Review by CapnWellpoint

"Good mechanics, but a narrow demographic for the aesthetics"

Introduction

I've been playing Tekken since the fourth installment, which I know is a little late to get started on the series. Apparently there is all manner of important prehistory behind the game, but by now I've completely subverted all of it with my own perceptions of who the characters are and what their motivations are. The Mishima family, for example, still has Thanksgiving dinners in my mind, but they are the worst, most dangerous Thanksgiving events ever conceived by men. They are King of Iron Turkeys Thanksgiving events, where Heihachi stabs Kazuya with the turkey knife while Jin is screaming about his mother, and the Mishima women lock themselves in the bathrooms to cry.

In my Tekken world, Craig Marduk is a former god of creation, and having been hit in the head too many times now lives in a haze of pro-wrestling fantasy. Craig Marduk will suplex ANYTHING: houses, sheep, demons, gods, and even the bathroom sink after he's done brushing his teeth and suplexing his toothbrush. However, the Tekken world I believe in and the Tekken world that actually exists are two completely different things, and with each new game I find myself understanding less and less where exactly the Tekken games are trying to go.

Part of it has got to be that I'm getting older every year. I started playing these games when I was a teenager, but I'm in my twenties now, and more and more frequently I seem to feel that video games just aren't targeted for a guy like me even though I've grown up with them. Take Tekken; many of the latest character additions to the game are spurned by some kind of Japanese, teen, pop-culture demographic that I have no way of possibly understanding or relating to. We've got Lars (with his baffling hair cut), an androgynous kid (basically a “Made in Japan” sticker, the character's gender has quite seriously been left an intentional mystery), Brittany Spears, an obese Freestyle Karate champion, a depressed Russian (I actually like this guy, but only because I think he lives with his mother), a drunk Spaniard (also fine), and a pink-haired, life-sized, robotic, Barbie doll.

The Overall Feel

All things considered, transferring from the PS2 to the PS3 hasn't made a huge difference to the way the game looks. Tekken 5 was already fairly decent in terms of graphics, probably not requiring as much extensive design attention as games with more surface area range such as Metal Gear Solid 3. It seems to me that all the new system has done for Tekken 5 is allowing each character to have their teeth generated individually and allowing the characters to develop unnatural sheens along their skins to make them look plastic. Sadly, teeth and plastic skin don't seem to compliment any of the Tekken character models – a few characters even have teeth that make close-ups downright unattractive – but that aside I suppose everything else looks fine.

As for the story, most of the attention is placed in the scenario mode. Whatever anybody else is doing appears to be largely unimportant, and we as players are apparently supposed to be supremely invested in Lars, the stupid, and Alisa, the Barbie. There is a King of Iron Fists tournament mode, which allows the player to get a brief story for the other characters, but it's only four or five fights long, the final boss is a pain, and the epilogues are rarely meaningful.

The scenario mode is really just a series of battles that function like the old 2D beat em' ups of yester years. The character you're using and Alisa, the Barbie, run down some linear paths, punching into unconsciousness anything that gets in the way. And guess what? When you get to the end of the game, you kind of save your girlfriend – in a manner, that is. I mean, I'm not really clear, but I think that the robot girl is supposed to be your girlfriend at the end of the game, and you do save her. Although, to be honest, you save her by punching her; it is a fighting game after all!

So… whoo hoo! I sure am glad the game sacrificed the depth of every other character's involvement in the game so I could do that!

But speaking of the robot girl being a girlfriend, what exactly is up with the women in Tekken? The female lead is a docile robot girl who stares into space and can't dress herself like a responsible adult, and Lars falls in love with her! I don't know if it's because Lars looks like he has never used a mirror in his life either or because he's just into some kinky stuff, but the weirdest part is that the game seems to know how silly this is. The main antagonist makes fun of Lars for it the minute it becomes obvious Lars has a thing for Barbie. “You fell in love with it? REALLY? It's a fighting robot! It has chainsaws for hands! I don't think it's compatible with the kinds of things you think you want to do with it!”

No, I give the love between Lars and Alisa one week and a hospital visit before Lars realizes he needs space.

Gameplay

The gameplay is still just as good as Tekken has ever been for the most part and therefore top notch for a fighting game. The action is fast-paced and there are numerous characters to choose from, so should you find you need a slower character with fewer combos to memorize there's some there for you, should you like to practice a character's moves to perfection there are numerous choices with a hefty command set, and, of course, there are a good number of characters in between those extremes as well. My friends and I haven't had any less fun between this game and the last – although we've got nothing kind to say about the story modes.

Admittedly, some of the new characters have kind of floaty, gliding moves that are difficult to predict and counter at first, but they fall into line with the rest of them in time. The only thing that I do take exception to is Azazel, the final boss of the King of Iron Fists Tournament. It's ugly, for one thing, because it's a bizarrely shiny crocodile-bird… thing. It's also twice the size of the biggest characters in the game, meaning hit detection gets strange against it, it can block attacks and throw punches at the same time, meaning all the timing skill learned from every other fight in the game is useless against it, and all of its attacks have a longer range (some of which sweep across the whole stage), meaning the fight distance of your preferred character is also of somewhat negligible importance. The only reason it can lose is because it's played by the computer, so ultimately it just wasn't a lot of fun having to deal with it every time I got to the end of the tournament.

Final Recommendation

It's really not a bad game. It's seems to me like Tekken is sliding down a backwards slope in terms of the story and the character designs. The clothes that can be or have to be equipped to the characters aren't really all that great most of the time, but it is at least possible to change the hair styles so they aren't so ridiculous looking. Also, there are only a few important characters, namely Lars, Alisa, and Jin, which is depressing considering the massive fortune of casting options.

However, gameplay is good. The characters are balanced and fun to play with. Some are more fun to beat up than others, especially since they're adding more contrived females and androgynous males, but if you had a character you used to like then rest assured that character is still there in all his or her glory. Of course, if gameplay is all you're in it for, Tekken 5 is just as good as Tekken 6. You don't have to switch to one if you own the other; the new characters in Tekken 6 aren't that big of a bonus, and at least in Tekken 5 you'll have longer Iron Fists Tournaments with more involved stories for the characters.

So what can I say? It's a quality game to play with friends, but I'm not running out to tell all my buddies to buy it themselves or anything. Therefore, I offer an average score of 7.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/01/10

Game Release: Tekken 6 (US, 10/27/09)


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