Review by Victar
"A great Action-RPG tucked within an excellent fighting game"
Tekken 6 is the latest in the popular line of Tekken fighting games. Of course, fighting game fans will enjoy the smooth controls, the user-friendly combat system that is easy to pick up and play but difficult to master, and the inclusion of online play.
What might not be obvious at first glance is that Tekken 6 also bundles an *action RPG* in free with the fighting goodness. It's called Scenario Campaign mode, and it has online-only co-op; while playing it is NOT required to unlock characters for use in the online & offline arcade fighting game, it is required to earn most of the game's trophies. You can play through Scenario Campaign mode with the Tekken 6 character of your choice (you get one opportunity to unlock any character for Scenario Campaign mode after the tutorial stage; as you progress through the stages, you will naturally unlock the rest of the characters). Scenario Campaign mode doesn't have overt character levels, but make no mistake - you "level up" by finding and equipping powerful items that boost your statistics.
I'll just make a few notes about Tekken 6 as a fighting game, outside of Scenario Campaign mode. Like the rest of the Tekken series, you have four attack buttons: right punch, right kick, left punch, and left kick; different characters have a staggeringly immense variety of moves and fighting styles. Attacks can hit high (can be ducked or blocked standing), low (must be blocked low), or mid (must be blocked standing). Blocking is done by holding the joystick back or down/back. Some characters can counter or parry certain moves, but unlike the Dead or Alive series, Tekken 6 is emphatically not a counter-based fighting system - or at least, not in the same way. Like Tekken 5, there is a rock/paper/scissors priority system (called the "crush" system) for certain moves; these moves will override one of the three types of attacks (all low, all mid, or all high attacks).
Significant changes from earlier Tekken games include the addition of a Rage system (characters at low health automatically get powered up and do more damage), the addition of a handful of new characters plus new moves for old characters, and breakable stages. The damage from individual moves is limited; the most effective way to KO your opponent is to focus on landing powerful, perfectly timed and executed "juggle" combination attacks that cannot be blocked/evaded/countered once the first hit lands (or lands as a counter-hit).
Online play is remarkably fluid. Of course lag is an issue, and can vary from barely noticeable to unplayable, but it's usually tolerable - at least from a casual player's point of view. You will get stomped into the dirt over and over again by expert players if you don't eat/sleep/breathe this game, but fortunately you only have to win one ranked match if you're after all the trophies.
But this review isn't primarily about Tekken 6 the fighting game - it's about Tekken 6 the action-RPG! As an action-RPG, Tekken 6 loses one gameplay point for its lack of offline/local co-op; co-operative play is only available online. You don't have much control over the camera either, but this is rarely a problem. Otherwise, Scenario Campaign mode is excellent.
Scenario Campaign mode plays almost exactly like the fighting game, except that it's you against hordes of enemies. You start by playing Lars; you can choose to play other characters as the game progresses, but your CPU-controlled partner is always fixed (usually Alisa, but it becomes Lars if you play as Alisa, and a few stages have you team up with a certain other partner). You get one chance to unlock your favorite character for Scenario Campaign right after the tutorial; all other characters must be unlocked for Scenario by clearing their stages.
In addition to beating the tar out of mooks with your fists, you can also grab drinks to power yourself up, crowbars to bash people, flamethrowers to set them on fire, or machine guns to be utterly ruthless. Fun! Defeated enemies sometimes drop health, and more importantly items - collecting and equipping the right stat-boosting equipment is key to defeating the game, especially on the later stages. Collecting equipment also doubles as unlocking items to customize your character's appearance in the fighting game (note that equipping items gives no stat boosts in the regular fighting game).
One aspect of the equipment system that is not obvious: two pieces that give the same type of benefit do not stack! So don't equip four different items that boost Defense and expect to be a supertank. Of the many items you equip, only four of them can raise your stats - you get to carefully choose which four of the items you're wearing give a combat benefit before beginning a stage, or in between stages.
You also amass money, but money is almost entirely for cosmetic purposes - use it to unlock customizations for your favorite Tekken characters. And there are so very many customizations to choose from!
Stages are timed, and the pace is fast, furious, and fun. The difficulty is not adjustable at first, but you can choose "Medium" or "Hard" once Scenario Campaign mode is cleared. If you are KO'd, you still get to keep any gold or items you have collected, and you have the option of retrying the stage. Some of the longer stages have checkpoints to keep them from being too frustrating. There is still plenty of challenge (and perhaps a little frustration) to go around, but you don't have to be a Tekken genius to beat the game. However, 100% completion of the optional postgame stages takes persistence, some item farming, and perhaps a little FAQ study to learn how to access the optional stages to begin with.
There don't seem to be any permanently missable items in the game - certainly nothing that affects getting all the trophies. If you need to power up, collect money, or just have fun, you can replay any stage you have unlocked as often as you like. Once you unlock a character for Scenario Campaign, you can use them on any stage (but they will be fairly weak on the later stages until you collect items for them; items are not transferrable between characters).
Overall, this is an action-RPG that is just plain fun - not too hard, not too easy, and with almost endless variety in fighting mechanics given that you can choose from so many different characters to play through it.
There's almost nothing to hate here. The characters are smoothly and beautifully animated. The backgrounds are gorgeous. You can tweak a number of graphical aspects, like turning motion blur on or off. The rendered cutscenes of Scenario Campaign mode are also fairly well done. This is by far the best looking of the Tekken games, edging ahead of Tekken 5 due to the increased capability of the PS3.
