tekken franchise. We made a point to spend at least a little time bruising our fingers with this game at E3 to bring you some hands on impressions.

Helmed by Yoshinori Ono (the designer behind the aforementioned SF IV), Street Fighter x Tekken is very much a Capcom fighter with some Namco flavor. The breakdown goes like this: the 6-button layout, EX moves, 2-in-1 and super combos (and their meters), and quarter-circle motions are all pure Street Fighter. This is then cut with Tekken‘s tag-battle system (from Tag Tournament), chain combos, and juggles. What results is a Capcom game that politely invites fighters from the Iron Fist over for a brawl, but keeps to its roots. Don’t expect Tekken characters to make the full “World Warrior” transition here – Kazuya Mishima is not, I repeat NOT getting any fireballs.

While the Capcom staff assured us that most known move sets from both franchises will make their appearances, there have been some obvious handicaps made in order to get these two rosters in the same ring. While we are still able to pull off our favorite hadoukens and sonic booms like the muscle memory they are, the focus of Street Fighter x Tekken is more EX moves than special moves. Tekken didn’t completely get the long end of the stick here either, those legendarily long combination attacks that could completely devastate entire health bars have been clipped significantly. In its stead are new EX moves for all the Tekken cast, that play more like hardcore versions of existing move sets. For example: Hwoarang’s machine-gun tae kwan do kicks get a high flying “heel-to-the-head” upgrade when the appropriate meters are filled.

Now that we’ve crammed as much shop talk into your head, let’s talk gameplay. Does the clash of combat styles and design philosophies break beautiful bones together? From what we played, not quite yet. From whatever franchise you approach Street Fighter x Tekken from, there is a decided bit of finagling you’ll have to do to get back into the combat flow you’re used to.  Wewcomers to the genre will gloss over these growing pains, but for anyone that’s twitched a joystick, you’ll be fighting with the game as much as your opponent for Rounds 1-5. Even once you break in the controls, they still don’t feel quite right, and at this stage in  development it’s difficult to discern exactly why that is. At times, it feels like Super Street Fighter IV: Tekken Edition, at others it simply comes off as a promotional concept that wasn’t baked into the game enough before everyone rushed into coding.

SF x Tekken definitely doesn’t make a good first impression, either. Characters have this ugly darkened outline that makes them stick out too far from the background. It has the sense of playing bad fan-art versions of SF IV character designs in a pop-up book. While background activity is tremendous in its disregard for the laws of sanity, all the colors appear faded and muted, especially coming off of Arcade Edition. What little of the final soundtrack we heard also lacked the expected energy, just hanging limply somewhere above the timer and trying to avoid drawing attention to itself. Camera effects are still wonderful, especially during the short EX cinematics, but that would need little effort to port over. The presentation here is just unappealing, and that’s a real shame considering both franchises’ flair for color and environments.

While everything sounds good on paper, we can’t help but feel disappointed with Street Fighter x Tekken. The mixed combat feels years from polish and the whole thing just looks downright ugly. The basics look to be here and play just as well as you would assume, but beyond that one leaves the demo kiosk with a feeling of pointlessness to the whole thing. Which is a shame, because a success here could lead to many other cross-developer collaborations. Pokemon x Cooking Mama, anyone?

Street Fighter x Tekken is expected in the first quarter of 2012 for the PS3, PS Vita, and 360.

Confirmed Characters (as of 6/28/11):

Street Fighter: Abel, Cammy, Chun-Li, Guile, Ken, Ryu, Sagat

Tekken: Bob, Craig Marduk, Hwoarang, Julia Chang, Kazuya Mishima, King, Nina Williams

Platform Exclusives: Cole McGrath (Playstation Vita)