Yoshinori Ono on the 'violent' and 'friendly' rivalries in Street Fighter X Tekken

Capcom was showing a playable build of its latest, and weirdest, crossover fighter, Street Fighter X Tekken at E3. So I'm sure producer Yoshinori Ono had dealt with his share of dazed, sputtering journalists in interviews, all fresh from having their minds scrambled by a mix of Tekken speed, Street Fighter controls (mostly) and unfamiliar rules from both sides. But Ono himself was energetic as usual, sitting in a meeting room within Capcom's E3 booth, Blanka figure, as ever, nearby.

He helped make sense of the mishmash of new rules, the X (cross) in the name -- and of the addition of a new element, Infamous's Cole McGrath. Cole was one of the big announcements for the game at the show, the other being a PlayStation Vita version. And Cole, as he appears in Street Fighter X Tekken, is almost entirely a Capcom creation. "We've gotten some good cooperation from Sucker Punch," Ono told Joystiq, "and the designer, Darren [Bridges] supplied us with a lot of information on the types of moves that Cole would potentially be capable of, but that's where the input stops." Capcom is handling the Tekken characters the same way, implementing them with no supervision from Namco Bandai.

Street Fighter X Tekken features a rule not usually seen in Capcom's VS. games: knocking out one character (instead of the whole team) ends a round. "It's interesting, because the system that was chosen is very similar to Tekken Tag Tournament, as opposed to traditional Capcom Vs. games," Ono said. And as a result of the Tekken provenance of this rule, "a lot of the Tekken players seem to have no trouble jumping into that, while Street Fighter players "might find it odd until they get used to it."

The rule change isn't just a gesture to the Tekken side of the roster, however. It was a "very deliberate" system implemented to affect the strategy of the game. "Basically," he said, "the whole purpose behind the single-character knockout is we want people to think very strategically about which character they're using and which character they have on deck, so to speak." Ono actually hinted that there was even more to the single-character knockout system, "further details" and "other options and things you can do with that later this year," which Capcom will bring up at Comic-Con, a show that the publisher always attends in force.

It's clear from this strategic rejiggering that SF X T isn't just Street Fighter IV with new characters dumped into it -- although it is running on "the same fighting game specialty engine that we did for Street Fighter IV," Ono said, as opposed to the MT Framework engine that Capcom uses for almost everything else. The lineup, even on the Street Fighter side, will include characters not seen in IV. "What we don't want to do is have Street Fighter IV vs. Tekken 6," Ono said. "We want to widen it out a bit: Street Fighter as a series vs. Tekken as a series, so you're going to see some characters you didn't see in IV making a return." He even hinted at characters external to both series.

"If you look at the movies we've shown so far, there's actually a scene where Kazuya's stomping on Ryu's face. We'd never see something like that in a Vs. Marvel game." - Yoshinori Ono

The character balance, which makes or breaks any fighting game, is also not carried over from SF4, Ono asserted. "As far as balancing is concerned, we basically started over from scratch. The characters are not balanced the same way they were in IV." The influx of new characters from Tekken has required Capcom to reconsider how each character would interact with each other. "It'll feel significantly different to you if you're accustomed to playing IV."

As the interview wrapped up, I asked about the "X" nomenclature (pronouncing it correctly as "cross" in an effort to sound informed). Why "X" and not the traditional "Vs."? The choice of name was "a very deliberate way to differentiate" between the tone of this game and the "more friendly" Vs. games of the past, Ono explained. For example, X-Men vs. Street Fighter opened with a shot of Cyclops and Ryu shaking hands. "So even though we call it Vs. they're not really rivals, they don't really dislike each other." This time, however, Capcom and Namco are emphasizing their rivalry. "It's a serious battle. They don't get along behind the scenes. So the X is indicating this real, violent rivalry. If you look at the movies we've shown so far, there's actually a scene where Kazuya's stomping on Ryu's face. We'd never see something like that in a Vs. Marvel game."

Not that there isn't an element of friendship in this very serious battle. For two companies to hand each other's IPs to one another, there would have to be. The professional rivalry is in part a friendly one because "we owe Namco a debt of gratitude," Ono told us. "We really do respect what they've done with Tekken. While Capcom sat on our haunches and didn't release fighting games for about ten years or so, they continued to carry the torch for us with Tekken 3, 4, 5 -- before we came out with Street Fighter IV. We definitely respect them for that. It's a rivalry, but it's a respectful one."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.