Review by xenodolf
Face-value review of the beat 'em up Scenario Mode.
Although I much prefer the brawler portion of fighting genre, I do have a knack for the versus fisticuffs on occasion. Back on the Playstation One I found the second and third installment of the Tekken series to be some of the best of that generation's crop. However, Tekken Tag and 4 came around and I fell out of favor with the series, ignoring the fifth installment and largely renting the 6th merely out of the need to kill time before Modern Warfare 2 hits the shelves. As expected, the versus fighting area of this game failed to capture the feel of Tekken II and III - and before setting the game aside, I dove into the beat 'em up oriented "Scenario Mode" and decided to critique it since it plays a big part in the Tekken 6 content.
None of the new characters clicked with me, which further drives home how out of touch the development team is with the original slew of people who are/were buying into their franchise. The storyline seems to be shifting into a semi-recycled state of events much like the atrophied plots of Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat. After dealing with the versus-fighter portion of the yarn, I decided to spare myself anymore suffering and started skipping all the cut-scenes in Scenario Mode. I'm not even going to grade this section of the game, officially, but from my attitude you can draw your own conclusions.
In the versus-fighter part of Tekken 6 the graphics aren't outstanding, but considering how the arcade version this port is derived from came out in 2007 I would say it does well enough and doesn't feature any visual flaws (polygonal tearing, uneven frame rate, slowdown). However, in Scenario Mode the camera shifts back away from the action and a lot of the detail is hard to make out from that distance. The result is that a person walking by could mistake the graphics at that point from being from an original Xbox game. Another problem is the lack of fluid animation with the enemies - they mill about and fall down with about the same finesse as a bunch of cardboard cut-outs - and the altered camera perspective makes this very obvious. The visual mechanisms were clearly built for enclosed one-on-one battles, and not the open environments of a 360-degree beat 'em up which Scenario Mode is. The game is also very arcadey in presentation - enemies and power-ups fall from the sky, they don't even bother trying to make it appear as if the bad guys are hanging out in the levels - something games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage were able to do flawlessly decades ago! In the end, I wasn't very impressed with the eye-candy that Scenario Mode had to offer, and the rating would have been lower if this had been packaged and sold separately from the rest of the disc's content.
Like the storyline, the soundtrack in the Tekken series just doesn't have the atmosphere and quality that it used to. The versus-fighter portion of the game isn't all bad, and there are a couple of tunes I would call memorable. Again, though, Scenario Mode is thrown the scraps and gets quite an array of generic tunes and sound effects to its name. Nothing you hear in this is going to follow you around in memory after you turn the console off, and even as I write this I struggle to recall anything in terms of a soundtrack when I played the game only about 10 hours ago.
For whatever reason, the combat moves you're given in the versus-fighter mode have been watered down and retracted for this beat 'em up portion of the game. Like with the graphics, not enough care was taken to ensure that the transition kept things smooth - and the result is a lot of cumbersome melee and sloppy precision. It was hard to keep the correct enemies targeted and I spent more time than I didn't wasting combos into thin air because an enemy moved or drew back as the result of a blow. Being fed a constant diet of Dynasty Warriors - I expected a kind of fluid ability to strike at the foes around me at will but the creaky motions of the offensive capabilities was (like much of the game) a copy-and-paste effect of having a one-on-one fighting engine slapped into a one-versus-many style of play. There were also the problems of reviving your partner being finicky (nothing sucks like having to repeatedly hit the button when several times while having a sliver of heath and four enemies hovering around you) and one of the levels having instant-death pits that almost suck you into them if you jump near them, take a hit in their proximity, or even walk over to their edge.
As per custom with less-than-stellar ratings, I'll start off by giving you a listing of the good things this game has to offer before exposing its flaws. There are some interesting levels nestled in the stage grid - like fighting an army of bears, crushing hapless foot-soldiers in a mini-gun spraying mech, facing off against a wave of nonsensical sumo opponents, and teaming up with the occasional NPC side-kick to have a street brawl. You get to use all but one of the game's characters eventually, and there are over two dozen of them to select from. There's also a decent array of enemy designs to be found, from street hooligans to soldiers to war machines. Onto the bad, starting with the level structure. There isn't enough background variety for the amount of stages you have to trudge through, with too many uninspired street and warehouse styles. You will find yourself running into invisible walls (one of my biggest video-gaming pet peeves) from time to time, making the stages feel claustrophobic in a negative way. The game using a linear path from the start of each stage to the boss, like most beat 'em ups, but it also uses a camera system that doesn't keep your A.I partner in eyesight often enough and makes backtracking difficult on stages with environmental hazards. A traditional side-scrolling affair would have worked better, allowing for better targeting and keeping the combat at a faster pace. Having all of those selectable characters comes at the price of them being stripped down version of the versus-mode ones - without certain moves and lacking key fighting techniques for expected brawling situations (like health-consuming special abilities or tag-teaming attacks). There are three weapon pick-ups you come across on occasion (a pipe, a flame-thrower, and a mini-gun) with the first two being helpful and the third so inaccurate and limited in ammo that it's only useful for solitary bosses most of the time. Your A.I. partner (an annoyingly cliche cybernetic Japanese schoolgirl straight out of ten million anime plots) isn't a terrible fighter but you can only revive her once and the way fodder enemies tend to target her while you're preoccupied with a boss it can resemble a full-scale escort mission. The difficulty is also pretty uneven, as I could clear multiple stages just messing around and others took me 6 or 7 attempts. The final level also makes the fatal error of having you fight cannon fodder and mini-bosses for about ten straight minutes before the final and ultra-cheap boss - without an option to save between the two parts in case you want to take a break from it. Overall, the game feels like it could have come out in the early 2000s - and with the fanbase and budget allotted to Tekken 6 it should of received further polishing or been taken out entirely.
You can use every character in the game (aside from the final boss, and limited usage of the NANCY mech) eventually by beating them as stage guardians. However, their moves as mentioned have been seriously nipped from their versus-mode variants and as a result many of them are only worth using for cosmetic effect. You can unlock extra clothing for your characters and level up the A.I. side-kick, but these are mostly window dressings that left little reason for me to further play through the game. The lack of giving your escorted character optional human control over Xbox Live also eats away at potential replay-value, meaning that only Tekken fanatics and achievement hunters will dump more than 6 hours into the Scenario Mode entirely.
As much as I like playing beat 'em ups on my 360, I honestly would rather the dev team taken the time they spent here polishing the main portion of the game. While Scenario Mode isn't terrible, it wouldn't look out of place on the Dreamcast and I don't see people who normally wouldn't rent/buy a Tekken game getting VI for the ability to brawl with these Namco characters. In the future, I hope they just build a separate beat 'em up (with an original franchise too, Tekken isn't having much luck getting the genre respected titles) instead of diverting resources for such an unremarkable product.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Tekken 6 (US, 10/27/09)
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