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San Diego Comic-Con 2011
The X Button at Comic Con: Thursday, July 21

by Todd Ciolek,

Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono and Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada are willing to suffer for their art. Clearly out to top Harada's surprise appearance at last year's San Diego Comic Con, the two men devised this year's Street Fighter X Tekken panel with costumes and public humiliation in mind.

Ono began the panel with hopeful news for Darkstalkers fans: a Powerpoint slide that read, quite simply, “Darkstalkers are Not Dead.” He then asked the audience to wave money in the air, just as he'd done last year—and he got the same exicted results.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online was next on Ono's list. He announced this new version of the game at the 2010 Comic-Con, and this year he had release dates: August 23 on the Playstation Network, August 24 on XBox Live Arcade. Running $14.99, this online version of 3rd Strike adds a hi-res mode, a trial mode, and a few other options. For most fans, however, the major selling point is simply a convenient online version of what many still consider the best Street Fighter title.

In a cryptic move, Ono showed the audience an illustration of Hello Kitty as Chun-Li and remarked that it was related to “an upcoming collaboration,” though he declined to explain further.

Yet the panel was headlined as Street Fighter X Tekken, and Ono delivered plenty of information on the crossover fighter. Several new features were available in the playable build at CAPCOM's booth; the most interesting of which is the Cross Assault, which lets the player control two characters on-screen, similar to the “Dramatic Battle” mode seen in some Street Fighter Alpha titles. Ono then introduced new additions to the game's roster. From Tekken, the game draws boxer Steve Fox and alien/robot/samurai/general weirdo Yoshimitsu. From Street Fighter come Indian mystic Dhalsim and gang member Poison.

Poison's addition is quite special for Ono, as he's mentioned several times that he'd like to add...her...to a Street Fighter game. For this new appearance, Ono played a bizarre spot from Poison's voice actress and a short animated clip that showed Tekken wrestlers Marduk and King taking on the Andre-the-Giant-esque Hugo (last seen in Street Fighter III) and his manager, Poison. Having the most complicated origin of any CAPCOM character, Poison appeared to be a standard female thug in Final Fight, though she and palette-swap Roxy were canonically described as transsexuals to mollify objections about violence against women. The official line on Poison's sex varied from game to game in the following years, but Ono stated in a 2008 interview that Poison is a post-op transsexual in the game's American continuity and a cross-dresser in the Japanese canon. To play this up, the panelists introduced a procession of male and female Poison cosplayers, culminating with Ono himself appearing in Poison garb.

Ono then addressed his “rival” Harada, showing a video of the two of them in a series of bizarre challenges, all to determine if Harada could appear in the game as a new character. After tests of hotdog-eating, soda-chugging, swordfighting, pantyhose tug-o-wars, and board-breaking, Ono came out ahead. Harada then showed up, challenging Ono to a match of Street Fighter X Tekken. The two of them fought as the four newly added characters, and Ono rode to victory with Poison's whip-cracking super moves. This triumph was not enough for Ono, however, and he insisted that Harada be comically punished by the Poison cosplayers.

Harada obliged, making one wonder just what the two of them will put together next year.

Here's an easy way to enjoy Street Fighter X Tekken: pretend you've never heard of Tekken before. Just think of this crossover title as a Street Fighter game where half the roster is new. This helps quite a bit, because the game's all about fitting Tekken characters into Street Fighter's world.

And once you accept them, they fit rather well. Sure, the characters transplanted from Tekken are mostly bland in style, with none of the franchise's hyper-manly robots or punching dinosaurs in sight thus far (King's feline mask and Julia's nerd-chic Native American aren't quite enough ). Yet they're all fun to play when adapted to the six-button attacks and rolling motions of Street Fighter. The game moves quickly, but without the gaudy effects and high-jumping confusion of Marvel vs. CAPCOM. The character-switching maneuvers are much more sane, and the game feels very much like Street Fighter IV.

That's the only thing wrong: it's still Street Fighter IV with a Tekken infusion. The backgrounds are all new and littered with in-jokes, but the cast of the Street Fighter half has far too many faces directly recycled from IV. If nothing else, Street Fighter X Tekken is a good opportunity to use lesser-seen characters from both sides. At least Poison's introduction moves in that direction.

A rare under-merchandised Nintendo property, Kid Icarus had only two games all its own for a long time. Then Nintendo gave in to long-simmering fan demand for a modern title. And Kid Icarus: Uprising is an update across the board: far from the side-scrolling of the NES and Game Boy games, it's a mixture of rail shooter and vaguely Zelda-ish action stages. The best part of Nintendo's Comic Con demo was the more limited part: The flying, on-rails sections have a quick pace, solid enemy design, and reliable stylus-based aiming. Hero Pit (contrary to Captain N, his real name wasn't Kid Icarus) also expands his arsenal beyond bows and slings, equipping a sword and even a powerful cannon well beyond the technologies of ancient Greece.

Slightly less stable are Uprising's on-foot segments. As Pit stalks around temples and dungeons, he aims conveniently with the 3DS stylus, but the game requires you to “flick” the touch screen to shift the viewpoint. It's an awkward change from the typical good-enough directional camera of other 3-D games on handhelds. Still, the game deserves credit for not drastically changing the theme: Pit, the goddess Palutena, and Medusa all are sharply redesigned and backed by voice-overs, while a few glimpses of the original Kid Icarus sum up the backstory for those who weren't young enough to play the NES game—or nerdy enough to rediscover it later on.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 took up a surprisingly small corner of Square Enix's booth. Four playable displays are no paltry share, but the company gave equal space to the online RPG Wakfu. So the Final Fantasy XIII-2 units were swamped, suggesting that, contrary to what some say, not everyone hated Final Fantasy XIII.

And Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a lot like its predecessor, despite Square adding many of the things missing from the original Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy XIII-2's sizable demo found weepy Final Fantasy XIII non-heroine Serah and newcomer Noel Kreiss taking on a lumbering blue beast called Atlas, and their battle involved puzzles, recruited monster allies, quick-time events, and a jump button—all things that Final Fantasy XIII lacked. Despite that, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has a similar battle system, though it seems even faster now, and the game offers the same glowing, Star Wars-ish atmosphere and overblown cinematic stylings that drove Final Fantasy XIII. It's hard to say if Final Fantasy XIII-2 has the original's failings righted, partly because everything was very easy, from the monster-capturing to the disappearing-floor puzzles. Perhaps it's just a question of what exactly one disliked about Final Fantasy XIII. At any rate, I'm glad to play a Final Fantasy game where I can jump around at will. No, Mystic Quest doesn't count.

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