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Street Fighter X Tekken: Welcome to the festival

Taylor Cocke

I remember the days of sitting in my buddy's room, losing repeatedly to his Vega as my Dhalsim flailed in front of pixelated, braying elephants. With every loss came the time to give up the controller for the next player in line. Depending on how many people were over, a sort of cheering section would develop. Fueled by Dr. Pepper and bags of potato chips, these impromptu parties are memories that I'm sure I share with many gaming folks.

Street Fighter x Tekken is doing its best to recreate those moments. We already know it's bringing together two of the biggest fighting game franchises on the market, thus creating a huge, varied cast. The Tekken characters have been given the Street Fighter IV treatment, creating a stylized, almost cartoonish look. Their new animations are just as stylized. They're clearly ready to party.

Gallery: Street Fighter X Tekken (1/17/12) | 19 Photos

And, frankly, so are we. But what good is a party that not everyone is invited to? For years, fighting games have been notoriously alienating. The huge time commitment required, intimidating online community, and nigh incomprehensible lingo can be awfully unwelcoming to those attempting to break into the genre.

If you're one of those people, consider Street Fighter x Tekken your invitation to the party. Take the controversial Gem system, for example. For those who struggle to pull off some of the more complicated moves, there's the Easy Input Assist Gem, which simplifies them at the cost of 10 percent damage. There are four others available at the start, all of which have fairly sizeable disadvantages that will give newcomers a fighting chance, but certainly won't break the game.

For the more experienced players, there's a huge amount of customization surrounding the Gem system. Don't think Ken hits quite hard enough? Throw on an Immense Power Boost Gem, which gives him an extra 10% damage for 20 seconds upon landing 5 regular attacks. There are similar Gems for speed and defense bonuses, as well. It's all about finding what works for you, and customizing your characters to your exact specifications. Essentially making your own character feels strangely welcoming for a genre that's always been about stringent rules and balance.

The hardcore depth that fighting fans are looking for is still there. With two fighters tagging in and out during combat, there's plenty of opportunity to explore crazy combos and team dynamics that will definitely keep the message boards chattering. With all modes going online – including training mode – players will be able to work out the kinks in their skills. Gone are the days of sitting isolated, alone, practicing combos, replaced by sparring with buddies.

The most intriguing addition to the title is Pandora mode. Unlocked when both characters on a team have less than 25 percent health, it allows the player to sacrifice one member to empower the other. The downside is they lose the match after ten seconds. It's a last-ditch effort that's enormously risky, but damn if it isn't exciting to watch.

Since the game is bringing previously disparate universes together, it has to be welcoming to fans of both sides. So while the Tekken characters may have Street Fighter-style special attacks, many of their basic mechanics work much the same. Those used to the four-button style of play will feel more than welcome in this crazy, rival-based universe.

Really, that's what Street Fighter x Tekken is all about. All of its welcoming attributes culminate in an exciting party atmosphere. Perhaps the best example of this mentality is the four-player Scramble Battle mode, in which all four characters battle on the same screen simultaneously. It's insane to watch, with fireballs and special moves being thrown all over the place. Most of all, it's absolutely hilarious. Teammates share both life bars and meters, so there's a lot of yelling and laughing when one player oversteps their bounds or throws a mistimed Ultra.

Producer Yoshinori Ono repeatedly referred to Street Fighter x Tekken as a "festival". It's certainly a celebration of two extremely influential series, thrown together for a rabid and surprisingly player-friendly experience. It's fan service and then some. It's a party!

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