Review by Siegfried
Had it not been for Namco and its stupendous Tekken series, Sony's console would surely have been ignored by fighting enthusiasts. While Sega's Dreamcast kept getting faithful ports of Arcade classics (of which there are too may to list!), the PlayStation could barely oppose some resistance with some of the same titles getting horrible conversions (without mentioning how it lacks a proper additional joystick for fighters). Thankfully, PSX enthusiasts could always revert back to the popular Tekken, which was basically the only fighter they could boast about, and they were indeed lucky in that the series was exclusive to Sony's consoles.
The rest is a long story, punctuated by tournaments and a special edition, which everybody knows and which I hope to review in all its glory one day.
Things then begun on the PS2 with the intricate Tekken Tag Tournament which, while merely a special release without a proper storyline, nevertheless had very innovative aspects. Combine the ideas found in Tekken Tag Tournament with typical Namco graphics and soundtrack, and you have a winner.
Now, there is Tekken 4, which is obviously the real sequel to Tekken 3. Rumors have it that Tag Tournament was merely released to appease fans while Namco worked hard on the fourth installment (relatively speaking). If this is indeed true, Namco didn't waste its time and this latest installment is truthfully what any fighting fan could ever hope for (whether he really likes Tekken or not does not matter).
Two years after the last tournament, the legend of new battle begins…
Enter the Tekken!
Ever since the beginning, the plot intertwines through the entire series with each title being directly linked to the rest. While there are major twists, it all comes down to one thing: the Mishima family. Tekken 4 is no exception. Sure, just as its predecessors, other characters get their own reasons for being in the game and are backed up by solid introductions and endings. However, it is also very blatant that the whole plot revolves around Heihachi, Jin (although he's technically a Kazama), and Kazuya, to a lesser extent.
Tekken 4 simply unveils more on the very interesting Mishima chapter and the story, while not very complex, packs enough to have your actually watch the endings and read the in-game stories. Of course, the game doesn't tell how such an old man as Heihachi still fights, but I guess everything is possible in Namco's world.
As stated above, Tekken is mainly about Jin and his bad-ass family (yes, Jin is really the main character in spite of his grand-father's antics), but that doesn't mean other characters merely fill in space. King has his own things going on and a couple of other fighters have fairly interesting side-stories between them.
New characters come in and try to make a name for themselves among the powerhouses that Jin, Kazuya, King and Law already are. A lot of characters have been left out, but a bunch of new alter egos find their way onto this installment. Among them is sexy Christie who is nevertheless a plain female counterpart of the cheap Eddy, and a downright funny robot, Combot. For obscure reasons, she however isn't as frustrating as Eddy although she uses the same techniques. Go figure. And no, this doesn't have anything to do with her incredible physique.
The cast is quite limited (compared to the prequel), but it still packs as much excitement as any other older title. In short, don't let the number of fighters available fool you. For once, a game's depth is totally independent of its cast, as Tekken 4 boasts one of the most memorable game engines ever designed.
As a matter of fact, although the relatively short number of characters should make for low game play and replay value, the diversity is enough to make Tekken 4 score high in both aspects. Characters are distinct in fighting styles although, in pure Tekken tradition, one character may hide another, and certain characters share somewhat similar techniques with the Jin and Kazuya comparison instantly jumping to mind here.. The transition from King to Hwoarang calls for a completely new strategy, and you'll have to spend countless hours to master every single fighter available.
Consequently, Tekken 4 players are asked to assimilate all the subtleties of the different characters at the same time (only fools will play with only one character anyway - are you one of them?). The usual Tekken concept of left and right punching and kicking is still kept, but this fourth edition does come with its fair dose of innovations and new features.
More obvious is the presence of the limited fighting arenas. Older Tekken titles allowed the two fighters to kick each other's butt in an unlimited area. You could increase the distance between the two warriors as much as you want and running thus had a preponderant place in the games. Tekken 4 introduces limited arenas. However, it is also refreshing to note that the game doesn't only use walls to give you that sensation of fighting in a small room. The sea, pillars and other objects (some of which may be broken), and even crowds force you to move in a confined space, and consequently, to deal with what this factor brings with it.
Needless to say, this new concept makes for more strategic playing. Of course, running is still present, but it nevertheless has lost its importance since the need to get really close to the opponent never arises although dashing forward remains very important. To compensate for this, you are now able to move around freely in any direction you want. Gone are the limited sidesteps that only a bunch of characters could find a use for. Now, everybody, along with his dog and his mother, can move left and right. Until your head aches when you realize you have moved around the whole arena for no apparent reason.
Again, this makes for more strategic fighting. These sidesteps really raise the game's depth as a single of those can affect the outcome of a match (specially if you are playing with King, sicko!). The fact that they are dead easy to perform also obviously puts more emphasis on them. This brilliantly adds to Tekken's intact original game play and contributes to make it a title where mashing works only at the lowest levels against the AI (and don't even think about mashing against humans who know their stuff, son!).
Finally, Tekken 4 relies on a remarkable engine to make full use of the technology put forward. Wall Hits arise when you succeed in sending an opponent reeling into a wall and do more damage. To make quick meat of someone, the best way of doing so is to trap them and let loose with your most powerful combo. And in this aspect, Namco's masterpiece doesn't disappoint. This game is a huge combo-fest with an astounding number of combos and links to perform. Of course, this shouldn't be very surprising when one considers how a single character may have more than one hundred moves. No kidding.
