It has been eight months since the launch of Street Fighter X Tekken for the PS3 and Xbox 360. To say that the reception was mixed at best is an understatement. From the discovery of disk-locked content to an unsure identity caused a major rift in the Fighting Game Community. However, does this mean you should skip out on the Vita version of the crossover fighter? The answer depends on what you are looking for in a fighting game.
Street Fighter X Tekken for the Vita is essentially the same game as seen on consoles. The game still uses a six-button layout, there are still gems, combo links are still easy to perform…everything is still here. Obviously this is great news to anyone who enjoyed the console version, but what if you have not played Street Fighter X Tekken before? Essentially, this is a typical Capcom fighting game. There are light-medium-heavy versions of punches and kick, you have a meter that determines when you can perform EX attacks, Supers, Cross Assaults, Cross Arts, etc. Every character has a light-medium-heavy-heavy combo and launcher attack at their disposal to help set-up juggles. Novices even have access to two pre-set auto combos, which are used at the expense of the meter. The fighting is faster than Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition 2012, but not quite as fast as Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. While the combat certainly is accessible, it is just deep enough to keep anyone busy that wants to improve their game.
While the game is distinctly Street Fighter, Capcom did take some things from the Tekken playbook. One is the reliance on juggle combos, which is a hallmark of the Tekken franchise. With a universal launcher, and a combo-string which ends in a launcher, every character is able to pull of a juggle of some sorts. The Tekken crew is equipped with an evade move to help compensate for the lack of projectile attacks. Finally, the Tekken characters even retain some of their combos from their home franchise.
Make no mistake though, this is a Capcom fighter through and through. Sadly, it is just not their best work. At times the game just feels a bit rushed, even with the extra eight months they spent porting it to the Vita. What hurts it is a lack of a coherent vision. Street Fighter X Tekken is complex to keep newcomers at bay, but it is too shallow to keep the hardcore crowd coming back for more. It is a fun game, just don’t really expect it to consume all of your time.
New to the series are gems and Pandora mode. Pandora mode is the game’s comeback mechanic. After one of your characters reaches 25% health, you have the option of sacrificing them to boost their partner. While in Pandora mode, your character will have unlimited meter and a substantial boost in power. However, there is a great risk to this mode. Pandora only lasts for a very short period of time and once it runs out, your character will pass out, losing the round for you. There are a few gems that can extend the period of Pandora, and it certainly has the potential for some great comebacks, but it is poorly executed.
While Pandora is a mechanic that can be ignored, gems are a whole different story. Capcom included the gem feature to add in a meta-game for Street Fighter X Tekken. Ideally, you would use gems to customize your tag team to your play-style. Gems come in two types of flavors; assist and passive. Passive gems require you to meet certain conditions before they take effect such as connect with 2 launchers for a 5% increase in power. The amount of time they are active is limited -usually the greater the boost, the lower the time- and your character will flash to indicate whether your gem is active or not. Assist gems are, ideally, meant for novices. These gems allow auto-blocking or auto-teching throws. Some of these gems use meter, and others require you to meet certain conditions before they are used. Unlike passive gems, they are good for the whole round.
So, what makes gems such a dropped ball? One example is the DLC model. While the game comes with a ton of gems, many are offered as DLC, and they are better than the ones included in the game. Also, a lot of the assist gems, especially the DLC ones, are pretty broken. This becomes an issue when playing online battles because there are people who will pay-to-win, and it seems like you lost because of the gems and not due to skill. This would be fine if there was a gemless mode, but no such luck. Capcom has said that they are working on an update that will re-balance the whole game, so let’s just hope that no more broken gems will be introduced into the game.
Graphically, the Vita version looks great. A few finer details on the characters were lost, but that doesn’t change the fact that they all look great. Special effects from Supers and Cross Arts still carry their pizzazz, and the stages are just as dynamic (they are even changed up a bit from the console versions). Sound wise, the Vita version is exactly like the consoles. You have the same background tunes, same voice overs, same battle cries, and same effect noises. Nothing was lost when porting Street Fighter x Tekken to the Vita. For those that are interested, you can even change between the English and Japanese voice tracks.
Controls are perfectly fine for Street Fighter X Tekken. While the analogue leaves much to be desired, the D-Pad works like a dream. Inputs are precise and smooth when using the Vita’s D-Pad, and there is no doubt that people who have played the PS3 version will be pulling off most of their combos with no problem. However, there were times when some combos where dropped, but I will write that off to some rust on my part.
To account for the lack of L2 and R2 buttons, the Vita has two hot-keys set to the left and right sides of the rear-touch pad. All you have to do is slide your finger along the side to activate it and you can change what the hot-keys are set to. However, you might just find yourself more frustrated with the rear-touch and turn it off instead. With the default settings, you have to hold the Vita in a very specific way, or else you may accidentally activate one of the hot-keys. It is fine when playing in short bursts, but for longer play sessions your hand may start to cramp up. There are 4-touch keys for the front touchscreen, but I did not find myself using them much, but they may be helpful to some. Outside of the 4-touch keys, some of the menus can only be navigated by using the touchscreen, such as when editing your character’s colors.
There are two exclusive game modes for the Vita version. The first is Kumite Burst, which is a survival mode. In Kumite, you go through an endless gauntlet of CPU controlled fighters, and some of them will be shadow battles of those you have faced online. The second mode is Casual Mode. Turning Casual on in the settings turn the controls into taps and flicks. Unfortunately, this mode is bad. During the times that I have used it, I just found my character jumping around and performing random attacks. Also, there is an AR mode which allows you to take pictures of the characters in various environments. It is a cool gimmick, but nothing to write home about.
Online is home to the typical modes -ranked, endless, scramble, and briefing. Since you can fight against anyone with a PS3 or Vita, you should have no problem finding a match. The real question is how good a match will you find? Naturally, PS3 opponents will have a huge leg up on against their Vita counterparts. While the netcode is not terrible, it is not the best either. Matches will stutter at the start and finish of a round, and there is occasional lag during a battle, especially when fighting outside of your region. Finally, there is an in-depth replay analyzer, which is useful for those trying to dissect what part of their game they need to improve on.
The real draw for the Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken is the inter-connectivity between it and the PS3 version. One cool feature is the ability to battle PS3 owners online via the Vita. This may seem like an one-sided battle, especially if your PS3 opponent has a fight stick, but it allows you to keep up with your online buddies. Also, the Vita can be used as a controller while playing the PS3 version, and it even allows you to take advantage of the touch-controls if you desire to. However, the main kicker is that DLC is cross-compatible between both versions. Street Fighter X Tekken for the Vita comes with a voucher code to download the 12 characters and 38 alternate costumes for the entire cast.
Street Fighter X Tekken for the Vita is the definitive version of the game. Not only do you have all 55 characters right off the bat, but you can share any DLC between the PS3 and Vita version. However, that does not make this a must buy. If you have already purchased the characters for the PS3, and really don’t have a need to improve your skill while on the go, then there is very little reason to re-purchase the game. However, that does not stop Street Fighter X Tekken from being a flawed, yet enjoyable game.