Kuma the bear is in his Hunting Stance. I don't know much about bears, so I have no idea what they look like when they're after something to chew on, but in Street Fighter X Tekken, Kuma's Hunting Stance involves him dropping down on all fours. From here, with a bit of experimentation, I find a way to make him lie flat on the ground.
"Hang on," says Leo. "How did you make him do that?"
This is Leo Tan, PR man. He may not know much about bears either, but he certainly knows a lot about fighting games. Given that he works for Capcom, you'd expect Leo to know Street Fighter X Tekken inside out. But at this stage of proceedings, there are things that even he doesn't know. Fighting games tend to undergo significant changes during development, with major differences even between consecutive builds. So, in today's code Hugo - the gargantuan wrestler from Final Fight and Street Fighter III 2nd Impact - is an absolute beast, an unstoppable giant who can eat your combos and then squish you with a command throw. But in the next build, he'll almost certainly be nerfed.
At this stage, part of the fun lies in working things out for yourself. For example, Kuma's flat-on-the-ground move will let him duck under fireballs. It's a useful trick, but as he's completely immobile when he does this, it's hard to see how it can be fitted into the general strategy of closing in on your opponent, where the bear is at his best. It might make sense to keep Kuma in the Hunting Stance, since this makes him a smaller target and allows for a quick floor drop when required. Still, I'd be lying if I said I'd found an effective way to use him yet.
For me, I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that we have Tekken characters appearing in a Street Fighter game. Kazuya, for example, still has his ever-useful spin kick, but now it's mapped to a quarter circle command. His Dragon Punch, on the other hand, is still subtly different from the classic StreetFighter input. The iconic Capcom input is (of course) Forward, Down, DownForward and Punch, but here you need to let the stick go back to neutral after the initial forward tap. It's a subtle difference, but one that Namco stalwarts will certainly appreciate.
Naturally, Kazuya and his Tekken colleagues are largely missing their vast library of moves - StreetFighter has always preferred the smart use of a more limited toolset -but all the same, it's impressive to see how everyone still feels like their old selves. But while the core target combos and projectile dodging are immediately reminiscent of Street Fighter 4, the frequent character switching recalls Tekken Tag Tournament, rather than any of Capcom's VS games. By trotting out a quick Light-Medium-Heavy combo followed by a second Heavy attack, you'll switch over to your tag partner, who can then continue the punishment if you're quick enough. While you've got the option to switch characters manually at any time, these joint attacks are clearly going to be of crucial importance. For this reason alone, I suspect that an Arcade Stick will be near-mandatory for players who want to take the game seriously; I can't imagine anyone will have an easy time pulling off such combos on a pad. Then again, if you're into fighting games, you'll probably own a stick already.
Hardcore concerns aside, it's gratifying to see that Capcom has blessed Street Fighter X Tekken with its usual levels of detailed flair. You'd think that by now we might be tiring of the SF4 art style, but if you're anything like me you'll think it's utterly gorgeous. The backdrops are particularly wonderful: one stage finds you scrapping in a barely-veiled homage to Jurassic Park, while a classic street battle features a band going absolutely nutso in the background; revisit the scene in its nocturnal variation, and you'll spot that the knackered musicians are now sleeping on the floor.
And as for Kuma, well... he's a wonderful mass of anthropomorphised grizzly goodness. Of particular note is his Super Combo, Fatal Wind, which sees him grab his opponent, toss them into the air, and then reposition himself so that their face lands right up against his furry behind. At which point he farts away a massive swathe of their health bar. Subtle it may not be, but it's good to see that the fusion of Tekken and Street Fighter has left both series with their sense of humour in tact.