Review by scarlet_puppy

Reviewed: 06/21/10

Best Tekken yet, and that's saying something!

Tekken has always been my favourite fighting games series of all time, no questions asked. There are several reasons for this, for example the large array of characters available, the well refined physics engine, and various other achievements. For a long time I had decided that I would never get to play Tekken 6, but after receiving a 360 for Christmas, I went out and brought this within days. And let me tell you, it definitely didn’t disappoint.

The physics engine, at its core, is fairly similar to what has been seen in previous Tekken instalments. It still has the traditional ‘one button per limb’ arrangement, walled stages mixed with infinite planes, and overall the general flow of the game is similar to what is has always been. However, don’t let that fool you. Tekken 6 is not simply ‘more of the same’, because Namco have included a number of new features in the game. Gameplay-wise, the three main additions to the game are Bound, Rage and multi-tier stages.

Let’s start with Bound. You know how in previous Tekken games you were able to juggle opponents by launching them into the air and attacking them repeatedly? Well, Tekken 6 builds on this by giving each character a handful of moves that ‘bound’ your opponent. In other words, they are smashed into the ground and their lower body recoils, allowing you to continue the combo. This allows for various extra strings for combos and more decisions to make on the spot. “Should I bound now or try and get a couple of extra jabs first?” “Now that I’ve bounded, should I go for wall carry or maximum damage?” This makes the juggle system as a whole much deeper and allows for more creativity. Speaking of juggles, many have complained about them because they see the game as revolving around them entirely. At low levels, this may be true, but as you get better at the game, you’ll discover that juggles require your opponent to make a mistake, and they will not occur as often. In a sense, juggles simply mean that you always have to be on your toes.

Next is Rage. Rage is a mechanism that activates when a player reaches a very low amount of health (around 10%). During this time, attacks will do more damage. The idea is to allow the lower-skilled guy more of a chance of winning. Like Bound and juggles, this has received a lot of criticism, primarily because a juggle whilst in Rage can be critical to the outcome of the match. However, I’m not really bothered by Rage much. Tekken has always been a game where comebacks can occur at any moment; Rage just intensifies this. And in a sense it adds more strategy, since a powerful blow will bypass rage completely. That said, I’ll agree that it’s pretty frustrating to lose due to Rage, though for me the amount of times Rage has helped me more or less counters that. Overall, I’m not particularly bothered about Rage; 90% of the time it doesn’t really affect who wins the match anyway.

And then there’s the multi-tier stages, which were most likely inspired by the DOA series, though the actual mechanisms for it are quite different. Basically, in a handful of arenas, there are certain patches where, if you use a Bound move on your opponent, they will be smashed through the ground onto the next level, taking a small amount of damage in the process. Whoever is knocked down also suffers Bound. This means that, with careful precision, someone can theoretically get two Bounds in one combo. It’s difficult to do though, which is just as well; if it was easy it could potentially be game-breaking. Overall, I quite like the floor break system, and in my opinion it’s a shame they didn’t put more floor break stages in the game.

Graphically, Tekken 6 isn’t perfect, but it’s still pretty good. There are a lot of actions going on in the background, and the character models are fluid and well-detailed. Intricacies such as clothes that move with the wind and realistic facial features are also included. In addition, many move animations have been revamped rather than simply recycled from previous games, making them look more realistic and pronounced. There are occasional clipping issues here and there, and some of the textures lack inspiration, but all in all Tekken 6 is pretty to look at. Though I must admit that Lili’s character model looks a bit… off.

Sound-wise, I’d rank the game as being marginally above average. The music is acceptable, but not astounding. As in, I don’t often find myself humming any of the tunes, but at the same time I don’t scrabble desperately for the mute button. Most of the tracks are average, but a spattering of good tracks here and there brings the overall rating to ‘slightly above average’. The sound effects are fairly generic, the sort of thing you’d expect from a fighting game, and ultimately something you won’t notice much. Regarding the voice work, it’s bearable, but I wish there was a bit more variety. Don’t get me wrong, we already have four languages (English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese), but it just seems surreal to have German and Spanish fighters speaking English, or Swedish people speaking Japanese. This is a minor blemish at worst, but still gives the sound area an ‘empty’ sort of feel.

