It’s unusual playing Tekken on anything but a Sony system. (I’m not counting Tekken Advance for the GameBoy Advance, and neither should you.) And yet here I am with Tekken 6 on the Xbox 360, using the same combos, with the same characters (that would be Bryan Fury and Law, if you’ll allow me to consider Forrest Law and Marshall Law the same character because, really, they are), as I did back in 1998 with Tekken 3. I still can’t make heads or tails of the story, and I’m still fighting pandas and tree-men, but then that’s Tekken for you.
The other unusual thing is how other fighters have passed Tekken by over the years. It’s safe to say that Soulcalibur is now the premier Namco fighter, and it was Sega’s Virtua Fighter, once its ideological rival, that first showed us, three years ago, what a next-gen (well, you know what I mean) fighter should be. (Man I use a lot of commas. Sorry.) Tekken 6 tries to right many wrongs; it mostly succeeds, but it’s asking a lot to dethrone Street Fighter IV as this year’s best fighter.
Tekken veterans will feel right at home, even if the last game you played was Tekken 3, which I have a feeling is going to be the case for many of you. (I actually just received an e-mail that says that Namco has already shipped some 2.5 million copies of the game since its release.) It uses the same control scheme as its predecessors, with each face button controlling a limb, and leaving you to juggle your friend in the air until he punches you in the face in real life. The frame rate, at least offline, never misses a beat, so people who play fighting games to the extent that they calculate frame data shouldn’t be too concerned.
(Breathless rant: this game, even so more than Street Fighter IV, shows how terrible the standard Xbox 360 controller is for fighting games. I just ordered that MadCatz controller from Amazon because I was tired of the absolute piece of junk that Microsoft thinks is a D-Pad. Know that there’s also that bundle that includes the Hori fight stick, but I’m not exactly made of $140 game bundles.)
Online is another story, or at least it can be. I played a good number of matches online (we’re talking hours here… I really don’t have a life, to clear up any misconceptions that you may have), and the few times that the connection wasn’t up to par the game was unplayable. Whereas Street Fighter IV handled rubbish connections by stuttering like a car with bad gas that “knocks,” Tekken 6 slows down, like you’re playing underwater. It totally kills off the fight when it happens, but I can’t sit here and say it happened too frequently. (Maybe the gentleman who wrote the 1UP review, which really hammered the game’s netcode, has a rubbish Internet connection?) Just know that the game isn’t immune to the occasional ruined online matchup. That’s physics for you.
The online match-ups seemed fair, too. I jumped right into a ranked match after running though Arcade Mode once with Law, meaning that my kyu—sort of a ranking the game assigns you to signify your skill level—had only been bumped up twice. Once online, I was paired with people who were just as good (or bad, as it were!) as I was, and we proceeded to go the distance, all the way to round five, more often than not.
You’re not going to hop online and be destroyed right out of the box.
There are several offline modes. The main one that I figure most of you will play as soon as you open the box is good ol’ Arcade Mode, and it’s exactly as you’d suspect. I should note that all the characters, and there are 40 of them, are unlocked right from the word “go,” so you don’t have to beat Arcade Mode five times just to fight as Anna Williams, pictured below dressed like a Bond Girl. (Never mind that Zafinais a dead-ringer for the Bond Girl in Casino Royale, Vesper. Just sayin’.)
(Exciting trivia: the woman who provides the voice for Anna is Pride FC‘s former announcer, and the current Dream announcer, Lenne Hardt. You know, the woman who screams, like a banshee, every fighter’s name as he makes his way to the ring. She’s absolutely fantastic, and God almighty do I miss Pride. Dream tries so hard, but it just isn’t the same. None of you have any idea what I’m talking about, do you?)
There’s another offline mode, called Scenario Campaign, and it’s a bit like Tekken Force mode from Tekken 3. It can best be described as a 3D beat-em-up, and will no doubt prove divisive. Personally, I have no time for beat-em-ups, as I’m of the opinion that they peaked with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. You go around… beating up baddies. I’d be lying if I told you the story was coherent, but, frankly, we don’t play Tekken for the story, now do we? You get the feeling that Namco thinks it can’t “merely” release a port of the arcade game, so it goes ahead and adds this mode. There’s no point in complaining about it, since it doesn’t seem to have distracted the developers from making the core gameplay top-notch.
I suspect that in 2009 (nearly 2010!) the vast majority of hours will be sunk into online ranked matches, as it should be.
So, is she worth taking home to mom and dad? Yes. Do I expect to see it top all the end-of-the-year lists that’ll be coming out soon as the best fighting game of the year? Let’s be honest: those honors belong to Street Fighter IV this year, if for no other reason that we waited years for Capcom to tack on a IV to the Street Fighter name. Nostalgia’s a cheap fighter.