We all know that I have an addiciton to fighting games. Hell, anyone that has looked at my game collection can tell. It might be my two copies of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, it might be my stack of Anime fighters, it might be my vintage Soul Calibur II guidebook, or it might be all of the above. The fact of the matter is that I haven’t touched a Castlevania or Prince of Persia game since I got my hands on Aquapazza. I know, I need help.
One game that I cannot say I love is Tekken. Unlike Soul Calibur or Marvel Vs. Capcom, which I STILL keep up with, I get a new Tekken game, unlock everything, and then never touch it again. I just don’t like the game much. It just feels wrong somehow. The fights were clunky and felt like you were controlling marionettes rather than world class fighters, and strategy was almost entirely missing. The fights came down to poking and memorizing ten hit combos, which you would then use in juggles. The game was more frustrating than anything else for me. This went on for three games and a spinoff, and people ate it up like it was fresh baked cookies.
After the clusterfuck of enjoyment that was Tekken Tag Tournament (I actually liked TTT alot to be honest), Namco decided that it was time to mix up the Tekken series a little bit, and they KIND OF succeeded. Besides speeding up the gameplay considerably, Tekken 4 was the first Tekken game to FINALLY get actual levels, and not lame expanses that scroll on into infinity and beyond. You could be pinned up against a pillar, thrown into a wall, and even smacked up into the ceiling, where your character would make a sickening SPLAT noise before slamming back down onto the floor for further punishment.
The new levels made control of your positioning much more important, and to keep that theme every character was given a swap throw where they would switch places with their opponent, possibly pinning THEM to the wall for a beatdown. There was also a worthwhile side step game now, which borrowed from Soul Calibur II’s philosophy of “you aren’t jumping unless it serves a purpose.”
The overall product wasn’t perfection, but it was something new, it made Tekken almost playable, and kept this gamer busy for a little while. Then Tekken 5 came along. Surely Tekken 5 would take what Tekken 4 started and refine it into something magnificent, right?
No, it didn’t. In fact Tekken 5 was a huge step backwards, or somewhere off into the wrong direction. Either way it was screwed. Sidestepping was fucked up again, like it was in Tekken 3, where you have to ever so lightly tap up or down to dodge, which made a quick dodge, to say… avoid a giant cheap life killing fireball or laser eye beam neigh impossible. You would always jump or duck and stay there like an idiot, eating it in the face instead. Also removed were ceilings and swap throws, meaning if you were cornered you were entirely screwed, and if you were popped into the air, there was no coming down without eating a minimum of a ten hit combo against an experienced player.
The wakeup game is terrible still, which is a more prominent problem in a faster paced environment. You are limited to a high kick that takes forever, a low kick that takes forever, an ankle kick that doesn’t do anything, a rolling dive that usually gets you kicked in the face, a handspring that usually gets you kicked in the face, and a roll that takes forever. These are the same moves for every character, be you a boxer who doesn’t kick, a five hundred pound sumo wrestler, a small Asian girl, or a panda bear. It’s entirely possible to knock someone down and never let them stand up by alternating low kicks and sweeps. It’s a scary prospect, and it DOES happen. You would think after Soul Calibur II, Namco would take a hint. let’s see each character with their own wakeup attacks, like Soul Calibur. It gives the wakeup game much more variety and strategy, which Tekken could really use.
The story is… I don’t know. there really isn’t much of a story to go on. At least one that actually continues the timeline in a meaningful way. It’s really just a bunch of characters doing things for the sake of getting things done. Heck, most of the storylines clash or contradict themselves entirely. According to the intro movie, Heihachi was blown up by a bunch of Jack robots for some reason, and Raven, a new character, thinks that’s cool. Oh yeah, and Askua, another new character, knows how to ride a bicycle. That’s about it. OH and Jin is a goth now, and you get to fight Heihachi’s GRANDFATHER at the end of the game, as if Heihachi himself wasn’t old enough. Isn’t that guy like 800 years old by now?
Don’t worry, Mishimas and Kazamas aren’t the only retarded characters in this game. Returning from Tekken 4 is Craig Marduk, the most useless character in the entire series, who’s still rocking out lime green and purple shorts. Somebody should really call the fashion police on some of these people. Baek Do San returns, this time old as hell. How can some characters stay 20 forever, while poor Baek ends up looking like Mr. Miyagi? We also get old gimmicks like Mokujin, the married tree who mimics other fighting styles, Roger, the boxing kangaroo (this time with child), and Kuma, the fist fighting grizzly bear. I think between the storylines and the character designs, they just decided “hey, lets make a new Tekken game!” and didn’t put much thought into ANYTHING.
Some of the newcomers fit right in with the retardation, such as Raven. Raven is a black ninja with sunglasses. No, I don’t mean “black ninja”. I mean he’s black guy who also happens to be a ninja. He looks like some sort of Dennis Rodman/Strider Hiryu hybrid cosplaying as a really bad Blade. But hey, he’s got sunglasses, and he’s a ninja, so he must be cool, right? Feng Wei rocks though. He’s some sort of monk fighter guy, and he’s evil as hell. He reminds me of a really pissed off Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. My real joy, however, is the return of Steve Fox, the British-Columbian Boxer from Tekken 4. Being a boxer, Steve has no kicks. Pressing a kick button will put him in one of his many dodge stances. Despite being limited to half of the attack buttons that everyone else uses, Steve is absolutely amazing. He will fuck you up. I just miss his suspenders and Hawaiian shirt from Tekken 4 🙁
It isn’t all sugar and sunshine with Steve, however. His voice actor sounds like an American trying and failing miserably to imitate a British accent. In fact, all of the voice acting in this game is laughable. All of the fighters talk in their respective languages, which is cool, except for the fact that they are holding conversations. It boggles the mind to see Steve, arguing, In English, with Heihachi, speaking Traditional Japanese.
There are some positives though. The character Customization mode is a nifty idea, albeit limited, and spending money to buy a color change is absurd. I also appreciate the stages that you fight on, although they are incredibly strange. I seriously love the level at night in the field, with the techno opera music stuff playing, but why would a samurai bug man be fighting a robot with a mohawk on a space station?
With all of the good and the bad, I could say the game has room for improvement. When Tekken 6 came out it further refined this formula and became a playable game which I grew to enjoy immensely, but isn’t six games enough? where do we draw the line? With all of the bitching I just did, why do I still play the Tekken games? Why don’t I shut my mouth, get a copy of Virtua Fighter, and call it a day? Probably for the same reason that I play twenty-something Street Fighter games.