One really great aspect about this game is that the cast size is absolutely huge. Everyone from Tekken 5 returns, along with several new characters, including Zafina, who has a variety of weird stances and moves, Miguel, a Spanish drunkard, and Bob, who is incredibly fat yet incredibly agile. Two of these new additions, Lars and Alisa, have received criticism for not being ‘Tekken-esque’. I’ll agree with them on that, but does that mean that they’re bad? Not in the slightest. If everybody fit in perfectly, the cast would be a bit boring, no? Besides, what’s not cool about a robot with chainsaws for arms and an exploding head? The overall cast size is stands at 41, higher than any other Tekken game to date. These 41 characters encompass 38 unique fighting styles, all differentiated from each other and packed with over a hundred moves each on average. With such a huge selection, there’s certain to be someone who suits you.

You’re probably thinking that with such a huge cast size, it must be fairly unbalanced. I mean, they can’t possibly balance that many different fighting styles, can they? Well, they can, because they have! This is easily the most balanced Tekken yet. Obviously you have some characters that have better tools than others, but as it stands no character rules the roost, and at the same time no character is completely hopeless. It may be harder for some characters than others, but if you’re dedicated and prepared to put in the time, any character can wreak havoc.

The modes featured are similar to those in previous instalments. You still have survival mode, team battle, practice etc., all the stuff that has become a staple of fighting games. However, two new modes that are worth going into in more detail are Scenario Campaign and online.

Scenario Campaign is the game’s story mode, unlike in previous games where it was mixed in with the arcade mode. I must admit, the story of this game has started to get a bit far-fetched if you ask me. Jin Kazama won the last tournament, and took control of the Mishima Zaibatsu, plunging the world into war and despair. Now, Lars (Heihachi’s long-lost son) and his robot friend Alisa have to go and stop him. Seems a bit generic and unimaginative if you ask me, but then again the story of a fighting game is hardly top priority… I found SC itself quite fun, even though a lot of people can’t stand it. The main gameplay is a beat-‘em-up similar to Tekken Force mode which appeared in previous Tekken games, where you have to make your way through various hordes of enemies to reach the end of each level and fight the boss that resides there. Along the way you can pick up items which, when equipped, make you more powerful and allow you to fight more effectively. You can replay the levels as many times as you wish, and all in all it’s good fun for about 20-30 minutes at a time. The problem is that people treat Scenario Campaign as being the main part of the game rather than a side mode, as it’s meant to be, and so their expectations are too high. That said, SC does have some problems. For a start, there’s no offline co-op. You can play co-op online, but not offline. What’s up with that? Also, you can choose any character to play as yourself (once you’ve unlocked them), but your ally is always Alisa (unless you play as Alisa yourself, in which case it’s Lars). The fact that you can’t choose your ally as well is kind of lame if you ask me, and would have made the mode more enjoyable…

And then there’s online mode. Whereas nowadays it seems that online play is vital to any top-brand game, I still view it as a nice bonus rather than a necessity. As it stands, Tekken 6’s online play is fairly solid overall. There have been some concerns expressed about lag, but really it depends on how good your connection is (and your opponent’s connection too…). If you stick with matches rated 3,4 or 5 bars and avoid ones saying 1 or 2 bars, lag should be minimal. The online community itself is fairly active; you’ll almost never have to wait more than 20 seconds to find a match. Of course, there are spammers here and there, but they occur in every online community, and their tricks are often easy to deal with. If you’re desperate to avoid spammers, set up a player match with friends. All in all, the game’s online play is smooth and functions fairly well, and adds a great deal of replay value to the game.