Now we're getting into "your mileage may vary" territory. The soundtrack is Tekken's latest blend of techno selections - like previous games in the series, very little is recycled from past iterations; Tekken generally prefers to showcase each new installment with a whole new fighting soundtrack. If you love fast-paced techno, you'll love the music. Music for Scenario Campaign's story scenes can get a little on the sappy side, though.
As for sound, Tekken 6 continues Tekken 5's decision to make different characters speak in their native languages to one another (Lei talks in Chinese, Jin in Japanese, Julia in English, etc.) In Scenario campaign, dialogue is kept purely to text except for the story's cutscenes (usually but not always revolving around Lars and Alisa). Subtitles are available for both fighting game mode and Scenario Campaign mode.
Now we're getting deep into "your mileage may vary" territory... do you like JRPG plots? An introduction summarizes the overall narrative of Tekken 1-5, but the main plot of Tekken 6's Scenario Campaign mode follows Lars and Alisa. Lars used to be an officer of the Mishima Syndicate's Tekken Force, but he went rogue after Jin Kazama took over the syndicate and "declared war on the world" for unknown reasons. Lars awakens the android Alisa from her slumber and loses his memory at the beginning of the game; together they travel looking for answers. Meanwhile, the mutual enemies Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima scheme from the shadows.
Lars' journey will take him to meet (and usually fight) just about every Tekken 6 character, as he discovers more about himself, Jin's ruthless plans, and his role to play in (possibly) forestalling an Apocalypse. The story is told partly through cutscenes, and partly through entries in Alisa's journal. A few cutscenes forego talk for action-packed struggles; however, all cutscenes are skippable (and can be rewatched at any time, once unlocked). All cutscenes remain the same regardless of what Tekken character one plays Scenario Campaign mode with (presumably your chosen character is just helping Lars out on his quest).
Yes, the plot uses any number of tropes/cliches, from the amnesiac hero to the robot girl gradually discovering emotion. But the voice acting has genuine heart, and the major characters of the story have a fair amount of depth - no one is wholly heroic or utterly evil. It's certainly much more involving than the story of Tekken 5's Devil Within (which was nothing but a few text screens), and the beat-em-up minigames in Tekken 3 & 4 had no story at all.
What earns the game a 9/10 for story - I'd make it 10/10 if the main Lars/Alisa plot didn't have its occasional cheesy moments - is that no matter what Tekken 6 character you choose to play Scenario Campaign with, he or she has *their own story* for each stage! It's not that much - just an exchange of text dialogue with Alisa at the beginning of the stage, and later on some text dialogue with the Tekken character who serves at that stage's boss - but the interaction is unique for every(!!?) possible character pairing, and reflects the characters' personality. From Devil Jin's "I smell prey", to Julia Chang's "You knew I was coming, but you sent your droids anyway. You never change, Lee." to Alisa's "Did I see a smile there? We might actually be making progress," response to the ever-silent Dragunov, the characters' true natures shine through. If there is any one Tekken character that you truly love, then you must play Scenario Campaign just to see what they say.
As a side note, once you unlock a character for Scenario Campaign mode, they are also available for play in the "Arena". This is just a much shorter version of Arcade mode, with only a few stages; once beaten - which should only take a few minutes per character - you unlock that character's ending movie, i.e. what would have happened if that character had won the Iron Fist Tournament. These range from deadly serious to ridiculously funny, but are present mostly as a reassurance that Tekken hasn't given up creating a host of imagined endings for each character. However, the cannonical outcome of Tekken 6's storyline is almost certainly the conclusion of Scenario Campaign mode (note that Lars and Alisa aren't useable in the Arena, since their "endings" are in the main game).
Peripherals and Trophies
Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions Tekken 6 are available as collector's edition bundles, which are expensive but come with a wireless fighting game joystick and an art book.
The art book is quite lovely, featuring full-page rendered art of almost every Tekken 6 character - and even more interesting, comments from their creators. (So, the game's creators say they always envisioned Jin Kazama as becoming a villain, ever since his introduction in Tekken 3? Hm.) The wireless fighting game joystick works well enough, but is fairly heavy; if you don't have a countertop to rest it on it could start to get uncomfortable resting on your lap after a while.
The joystick is definitely not required to play Tekken 6, whether or not one is a casual player. Even serious tournament players have been known to prefer the standard PS3 controller, which in any case works just fine for punching and kicking one's way through the RPG, not to mention earning all of the trophies. (Most of Tekken 6's trophies are not too hard to get, and it's easier to earn a platinum trophy here than from most other PS3 games).
Whether the collector's edition bundle is worth buying over just the game alone is heavily subjective. But probably not, unless you're either a major Tekken fan or in need of a good wireless joystick.
Is Tekken 6 worth buying?
Yes! The lack of local co-op for Scenario Campaign is just about the only reason Tekken 6 doesn't get a 10/10. Even if you're not into fighting games, Tekken 6 can be thoroughly enjoyed as a single-player action-RPG. With the game's recent re-release as a $20 Greatest Hits title, it's got plenty of bang for your buck - 15-30 hours of play out of Scenario Campaign mode alone. Plus Tekken 6 has immense replay value as an online fighting game (and a popular one - you should be able to find a match quickly, at least until Tekken 7 comes out!), and if you're obsessive about acquiring every last customizable item, or seeing what all/most of the characters say to one another, then you'll be busy for a very long time.
Speaking as a rabid Tekken Fanatic, I loved Tekken 6. I hope you do to.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/11/10, Updated 10/12/10
Game Release: Tekken 6 (US, 10/27/09)
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