However, Tekken 4 also suffers from something unforgivable: Imbalance. While there may seem to be no differences whatsoever between 2 expert players, it is still noticeable that Jin Kazama and his family own everybody else for free. While other characters abide by the general fighting standards (which can be resumed to speed, bulk, lag, recovery and frames), Jin and peers seem to be unaffected by these.
Jin alone is apparently too much for everybody else. As Spinmaster X, great Tekken player (albeit being a bit biased), once said: ''Jin is an overpowered bastard. No lag, no recovery, frightful speed.'' The same can be said about Kazuya and Heihachi, but to a lesser extent --thankfully! Of course, this doesn't actually change anything, but even those two cannot hold a candle to Jin.
In addition, if players fail to grasp the beauty of the title, they will be engrossed by the other, less genuine aspect of Tekken 4: Poking-fest.
Yes, the addition of limited arenas also has its disadvantages. It is inevitably easy to just poke your opponent to death. While real hardcore players will know this is detrimental to the game and will avoid resorting to this wicked and annoying play style, less dedicated gamers will not hesitate to pick a swift character and start molesting those buttons indefinitely. Yet again, Jin seems to be privileged with his speed and apparent no need of recovery, putting him head and shoulders above his friends and foes.
Yet, these weak spots are not enough to tarnish Tekken 4. While sporting a devilish look with amazing characters and lush backgrounds, this game's beauty lies elsewhere. However meticulously detailed outfits and stages are, they merely serve the purpose of showing the PlayStation's 2 power. However clear the underground stage is, however peaceful the beach setting may look like, however thrilling the fight on the roof may be, these are not that important.
Tekken 4's beauty lies in its complex engine. Precision. Skill. Speed. These are where this game absolutely shines. Mastering it takes a lifetime. And a lifetime may not even be enough given the wide gap that lies between Yoshimitsu and Craig, to name just a couple of completely opposite styles. The genuine depth of this title puts it way above its direct competitors.
More importantly, Tekken 4 is extremely fun to play. However bad you may be at the game, you will still have the impression of having performed (at least) something right during your quick match. Tekken 4 isn't just about beating the game and watching the endings.
Each second of the game is pure bliss. Every instant holds its own delights.
Like pulling King's highly complex Rolling Craddle.
Or pulling an overly damaging combo with the aggressive Paul Phoenix.
The game is that packed with intensity. It is actually hard to exactly pinpoint where the true charm of this game lies. However, you do not need to be a genius to realize purchasing this was probably the best thing you could ever do (as far as fighters are concerned). And you will learn to cherish every fabulous souvenir it provides.
Alone, Tekken 4 is heightening.
With friends, you can just bet your ass this is going to be the most enjoyable 3D fighter you will probably ever come across.
Additional modes also try to give the game more replay value as if that was ever necessary. You will probably never even realize they are here though as you will be too engrossed by the regular modes.
Visually, the game never ceases to impress. Characters look lifelike with every single facial expression being accurately represented. Your alter ego actually seems to look differently depending on the situation. The meticulous attention to detail seems to push the PS2 to its limits. Outfits are assuredly splendid with Heihachi sporting the most hilarious gear you will ever hope to see in a game.
Your own character actually looks at the exact location of the opponent regardless of their respective locations and the situation. If the latter is soaring in the air as the result of a juggle-starter successfully connecting, your character actually raises his head and seems to follow the movement. Opponent goes down, character looks down. The swift and splendid moves also seem to make for more eye-candy that you would ever hope for.
Battle arenas are equally lush and crisp. Each background has its own setting (which can be the jungle, a beach, and the final fight actually takes place in a ring) and, needless to say, abounds with details. This is obviously a very nice change from the generic backgrounds other 3D fighters have gotten us accustomed to.
Unfortunately, Tekken 4 ''suffers'' from a relatively weak soundtrack. Sound effects and occasional voices (Japanese version) are, per Tekken tradition, excellent. Blows sound real and the sparse voice-acting in Story Mode holds quite well against any other game which makes extensive use of voices (the prime example here would logically be Metal Gear Solid). Thuds and other common features are also perfectly recreated to put more emphasis on that realistic feel Tekken has always boasted about (lighting effects and Devil put aside).
However, the music is nowhere near the standards set by the previous soundtracks. As a matter of fact, forget about the prequels. Even if this was the sole title, let it on its own, and it would slowly but inexorably crumble under its own weaknesses. The different tracks are insipid and never fit in the mood of the game. You are greeted with boring melancholic themes that actually seem to get fed up with themselves during the matches.
And the music remains at the same level throughout the whole game. It's as if someone took a Mario game and decided to add a Tupac song in it (and eventually laughed as Mario put an end to his life). Other than this, the game also suffers from a lack of variety, but I guess that's better than having a greater number of totally frustrating tracks.
Thankfully, even the crappy music does not succeed to bring the game down. The game play and endless replay value are apparently more than enough to outweigh this flaw and all its sidekicks. The smooth animation ensures the game remains an extremely enjoyable experience. There is very little to complain about once you have finished criticizing the music and Jin's godliness.
In addition, Tekken is quite friendly and doesn't take a lot to get used to (as opposed to its direct competitor, Virtua Fighter 4). Anybody can just take up this game, and learn to play it well, and eventually become good at it although it certain requires a lot of patience of dedicated practice to become a really skilled player. And, although this may sound like a trivial matter, Tekken 4 also has the greatest official poster ever created for a video game. As a matter of fact, its stunning poster absolutely demolishes any other kind of poster. Period.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/27/02, Updated 03/25/03
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