One of the biggest surprises at Capcom's recent Captivate press event was a fully playable demo of Street Fighter X Tekken, the upcoming fighter mash-up that combines the Street Fighter franchise with Namco's Tekken series. Originally announced late last year at San Diego Comic-Con, the game has been kept under wraps, leading many to believe development on it was proceeding slowly. However, producer Yoshinori Ono surprised attendees with a meaty first look at the upcoming game, which included actual hands-on time. While the work-in-progress version we played was far from finished, there were plenty of hints as to where the incredibly promising final combat system is heading.
Ono's presentation kicked off with a look at the game's trailer and a very top-level overview of combat mechanics. He explained that the upcoming game will feature a broad roster of fighters and a new game system that will offer content that both Street Fighter and Tekken fans will appreciate. The game's core controls will revolve around the standard six-button Street Fighter configuration of three punches and kicks. Ono noted that many of Tekken's combos will work if you choose to use only four of the six attack buttons, but longer combos will be possible if you use all the buttons. The other central mechanic to the system is switching between fighters, which will be accomplished by hitting the medium punch and kick buttons.
Once the overview was done, Ono showed off a new trailer that highlighted the characters in the playable demo. Chun-Li, Ryu, Ken, Guile, and Abel from Street Fighter were showcased alongside Nina, Kazuya, Marduk, King, and Bob from Tekken. Following the trailer, Ono made it clear that there would be more announcements surrounding the game's roster coming at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, San Diego Comic-Con in July, and GamesCom in August.
After laying out the basics and teasing some of the content in the game, Ono encouraged attendees to try out the demo and see what could be discovered in the work-in-progress version of the game. We were surprised to find a host of elements hiding in plain sight in the playable demo that made some radical changes to the Street Fighter system. First and foremost is the tag mechanic, which follows Tekken tag-style swapping that requires you to manage your fighters, especially when they're low on health. If you don't swap in a brawler with full health before your fighter is dealt a death blow, you'll lose the match, because the game doesn't automatically toss in your remaining fighter a la Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (MVC3). Next were throws, performed by pressing the light punch and kick buttons. These came in two varieties: basic standing throws and tossing your opponent right or left by holding a direction on the controls.
Another unique entry to each fighter's moves is an MVC3-style launcher move performed by pressing fierce punch and kick, which seems to be a perfect setup for combos. Each fighter also possessed a super meter that was broken into three segments that could be used to perform EX versions of any of their special moves. If you charged it to full you could perform a super move. While this was all good stuff to see, our most interesting discovery had to be the unique charge moves every fighter had (except Abel, who was missing it in the demo we played). The sure-to-be-controversial charge moves appear to let you charge up one move on each fighter and unleash a powered-up attack. What's interesting is that there appear to be three levels of charging players can do that include a regular special move, an EX version of the move, and a full-on super combo. What's interesting is that the moves don't appear to lower your super bar, making it theoretically possible to chain or perform some crazy combos. We also noticed it was possible to swap in a partner while in the middle of performing a combo and have your partner join in on the pummeling.
In terms of specifics on the characters, most of the Capcom characters have been left intact from previous incarnations. Ryu has a new dash move, and Chun-Li has unfortunately had her lightning leg neutered to a half-circle controller motion and button press. Still, once you practice with the new mechanics, the charging definitely mixes things up. On the Tekken side, Nina, Kazuya, Marduk, King, and Bob were on hand to try out. The characters looked great and handled surprisingly well.
Battles were interesting as the Tekken side of the roster offered a selection of fighters that mostly appeared to have a disadvantage from a speed standpoint. We have to wonder if the selection of playable fighters was done to prove a point, because none of them, especially the slow-moving ones, had much trouble with projectiles once we got their moves down. Each of the fighters handled well and piqued our interest for what the game is going to offer.
The visuals in the game are a cross between the cartoony look of the recent Street Fighter revival and the more photo-realistic approach used in the Tekken series. The result is a cleaner overall look to the character models that skews toward finished comic book art. The three stages we played looked great and, in the case of two of them, showcased some familiar touches from one of the franchises. The first was a standard training area that was a basic white room. The second was a ruined street scene that had the battle taking place in front of a battered Capcom Plaza building with a large mech collapsed in the background and more moving around a freeway overpass in the distance. The third was something out of Jurassic Park, with the first round of the battle kicking off on a walkway above a Tyrannosaurus pen holding two of the large critters chained to posts. For the second round, the fighters hopped off the walkway and onto the ground, which let us get a glimpse of Alex, everyone's favorite boxing-glove-wearing raptor, watching from the foliage.
Based on what we played, Street Fighter X Tekken is a fun, smart blend of the two franchises. The fighting system's meshing of elements from each series is shaping up shockingly well considering the disparity between the two. While we're not totally sold on some of the tweaks we've seen so far (Chun Li, why?), we have to say there's a lot to be excited about in the upcoming game.