From: Street Fighter, To: Tekken, Subject: Big Kiss
How on earth did we end up here? Videogames used to be tribal affairs where you eyed up rivals with suspicion. You either liked Sonic or Mario; you were either a Super Nintendo or a Megadrive person; Xbox Vs Playstation flame wars are well fabled, and of course there was always the classic Street Fighter/ Tekken debate that was the subject of more than one episode of Panorma.
But now everyone seems to be getting along. Sonic and Mario have done the unthinkable and jumped into bed together at the Olympics, Streetfighter and Tekken feature in the same game, and Microsoft and Sony are planning to release the Playbox 420 next year. Two of those statements are true.
So here we are. A brave new videogame world where two of the biggest fighting franchises can go head-to-head while holding hands. Then breaking those hands, Naturally.
Now I know you haven’t clicked into the review to hear me going on about this, but Streetfighter X Tekken has possibly the best intro I’ve seen on any iPhone game. It looks fantastic, is well voice acted, and unlike most fighting games whose plot amount to ‘Repeatedly beat up this man’, it’s a real story. Don’t ask me what it’s about. I don’t know…but it’s about something. I promise. Everyone is all serious and earnest and thespian-like. It must be really deep.
And it’s like…a proper movie. Well over five minutes long. At one point I wondered if this actually was the game. It’s the first intro-scene I wanted to continue watching to find out what happens next.
But SFXT (acronyms are cool) isn’t about curtain calls and method acting and motivation. It’s about punching someone in the mouth and watching lightning come out of their face. And the good news is as far as gameplay is concerned, there’s none better.
If you’ve played any of the other iOS Street Fighter titles, you’ll know that these games are deep. It might not have the classic six-button setup of the arcades, but unless you want the controls to take up three quarters of the screen, you’ll be fine with Punch, Kick, Special and Tag. Who goes into a fight aiming to punch someone softly anyway?
Bottom line is, the controls work. They’re responsive and enable you to pull off combos and special moves with abandon. But there are a serious amount of attacks to master, and at times there’s a temptation to forget all your half-circles and 3 second charges and just spam one button in the hope something will come of it. And for novice fighters, that option is actually available in the form of the SP button which automatically launches special moves. This of course is balanced out by the fact it needs recharging, which only happens as you land successful hits on your opponent, so you can’t just sit in a corner for the whole round and launch fireballs if you want to win. There goes my strategy then.
But anyone who spent a couple of 50p coins in the arcade back in the day knows that the real enjoyment comes from mastering the complex system. In my case, call it a couple of hundred 50p coins and two weeks of being grounded. Although nothing will replace an actual joystick and buttons, Capcom deserve credit for building the title from the ground up to suit our iOS devices.
New to the series is the tag-team aspect which adds some tactical options to your bouts. Every Ryu on a night out on the brawl needs a wing man, and now you can get some support mid-fight if you suddenly take an aversion to being continually hit in the face. Slapping the switch button calls in whoever you’ve chosen as a partner for a set time while your main character regains health. They’ve clearly never tasted a Tracker before, because they don’t have an energy bar. Haha yes. Their main purpose then, is to soak up some damage while you lick your wounds. You can also use them to chain together more devastating attacks than you could normally, or, if you’re more of a gambling fighter, even sacrifice them all together in favour of a Pandora’s Box which gives you a powerful upgrade to your main character at the expense of the second warm body.
Graphics and sound are both top quality. Character models are chunky and crisp, with some great artwork and animation. Personally, I preferred the old 2D style over the newer 3D version, there was just something more, I don’t know…beautiful about the way everything was drawn. Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a stuck-up art critic, I’ll just conclude that the visuals can’t be faulted.
Where the audio is concerned, let’s just say Streetfighter is the franchise the old-school Sound Test was invented for. It has a history of brilliant tunage, and nothing’s changed here with some great music and those iconic shouts of ‘Hadouken’ and ‘Haveyouseenmycarkeyesken’ rounding things out.
There are a couple of niggles though. For a game which brings together two of the biggest fighting franchises in the history of everything ever, the character roster is paltry. We’re only talking ten in total here – five from each title. Still, the previous games got great support in the form of updates featuring new fighters, so I’d expect the same here in a month or so. Right? RIGHT?
It’s also impossible to notice that the game is heavily skewered in favour of StreetFfighter. In fact, apart from your five Tekken representatives, the whole thing is pretty much a SF fest. It looks, plays and sounds like a Street fighter title, with only a hint of Tekken thrown in for good measure. It should’ve been called ‘Street Fighter X Tekken – On Capcom’s Terms’.
The biggest annoyance however is the awkwardly-integrated use of IAP. Online multiplayer is a welcome inclusion, but is a little laggy, forcing you to adjust your timing. It also requires credits to play. At first I was pleasantly surprised that the game is only £1.99, but now it makes sense. If you don’t shell out, you have to wait before you’re granted you one credit. Annoying? Yes.
My problem with both of these is that they completely betray the spirit of the game. Ask anyone who played in the 90’s and they’ll tell you Street Fighter was about putting in hours of practice to improve the 5% necessary to beat that guy who keeps wiping the floor with you. When you finally defeated him, you knew you earned it. I guess it’s a sign of the times that now not only can you spend your way to an advantage, but there’s also an entrance fee to the arcade. Any of the other 14 billion AppStore titles can try and get away with this, but for Street Fighter, it just doesn’t feel right.
So it’s a polished game let down by a morally corrupt IAP system that is directly to blame for everything bad in the world today. (Possible exaggeration, but not much). But if it’s any small comfort, one of the great things about Street Fighter is that it’s one of gaming’s great equalisers. Just when you think you’re the hottest, most unbeatable Dragon-Punch wizard, some chubby kid with bad breath and NHS specs comes along and fireballs your face off. Every real fighter knows dedication trumps dollars, so if you’re worried about IAP spammers ruining the game’s integrity and ancient tradition, just remember: Pandora’s Box or not, there’s always someone better than them out there. You can still be that guy.
Hadouken your way to Twitter and follow Kevin. @KevThePen.