When Street Fighter X Tekken arrives for Sony's handheld this autumn, the home console versions will have been kicking around for months. So it's just as well the Vita release is more than the same game squeezed onto a smaller screen. It also opens up cross-platform play between the Vita and PlayStation 3s--good news for Vita owners with more friends on PS3s than on Sony's portable console.
Smooth cross-platform matchmaking and battling like this is no mean feat; in a demo at Capcom's annual Captivate showcase (that is, admittedly, under ideal circumstances), there was no perceptible lag between action on the Vita and PS3 displays. And it looks terrific on the Vita, too.
On top of the Sony hardware love-in, there's the new touchscreen battle system, which divides the touchscreen and the rear touchpad on the Vita into a few programmable sectors, to which you can map combos and other actions--in practice, not dissimilar to the 3DS version of Super Street Fighter IV. In our time with the game, part of the back pad could be swiped to tag in our second character. That's all layered over familiar gamepad-like controls assigned to the Vita's two sticks and face buttons.
Given the abundance and variety of input options, we're curious about the control habits into which players will settle in the long term to balance comfort and killer instincts; making the most of all the sticks, buttons, and touch surfaces at once in our first go made for some finger gymnastics, but we're sure there's a more elegant solution (for more elegant players). Yet to be answered is also the question of the competitive advantage in cross-platform play. Our hands-on was strictly Vita versus Vita, but between easy combos tied to touchscreen regions for Vita players and comfy, full-sized pads or even fight sticks for PS3 players, whose platform gives them the edge?
As to the other big addition, Street Fighter X Tekken arrives on the Vita with a fuller roster than that of its home console forerunner. There are 12 extra characters in the lineup, six from each side of the crossover fence: Blanka, Sakura, Guy, Cody, Elena, Dudley, Alisa, Bryan, Christie, Jack, Lars, and Lei. Among the new story-based fighter pairings with their own bespoke cinematics, the sparky duo of Blanka and Sakura is our favourite.
Those new dozen characters are the very same infamously burned onto the Street Fighter X Tekken home console discs and locked off as a slice of future downloadable content. At least PS3 players planning to pick up the Vita release won't have to pay twice; owning both versions of the game adds the new fighters to the PS3 version, where they will also be available for PS3-on-PS3 brawling.