At their core, gems are perks. You assign up to three for each fighter, and they're activated by fulfilling particular scenarios mid-scrap, like getting hit four times or landing five specials. At first, each fighter has a couple of suggested gem set-ups, and while it doesn't make huge amounts of sense when you're in battle, seeing your man flash red means he's doing more damage, or green means he's moving faster. There are blues and yellows too, just to make things that much simpler.
Where the nightmare begins, though, is when you get to customising them. Everything is unlocked, so you're presented with pages of gems that you can assign to your character and no real clue what you should do or how you should proceed. It's like playing COD with every single perk and gun unlocked from the start – the temptation to just back away quietly and hope no one saw you come in is overwhelming. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find most of the gems do the same thing, but the way you activate them differs. Pick ones that suit your style: are you a defensive shell or a special-hurling maniac? Then immediately forget all the activation conditions and carry on regardless. If you're anything like me, anyway.
Is the gem system really necessary? There's a certain hardcore appeal to getting lost in it and customising your fighters to your exact style, but it almost feels superfluous – the fighting engine is strong enough to do without them. Yet they add a layer of depth that could definitely prove welcome after weeks and months of play. One piece of advice, then – don't fret about them too much. Mastering your characters and your combos will get you much further.
Talking of combos, Street Fighter X Tekken must be commended for how well it incorporates the kickpunching hellions of team Namco into the Street Fighter engine. They feel slightly different to play with, even beyond the lack of projectiles. Most of them, from Paul to King to Kazuya, have far more 'unique attacks' than the Street Fighter lot, meaning you can string together close-quarters combos far easier than you can with that other bunch and their fiery palms. For now, the balance is remarkably good. Yes, it's easier to play with Ryu and Ken than Julia and Yoshimitsu for now, but there are clearly plenty of Tekken characters who'll be quick to master. Law and King can be devastating after just a few rounds.
The roster's suitably packed, too. Despite a few notable omissions (no Jack or Eddy Gordo? No Blanka?) Street Fighter and Tekken fans should be pretty chuffed with this veritable who's who of both series' past. Rolento and Poison join a familiar Capcom bunch, while the likes of Heihachi, Kazuya, Kuma and even fat old Bob make the cut from camp Tekken. Namco stalwarts will be impressed on how well Capcom has incorporated team Tekken's movesets too. While the four-limbed button configuration is no more, you can still pull off Kazuya's Jumping spinning sweep, King's tornado throw, Paul's signature stepping punch and countless other fan favourites with ease. It's testament to the skill and craft of the team at Capcom that these moves feel just as instinctive here as they do inside a fully-fledged Tekken game, regardless of which buttons you're pressing.
So, not a huge amount of complaining going on, and rightly so, this is top level stuff from true masters of the art. Is it as good as Super Street Fighter IV though? Not quite. The added complexity, while superbly implemented, dilutes the purity of Street Fighter just a touch, and the easier Super Arts and Cross Arts mean those 'wow' moments don't feel quite as earned as that time you managed to cancel into Vega's Ultra and threw down the stick in utter contempt at how useless everyone else in the world is.
As an experiment and a sequel, though, Street Fighter X Tekken is still a resounding and admirable success, and further proof than Ono-san is hiding true genius behind those scruffy cords and pudgy cheeks. In this battle of Street Fighter and Tekken, Capcom has landed the first knockout blow. I can't wait to see how Namco responds.
Version Tested: PS3