The Gems pave the way for a new type of fighting game experience. For casual players its RPG-like customisation options break down walls such as complex input requirements and strict timing based counters to create an easy to approach game where they can feel they always have a fighting chance.
For hardcore players it introduces a complex new layer of depth and strategy that also creates a moment-to-moment fighting experience unlike any other. In our experiences with the game the Gems created a schizophrenic pace to battle and made characters highly unpredictable by allowing them to overcome their limitations for a short period.
There's a tug-of-war element to the flow of a duel too, which is dictated by the meta-game of Gem activation and prevention. Someone who favours overwhelming the enemy with a barrage of attacks might be discouraged by a Gem set that activates based on the amount of damage taken by the opponent. So it's important to know your opponents Gem set as well as you do your own.
The versatile system also allows sets to be built around distinct strategies, so an aggressive player can either opt for damage, speed and meter building Gems to maximise damage output potential, or build a set that offers health recovery and damage incurred reduction that activates by dishing out punishment to take care of defence.
It's clear Capcom has thought the Gem system through, but that doesn't make it any less scary for people who play fighting games seriously. The argument could be made that the Gems shift the balance of power away from those that spend the time and effort to hone their skills by picking up the slack for less skilled players and introducing numerous rogue elements.
Of course Capcom's counter-argument would be that a good player would know the system well enough and be smart enough to always come out on top.
Others might decry the sheer number of disparate systems running concurrently; along with Gems there's also Pandora and Cross Assault, which may be too many spinning plates at once to guarantee a balanced competitive experience.
How this plays out is ultimately a matter of waiting for it to get into the hands of the community. One thing's for sure though, Street Fighter X Tekken is the most interesting, exciting fighting game we've seen in years.