The Hidden Gem That Is Street Fighter X Tekken – Talking With Psychoblue

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A game that is rough at launch can become something great over time. The question is: will people stay around to play?

When it comes to competitive fighting games, that mileage may vary. Some games, such as Street Fighter V, have evolved with subsequent editions to become a much more solid experience. Other games, such as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, had balancing issues with later DLC characters that led to the meta stagnating and interest in the game dwindling.

And in some cases, a game gets left behind before it’s able to fully show what it can do. For Aaron “Psychoblue” Pinsky, that game is Street Fighter X Tekken.

Pinsky is a longtime fighting game competitor, tournament organizer and commentator, who specializes in Street Fighter X Tekken. A regular in the community during the game’s heyday from 2012 to 2014, he became one of the game’s leading figures when many players moved on from Street Fighter X Tekken.

“I kept the lights on and paid the power bills.” Pinsky told ggn00b in an interview. With Street Fighter X Tekken often being the butt of jokes from other members of the fighting game community, Pinsky stands up for the game that he holds dear, and that he thinks deserves a more honest assessment today.

“I am known for my controversial opinions about how I like my buttons, and I’m going to say what needs to be said.”

While competitive fighting games have long been a part of Pinsky’s life, he made a conscious effort to get serious with Street Fighter X Tekken; he would soon embark on a career as a behavior analyst and this game would be a final deep dive into the competitive scene.

“I joined the IRC. From there, I learned just how bad I actually was at this game.” Pinsky recalls. “But I was determined to do my best because I had made a vow after I left grad school that this was the last game I was going to take seriously [in that way.]”

“It became my coping skills during some rough jobs. It became the thing to focus on apart from work. I learned a lot of hard life lessons through this game.”

Street Fighter X Tekken was the long-awaited crossover game that finally pitted characters from two of the most popular fighting game franchises against each other. 

But when the game was finally released, it was hit with controversy. Several criticisms of Street Fighter X Tekken from mainstays in the fighting game community included:

  • Charging for DLC that was already on the game disc.
  • The Gem system, which was poorly balanced. Some gems were considered near-useless while others were feared to affect the game too much.
  • The propensity for timeouts; early Street Fighter X Tekken saw many players just run out the clock since it was seen as an optimal strategy.

Additionally, the game’s competitive momentum took a hit when EVO 2012 decided to run the Street Fighter X Tekken as a doubles event rather than the traditional singles. This unorthodox choice further contributed to the lukewarm reception Street Fighter X Tekken received in the fighting game community.

The early months of the game were certainly rough. However, a patch in January 2013 seeked to fix many of the issues that players had with the game. The game that we see today is the result of these fixes, and it’s the game that Pinsky and others have worked hard to keep alive.

“Honestly, Version 2013 might as well be ‘Street Fighter X Tekken 2’ In terms of its particular mechanics.” says Pinsky.

The amount of timeouts didn’t bother Pinsky personally, although he points out that they are much less common in the patched version of the game. He does concede that early versions of the Gem system were not ideal, although he believes the patched version has significantly improved Gems.

“In Version 2013, everyone has the same five sets of Gems. It adds a lot more to the meta of point and anchor characters. Back when the game came out, every character had two Gems specific to them and they sucked.” Pinsky explained. He believes that people calling for no Gems at all is too harsh, and that there can be a proper way for a system like Gems to reinforce players.

“I do not agree with anyone saying there should be no gems. Gems, in my personal opinion, are better as a beginner mechanic than autocombos.” Pinsky argues. “Autocombos don’t really help you and they give lazy players an easy way out.” 

“As an ABA practitioner, I like the idea that you are reinforced for doing something right rather than having a crutch. I’d rather reinforce someone than give them a way out from doing the thing that should be the norm.”

After most of the community had moved on from Street Fighter X Tekken in the latter half of 2014, Pinsky considered moving on as well. However, support from players who continued with the game, as well as an opportunity to host the game as a side event at EVO 2014 led to him sticking with the game. Pinsky has hosted, competed in and recorded the side event for Street Fighter X Tekken at EVO every year since then.

Considering the bulk of the FGC had abandoned the game only a little over a year after the 2013 patch, it was on Pinsky and others to continue to explore the game’s meta. A Discord channel, which now boasts thousands of members, helped organize sparring sessions, online tournaments and a ton of discussion and exchange of information about the game.

Perhaps one of the biggest driving forces for those who stuck with the game was dethroning Esuta, a Japanese player who had placed Top 8 at the EVO 2013 event for Street Fighter X Tekken, and also won the 2014, 2015 and 2016 side events.

Pinsky, who was beginning to realize that he was getting to the point that he could win against these top players, trained hard after EVO 2016. “I wanted to make sure that when the time came, I was ready.”

And at EVO 2017, that time came:

After winning the event at EVO 2017, Pinsky had to figure out what his next step for the game was. Interest in the game was slowly growing, especially after seeing Esuta beaten.

“After winning the event at EVO 2017, I had a feeling of ‘…now what?’” Pinsky explained. “And that’s why I made the dossier. Now I knew I had everything I needed to properly document everything I knew as a player and commentator.”

The dossier, a 200+ page document that provides all of the up-to-date information regarding competitive Street Fighter X Tekken play, is the result of the many years of competing, commentating and being a student of the game. It’s a love letter to a game that he feels was—and still is—unfairly maligned.

Even today, there are videos with hundreds of thousands of views that highlight the negative aspects of Street Fighter X Tekken from those early days in 2012, and seldom do they look at what the niche community has done with the game since then. For Pinsky, this is an endless source of frustration.

“It’s just beating a dead horse at this point. I want people to see the game as it is now.”

And when given the chance, the game can shine; the VOD for the Street Fighter X Tekken Top 8 event at Combo Breaker 2019 has now reached over 400,000 views, and the reception have been overwhelmingly positive. Additionally, the EVO 2018 side event had a new champion, Homeless Dragon, who dominated the tournament with a Rufus and Ibuki combo. There is good competition within the game.

As for Pinsky, he’ll be looking to land more commentary positions as tournaments open up. He’s uploaded a commentary reel highlighting some of his best moments on the mic. While looking to land some higher profile Street Fighter V events to his resume, Street Fighter X Tekken remains his go-to.

“That game will always be home court.”

For the full two-hour discussion about Street Fighter X Tekken with Aaron “Psychoblue” Pinsky, listen here:

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