After almost a year of hype, following development progress, and keeping my ear to the ground for character reveals and unique gameplay elements, it's safe to say that Street Fighter X Tekken is pretty good, all things considered.
A lot of that comes from the game's cast--you get 38 brawlers from the Street Fighter and Tekken series, with five extra guest characters on the PS3--and that's not even taking into account the 12 (on-disc DLC) characters that will be made available after the release of the PS Vita version. Famous faces from both sides give plenty of options for fighting fans, and as a longtime fan of fighting games it's a real joy to get to re-learn Tekken favorites like Jin, Kazuya, Steve and Asuka in the new Capcom-designed fighting system.
For example, in Tekken, Jin is about mid- to close-range combat, keeping characters within arms' reach, and flanking opponents with a variety of combos and counters. In Street Fighter X Tekken, Jin's list of 100+ moves has been pared down to about 20 or so, streamlining combos into quick bursts of attacks, and adding quarter-circle Street Fighter-style inputs to his repertoire. He's also been given a ranged game with a stationary projectile, and most Tekken characters can work around projectiles by dashing through them or dodging--a solid and smart way to combine Street Fighter's ranged combat with Tekken's realistic(ish), projectile-less fighting.
Matches are 2-on-2 tag-team battles, working like a combination of Rival Schools and Tekken Tag Tournament. You don't have to knock out both members of a team--like Tekken Tag, completely drain one fighter's health to win a round. This keeps matches fast and intense, keeping you constantly on the offensive. It also makes you very judicious with using meter--do you save it up and hit the enemy with a high-damage Super Art or a Cross Art? Do you use one block at a time for EX moves or to tag characters in during combos? Street Fighter X Tekken is fast and brutal and fun, but all in all, it provides a little too much to ask for newer players.
You're given plenty of customization, with (currently limited) options for color customization, as well as a Gem System that gives you temporary boosts in attack, defense, and speed. The Gem System also allows newer players to fight stronger opponents on a more even level with Easy Input and Auto-Block gems. More advanced players won't want to make use of those gems, as they eat up meter--something essential to high-level combos and attacks.
It's funny, because Capcom has really gone out of its way to make Street Fighter X Tekken a game for newer players to pick up. Between a perfunctory tutorial (that still assumes a rudimentary knowledge of fighting games), four-player tag-team matches and a chaotic, Smash Bros.-style Scramble Mode, the normally solitary fighting genre is letting more people get in on the fun... provided you like Street Fighter or Tekken.
I had two friends play this for me--Sarah likes fighting games, but she prefers King of Fighters and Dead or Alive despite generally being a novice. Joe has basic experience playing fighting games (mainly SoulCalibur), but never really took the time to get "good" with any of them. This is the audience Capcom's trying to reach out to, and while Joe picked up on it and had a fairly good time sorta mashing buttons (until he ran into Akuma and got curbstomped), Sarah didn't enjoy it as much, finding the mechanics stiff and uninteresting, the backgrounds distracting, and "it didn't sparkle as much [as King of Fighters]." As a KoF fan, Sarah played Street Fighter X Tekken on Very Easy, expecting the SNK definition of "Very Easy," (meaning it still tries to physically harm you, only not as bad) and found a game that was almost too easy for her.
In motion, the game's beautiful, upgraded-from-Street Fighter IV visuals are a sight to behold--I picked up the PS3 version, and while Capcom fighting games are normally better on the 360 for better netcode and programming, Street Fighter X Tekken has impressed me so far. There are some sound glitches while playing online--sound effects will cut out, but the gameplay itself remains smooth and uninterrupted. Playing a friend from Germany, I only experienced major lag in our very first round of play--the remaining matches went by without any interruption and only the expected sound glitches.
Story is an obvious afterthought in fighting games--all you really need is a good reason to get everybody together and brawl. Street Fighter X Tekken continues this trend, with a hilariously nonsensical story and unexpected character pairings. "Official" character teams get an opening, an ending, and unique (and amusing) character dialogue between matches.
This begs the question, though: Capcom vs. SNK gave unique character interactions between multiple Capcom and SNK characters and pairings. Why are all the teams Capcom-only or Namco-only? Zangief wrestles bears for fun--why doesn't he have any interaction with Kuma? Wouldn't ruthless Tekken tycoon Heihachi Mishima be a better teammate for SF's crime lord M. Bison than psychotic assassin Juri? And why doesn't Street Fighter's crazed taekwondo killer Juri have any special face-off quote with Tekken's hot-headed taekwondo biker Hwoarang? In Tekken, Japanese characters speak Japanese, Korean characters speak Korean, and western characters speak English--why are there only English and Japanese voice options? There are plenty of missed opportunities for injecting the game with character and life that otherwise don't detract from the gameplay.
Street Fighter X Tekken's fast, competitive gameplay makes it a hit for fans of fighting games, and people interested in the competitive scene. If you like the competitive side of fighting games, you should be picking this up as soon as you can to get practicing. Ironically, the "everybody else" that Capcom was trying to win over with this game may want to hold off and wait for a price drop or a sale before they commit. Street Fighter X Tekken offers plenty for longtime fighting fans, but misses the mark for its intended audience. The gameplay is spot-on, but the presentation is lacking and uninspired.
And no matter how Capcom says it's pronounced, I am never, ever going to call it Street Fighter Cross Tekken.