Namco really shot themselves in the foot when they released Soul Calibur. Before that, Tekkken was the King of the Fighters, the undisputed leader of all it surveyed on the battleground. Tekken 3 was a pinnacle of variety and spice, a beautiful game. Then came Tekken Tag... and then Tekken 4... neither could match the charms of Soul Calibur, the underdog which encompassed everything there was to like about a fighting game. With Tekken 5, they clearly looked back to their roots and decided to go back in time.
Sometimes though, going back isn't a great idea...
Tekken 5 does at least do a wonderful job at looking nice and smooth. It is hard to see any graphical fault at a casual glance, you really have to be LOOKING for them to really spot them. But Namco are good at this, visually a joy to behold, eye-candy and then some. Fists connect, the ground shakes and things at first appear convincing. Could Namco have got it right? Umm... no. Sadly, no.
Tekken 4, despite it's roughness, was a nice step in the right direction, but here they went back to overly-large arenas which, while they look pretty, lose their character rather fast. And after a while you start to nitpick... doesn't that stage remind you of another fighting game from the past? Is it really neccessary to have the ground heal itself within seconds of impact?
It doesn't get much better with the roster of fighters on offer, or the poor attempt at a story mode. Look, I don't care why Christie is fighting okay, I don't care about Nina and Anna's rivalry anymore because its been done several times already and we KNOW they hate each other, and we know Jin's bloodline makes the Mitchell's look like the epitome of brotherly love. With characters like Asuka basically being a rehash of bygone fighters, and one or two which share moves, it is quite hard to feel anything but short-changed by the line up. We should be expecting more these days. And it really doesn't improve with the sound, which at times is unconvincing and at others just very unlikable.
But there are some things that just push Tekken 5 down. First of all is a certain boss called Jinpachi, who is a serious contender for the crown of "cheapest boss ever created", with moves designed to stun and others just seemingly designed to kill you dead without any effort, with a fireball that is hard to avoid - and if you do, oh yes, there's a second one that you don't have time to avoid, and goodbye two-thirds of my energy bar. Player skill can compensate somewhat for this, but at normal difficulty I just could not beat this guy. I tried, and I tried some more, and I kept on trying but eventually was resigned to downgrading the challenge just so I could land one blow. Just very bad show Namco... I thought Ogre was pathetic...
Secondly are the bonuses. While there is a "pimp my fighter" mode, I just found it a complete waste of time. There was little variety to be had and some of the added extras were cliche and tired to the extreme. The addition of the three classic arcade versions of Tekken, Tekken 2 and Tekken 3 are nice but... did we really need them? Could that space not have been used for something... I don't know... a little more useful? As much as I liked these games, going back only serves as a reminder that we have moved on in the genre, and things really are better these days.
And then there is Devil Within mode. A small 3D adventure-come-platformer which is tired, repetative and, above all, boring. The only reason to play this mode twice is to unlock Devil Jin and some outfit options. Once done, there is no point in going back... it just baffles me that Namco trumpeted this mode and it still just ends up feeling like a cheap add-on at the last minute. Mortal Kombat's Konquest mode just pummels this into the middle of next week. Yes, MORTAL KOMBAT can now do better than Tekken. Who would have thought that possible a few years ago, eh?
Thw two-player mode is still as enjoyable as ever though, despite it being very basic, and as such it can last depending on how you want to play it.
But there is no shaking off the sinking feeling that Tekken 5 is just lost in a market with competition that hammers it silly from all sides, even from Namco's own stables. It really is basic to a fault, with some cheap AI, rehashes of old characters... all dressed up to look pretty. But you can't dress up a dog, because you'll always know that it's a dog. For hardcore fans, this might scratch an itch but it won't be the cure. For casual players, it's just not tight enough in mechanics and Jinpachi alone will be the ultimate turn-off.
Is the King of Iron Fist finally getting rusty? It seems so I'm afraid, and while you can't argue that the name is the key selling factor, the game behind the name isn't worth £20 these days. Whereas once upon a time Tekken had no competition, time has moved on and these days it does have very serious contenders, and it will never regain its crown if it continues to fail to deliver that knock-out blow... there is just far, far better out there to put up with something so mired in its own complacency...
5 / 10