By the way, if you’ve never played a Tekken game before, I’d like to issue you a word of warning. This game has quite a steep learning curve, and it will take a while to learn to play to any sort of level. But trust me, the effort is most definitely worth it. The physics engine is one of the deepest and wonderful I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. In order to win, you have to know how to space well, movement and how to counter said movement, and essentially be able to deal with anything your opponent might throw at you. The reason Tekken isn’t more popular is because newer players are afraid to pick it up and give it a go. You won’t be able to learn it in a day, but once you’ve practiced enough, the rewards you reap will be very, very sweet.

Outside of the gameplay, you can also customise your character. When introduced in Tekken 5, all you could really do was add a couple of items here and there and change the colours slightly. Tekken 6 improves on this considerably, allowing you to equip several different shirts, shorts, skirts, shoes etc., and there’s also a section where you can change your character’s hairstyle and colour to whatever you desire. The customisation section is by no means perfect; you can’t equip a hat with a custom hairstyle, for example, which is a shame, but overall it’s sufficient enough to make a character look different enough to reflect on you as a person (possibly). Oh, and there are also item moves, whereby you can equip certain items to unlock brand new moves. These are generally for humour purposes rather than having any practical usage e.g. Kuma slaps people with a fish, Paul’s hair grows longer etc. Still, this is much preferable to having the item moves become a huge part of the game.

As brilliant as Tekken 6 is, it does have some problems. Ultimately, Namco spent all their time working on the gameplay, and in the mean time sacrificed certain other aspects, such as ending movies. Now, Tekken has always had its ‘comic’ endings (i.e. ones you’re not meant to take seriously), but this game ultimately has too many of them. For example, Asuka was once shown to have some sort of healing power related to the Kazama bloodline, but has now been reduced to having her lunch spilt on the floor. Granted, some of them are really funny, but others… not so much. Some of them are genuinely interesting or sorrowful, but even a couple of those are ruined by so-called ‘humour’. Xiaoyu’s one was very sentimental until it switches to her and Panda sleeping in her room… But yeah, overall, the endings are too humour-based.

Also, the Arena mode where you procure said endings is lacklustre as well. In Tekken 5, you played through 9 stages and had a couple of interludes with characters along the way. That’s been ditched here: you now have a mere 4 stages, no interludes whatsoever, and… yeah, it’s way too short. Also, Azazel, the final boss, is ridiculously stupid. Why? Well, if you try and use normal tactics, he’ll auto-block everything you do and beat you to a pulp. But spam basic jab combos and he falls over like a leaf. Seriously, who came up with that AI? Alternatively, you can use a hopkick and juggle him to death, because he is bloody massive. Overall, Azazel is one of the least enjoyable bosses to fight ever.

But those are just nitpicky things. Gameplay-wise Tekken 6 is arguably one of the greatest fighting games ever made. It’s incredibly deep, has tons of replay value, a solid online mode, tons of characters, tons of moves, great combos, room for creativity and, most of all, it’s brilliant fun! Anyone who owns a 360 or PS3 should get this game, or at the very least rent it and give it a try. Anyone who’s prepared to put in some effort to learn how to play and is more interested in gameplay than extra features should love this game.

tl;dr version (Yay/Nay)

- Traditional Tekken fun, but not too traditional
- Bound system adds creativity to juggle system
- Fantastic physic engine
- Lots of depth
- Decent online mode
- Lots of replay value
- Multi-tier stages are cool
- Huge cast size
- Tons of moves
- Very finely balanced
- Fluid graphics
- Scenario Campaign mode is mostly pretty good…

- …. but has its issues.
- Too many comic endings
- Azazel is a rubbish boss
- Story is lackluster

Buy, rent or avoid: BUY. Unless you absolutely hate all fighting games, or you have a low attention span, you’ll be able to get some enjoyment out of this game. And if you like other fighting games then you’ll almost certainly love this!

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Tekken 6 (EU, 10/30/09)

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