Last month I packed my rucksack with the usual assortment of travelling essentials and made my second pilgrimage to the Eurogamer Expo. And while travelling from the UK's most southerly county isn't exactly cheap or hassle-free, the level of gaming opulence on offer made it worth the while.
But as I walked through the glass doors at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre on the Saturday morning, dressed in a makeshift Terry Bogard costume, it was obvious - to me as much as everyone else - that I was destined to spend most of the day with the quartet of new fighting games. And although it took me almost half an hour to find the fabled "Tournament Area", partly because of on-route distractions, and partly because it was hidden behind a wall of Alienware PCs, the eventual discovery was nothing short of burning knuckle brilliance.
Street Fighter X Tekken
As the only fighting game at the Expo that wasn't a direct sequel or update, I approached Street Fighter X Tekken with all the rabid anticipation of a hungry wolf. And suffice to say, I wasn't disappointed. The select screen presents a tough decision - but seeing as it was winner stays on, and I didn't want to visit the back of the queue any time soon, I picked Sagat as a safe pair of lunchbox sized hands with Kuma as a goodwill gesture. My opponent countered with Ryu and Ken.
Half rolling my eyes, I tried to put my written understanding of the fighting system into practise. This started with the Cross Rush mechanic that lets you press light, medium, heavy and heavy in sequence, irrespective of punches and kicks, to build some basic combos that end with your partner tagging in to continue the assault - in this case, tiger and bear swapping between flying knee strikes and grizzly paw swipes. You can also press both mediums to tag out on the fly and both heavies to launch your opponent skyward for Street Fighter-esque aerial raves and trademark Tekken juggles.
Trading blows also builds a meter that can be spent on everything from EX specials and supers - much like Street Fighter IV - to a Cross Assault that lets you control both characters simultaneously for a limited moment of mayhem. But for those of us who want to gamble everything on a massive chunk of damage, the new Cross Art mechanic lets you burn all three stocks for a tandem super that sees Sagat running through the motions of his Tiger Destruction before Kuma amazes everyone by farting in Ken's face at point blank range. The tragic blonde didn't even have time to activate Pandora Mode.
This new mechanic lets you sacrifice your current character, if they have less than 25 percent health, to power up your partner with infinite super. But to differentiate this system from the revenge gauges and rage auras, you only have about eight seconds to claim the victory before you automatically die. Something I learned the hard way when my opponent rolled behind me after being knocked down and immediately used their Cross Art - whereupon I used Pandora and spectacularly failed to make a comeback. It's a interesting taster of what's to come, and Street Fighter X Tekken is shaping up to be the petulant lovechild of Street Fighter IV and Tekken Tag Tournament.