If you like the idea of getting on the bus and beating the crap out of people, youâ€™ve got two options: get help, or play a videogame on some sort of portable console while you commute. If you choose the latter, thereâ€™s another choice to make: which game to play. Surprisingly, there are a lot of genuinely great options to select from, even on Sonyâ€™s plucky new handheld. After playing Street Fighter X Tekken, I can safely (and heartily) recommend that you add it to your list of possibilities.
For a start, itâ€™s a thoroughly comprehensive version of the game we reviewed earlier in the year when it released on consoles. Not only does it have all of the bonus Sony-only characters (including Cole McGrath from inFamous, who is great fun to play with), but you also get access to the 12 characters that were otherwise only available as paid DLC on the earlier versions (the review copy didn't include them, but retail copies do). Better yet, if youâ€™ve got the PS3 version of the game, buying this Vita version will give you access to the new characters on your console too.
The structure of the game, from a modes point of view, sticks pretty closely to the recent Capcom formula. Thereâ€™s a basic arcade mode, which has some very light (but still enjoyable) narrative elements, and a veritable host of practice, challenge, and endless modes that let you customize every element of the experience. While it lacks the thoroughly excellent story mode of recent NetherRealm games, thereâ€™s still plenty of stuff to explore.
The core fighting game, while it features Tekken characters too, very definitely leans towards Street Fighterâ€™s mechanics. Thatâ€™s not to say itâ€™s just Street Fighter with Tekken characters, oh no. A large number of new systems, tweaks, and wholesale changes have been added into the mix, the most notable of which is the gem system.
Gems, which - to this day - are rather controversial, allow you to add special effects and abilities to your character. You can equip gems and then, by meeting certain (gem-specific) requirements, trigger their effect - be it added power, automatic blocking, improved defense, or any of a number of other possibilities. Additional gems can be acquired for a nominal fee via the PlayStation Network...
Another new feature, called Pandora mode, lets you sacrifice a character with low health to grant your surviving character a huge boost in power. If you donâ€™t win quickly, however, youâ€™ll automatically die, so strategy is the key to using this successfully. Used well, it can change the tide of battle; used poorly and, at best, itâ€™s a comedic interlude for your competitor.
Other changes include a big focus on juggling characters, something thatâ€™s popular in the Tekken franchise. Characters have launchers, you can switch between your characters to juggle your opponents, and the best players will leverage this heavily against you. Adapting to this new system, as a lifetime Street Fighter player, requires quite a shift in your approach to combat, but the rewards are obvious immediately.
Online is another part of the game that is fully fleshed out. Numerous options are available, and matches can be customized to suit almost any preference. Finding matches, however, is best achieved when all of the preferences are set to â€śAnyâ€ť; not doing so will increase your waiting time, and often considerably at that.
Multiplayer, deep as it already was, is made all the more compelling in the case of the Vita version by the fact that you can play against your PlayStation 3 owning pals, too. This interoperability extends to the ability to use your Vita as a controller for the PS3 version of the game, apparently; not owning that version, however, I was unable to test it.
The Vitaâ€™s various unique features have been used fairly extensively here, including augmented reality (pose your favorite characters in the real world and take pictures of them), Near support, and the ability to automatically challenge others around you. The most significant of the Vitaâ€™s contributions, however, is the one the system has made to the controls.
Large areas of the screen (and rear touch panel) have been designated as extra buttons, and you can assign moves or even combos to each of them. If youâ€™re like me, youâ€™ll accidentally strike the rear panel often. So while two extra buttons would be handy, you might be better off not assigning anything to them.
There are some clunky aspects of the switch to the Vita, including some rather oddly implemented menus. For some reason, Capcom thought forcing some screens to only use touch-based input - when thereâ€™s typically little obvious reason for this - was a good idea. Otherwise, the interface hasnâ€™t been rejigged for touch at all, which makes it a bit funky to use with your huge (in comparison) fingers at times.
Online, lag is definitely something you need to be aware of. The game works superbly when playing with someone nearby, but when you try to play against people in Europe, the USA, or even parts of Asia, it can be a very frustrating experience indeed. Lots of janky pausing, freezing, and general randomness typically ensues, and your chances of winning in this environment will plummet. If youâ€™re buying to play against local pals, however, fear not; itâ€™s as robust an implementation of networking code as any Iâ€™ve seen in a fighter.
The presentation of the title is top notch; somehow, Capcom managed to squeeze all of the important aspects of the audio visual package onto the Vita, and it looks and sounds great as a result. Most important of all, everything moves at a fair clip too; no slowdown was evident at any stage and the old reflexes from the console version will serve your move-countering needs more than adequately as a result.
In conclusion, the Vita version of Capcomâ€™s crossover fighter is a resounding success. It's an improved iteration of the console version from earlier in the year, has 55 fighters to learn, and loads of new mechanics to spice up the experience. The expertise with which the game has been converted to the Vita is in no doubt, and at no stage do you feel like owning this version alone is any kind of compromise.
There are some qualms, of course, and which irks you most will come down to how you feel about things like paying for in-game power boosts. Regardless, even if you never go online, SFxT is a fantastic fighter and one that adds enough to a familiar formula to be well worth the investment - even if you have all of the other versions of Street Fighter. And at the end of the day, thatâ€™s what really matters. If you like portable pugilism, it's a must-own.