Certain gamers understand ennui. An example would be fighting game fans, particularly those who love Capcom, in these months following Marvel Vs Capcom 3 and Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition. The first was a gorgeous, sparkly nothing, and the second was the point of diminishing returns for the peerless SFIV. So when the Street Fighter X Tekken logo comes up, it almost takes a heave to put your hands on the fightstick. Come on: another one?
The fight starts and, like a flaming Dragon Punch to the chin, Street Fighter X Tekken hits with amazing force: forget about faffing around with Spider-Man. It looks like SFIV, and in many cases characters are using moves from SFIV, but this has moved very far from SFIV – and it doesn't merely feel different, but fresh. Street Fighter X Tekken is faster, much more combo-oriented, incredible looking and - most importantly of all - a fighter that brawls just as well as it dances.
Each fight is between teams of two characters - and when one of the characters is KO'd, the round is over. Switching is done by pressing both medium attack buttons, but this 'normal' tag is slow and leaves the exiting and entering character vulnerable for a split second. Much safer and quicker is a tag out while your opponent's prone body is flying through the air. For such a purpose, there are launchers.
Sorry, did I say launcher? I meant CROSS RUSH ATTACK. These glorious moves boot your opponent in an upwards arc and switch characters automatically (you can also EX-tag in just when the blow lands for a quicker continuation), setting up a juggle opportunity that even a blind donkey could hit. And so verily, they shall eat a combo. The window is wide, but it's continuing the combo beyond one or two hits that's the real skill – there are already videos of pros hitting crazy double digits when using the CROSS RUSH ATTACK.
The combo system shares elements of Street Fighter Alpha and Tekken, though there's not quite a direct line from either. Moves can be chained together into the usual pre-set combos, but there are also moves that can break into these combos, counters, juggles, air juggles and of course tag combos. It's a fluid system with hundreds of possibilities, but everything comes from simple fundamentals: a four-hit combo that ends in a launcher, a launcher that automatically tags out and one super meter for everything.
This is the first of a projected two games (yeah, right), the other being developed by Namco in the Tekken style. But Capcom are doing Namco proud with Street Fighter X Tekken – the influence of Tekken is everywhere to see here, albeit reworked and reined in. The juggling combos and ground bounces are a central part of how this game works, quintessentially Tekken but tailored to fit. Many of the Tekken characters have one animation to begin multiple possible moves, the fake-outs that break through a stubborn guard. This 2D fighter does such a great job capturing its 3D rival's DNA that you can only marvel.
Ryu's the first character to try out, of course, and perhaps the wrong choice: his main move set's nigh-identical to SFIV, but the new attacks slot into Street Fighter X Tekken's overall system seamlessly. His main 'new' move is a walloping donkey kick last seen in Street Fighter III – but here, it's one of the few moves that results in a wall bounce. Because what Ryu really needed was another way to set up his Ultra, amirite? I'll get me gi.
Ryu's CROSS RUSH ATTACK is a simple uppercut, while he can also charge his fireball - at max charge, shooting out a free Super fireball. These two moves, bespoke for each character, are what replaces SFIV's focus attacks: the first sets up Street Fighter X Tekken's combos, the second goes through stages of charge with different effects. In all honesty the full Charge attack seemed to take far too long, at around four seconds, to be of much utility - but then, what if your opponent wasn't looking?