Tekken 6 Reader Review
With deadly schoolgirls, militant robots, combat trained zoo animals and enough slap happy folk to take over a small country, it can only be Tekken 6; the newest instalment in Namco’s long running fighting series. Is the King of Iron Fist still in the fight, or is it just getting far too long in the tooth? This is still Tekken; it still has the same ludicrous ensemble of characters, colourful attacks and accessibility in spades, but very little has been added to the mix to entice those not already enraptured by the likes of Jin Kazama and co.
The usual array of game types return with arcade, online play, story, team battle, survival and practice modes all present and accounted for. Tekken 6 also boasts the largest roster yet with a whopping forty-two playable combatants boasting a wild range of fighting styles comprising everything from more traditional martial arts such as Muay Thai and Wushu, all the way through to Sumo, Wrestling and the pseudo-ridiculous Kangaroo boxing and Bear wrestling ‘styles’.
Unlike previous instalments, purists may well balk at the fact that Tekken 6 allows players to access the entire roster from that get-go. The obvious benefit of this is that for social multiplayer purposes the previous need to have a memory card with all the unlocks is effectively banished, allowing folks can get down to the nitty gritty of landing fist in face without worrying about unlocking the other characters.
Tekken is like Marmite; you either love it or you hate it and as such the appeal of Tekken lies in its accessible, yet hard to master fighting system and so Tekken 6 stubbornly refuses to tread much of a different path from its predecessors in this regard. We all know the drill by the now; your face buttons represent each of your hands and feet and by combining them with directional inputs and each other, you can create devastating manoeuvres and string together nasty looking combos.
Pretty much all of the characters offer a satisfying amount of depth, with the various attacks, counters, throws and ten-hit combos that the series is famous for providing ample scope for mastery. Indeed, those of us who have lived, breathed and eaten Namco’s fighting dynasty for the last ten to fifteen years will likely appreciate the additional moves and subtle timing tweaks that each of the veteran characters has received.
A number of more generalised changes have also been applied to the tried and tested Tekken formula too. The first of these is the ‘rage state’. Think of it as a second wind, in that when your fighter reaches a critically low amount of health, his or her health bar with flash red (along with the character in question) and your damage output will be greatly increased for as long as you stay vertical. While not a game changer, it can sometimes throw a wrench into the works of what was an otherwise assured win or loss.
The remaining changes to the gameplay are ones which depending on your play style, will either give you the tools to be even more dominant than you previously were or will succeed in driving you into an asylum with sheer frustration. For Tekken 6, a big change has been implemented into the manner in which juggles occur. Namely, the change allows people to be juggled for a lot longer and for many of the juggles to be initiated from a downed opponent.
This has a great upside for folks who like to juggle, which to be frank is one of principles of competitive play in Tekken. For those who don’t, or for those who are new to the series, the new juggling mechanic can seem at odds with the level of accessibility that the series has enjoyed, since even moderately experienced players can literally keep a newer player almost pinned to the floor with little respite. Somewhat compounding the juggling issue is a new feature which allows the ground on certain stages to shatter, creating a nice visual as the combatants crash through to another fighting area below.
Crucially in gameplay terms however, this aids the new juggling mechanic since when the fighter who lost the exchange hits the floor first after a crash through, they bounce just enough for a new juggling combo sequence to start. Depending on your mileage with the altered juggling mechanic this will likely satisfy or frustrate in equal amounts.
The title appears to have a taken a nice bump in the visuals department too, with character models and the surrounding arenas appearing more detailed with all manner of texture smoothing, lighting effects and other graphical trickery making this the best looking Tekken yet. On the topic of graphical trickery, Tekken 6 also has a motion-blur filter that may be toggled. Unlike other titles which fail to utilise the technique properly however, the motion blur actually works well here, with the blur itself applied primarily to moving limbs, it succeeds in conveying a genuine sense of fluid and satisfyingly kinetic combat. It’s a unique look for sure and one that I wouldn’t mind seeing replicated in other titles to come.
So Tekken doesn’t disappoint in the fundamentals. Where it does disappoint is it’s adherence to an unfortunate tradition for the last three games which sees it including a roaming battle mode that brings down the whole package, and is, well, just a bit cack. In this ‘scenario’ mode, you basically choose a character to pummel wave after wave of goons in what is supposed to be a 3D take on the scrolling fight games of old such as Streets Of Rage or Final Fight, all the while poorly shot and meandering real-time cut-scenes appear to prod you along the lacklustre story that is on offer.
Throughout each stage, you can pick up the usual health, damage increasing power-ups and extra weapons to make your culling of the brainless AI fools that rush you that much more expedient. The simple fact however is that this whole mode is horrendously broken primarily because the camera sits behind you, thus rendering many directional based moves and combos unworkable.
As a result, you must either resort to the button bashing a single stationary combo out (such as any one of Law’s numerous kick lo-hi kick combos) or pick up one of the many weapons in order to win.
If the broken camera didn’t kill the sliver of enjoyment that this mode had dead then the sheer monotony of the task at hand does. Case in point; Mob(s) rush you, you attack using the SAME combo you have used for the last 20 stages, pick up health, pick up weapon, use weapon on boss, boss dies, rinse and repeat.
The biggest crime of all is that manner in which this travesty is integrated into the main game. If you want to see any one of the characters endings, you must first find that character in the story mode, beat them and then take them on an incredibly pointless short four-stage arcade run.
Additionally, at the end of each level, you are awarded money that can be used to unlock character costumes and accessories which not only change the appearance of characters in the regular modes, but also serve to increase various stats on your scenario character such as attack power, health and so on. Again, this fails to be anything else but highly annoying since while you are able to earn the virtual currency in other game modes for these costume upgrades, it is only by playing this terribly executed excuse for a roaming fighter that you can earn the big bucks to get all the stuff you want.
I must digress however, what Tekken has done well; it continues to do well and that is provide a satisfying and deep fighter that has just the right mix of accessibility and complexity. Indeed, the core of the game for many people will lie in the versus and the somewhat bare-bones online multiplayer mode, which although the latter can be laggy at times, it has been improved immeasurably since the terrible online performance cited at launch.
Tekken hasn’t evolved a whole lot over the years and Tekken 6, outside of the expected improvements of improved visuals, tweaked combat system and a larger roster, does little to rewrite the DNA of the series. Troublingly, the series obsession with roaming fighting modes which tie directly into the core single player Tekken experience appears to continue unabated and unfortunately taints what is otherwise a very competent brawler.
Ultimately, this is still Tekken however and those who have enjoyed the series for this long will be rightfully dismissive of the poorly designed scenario mode as they eagerly jump into practice mode to learn all the new nuances and characters available; unleashing their bone-breaking prowess against fellow players both locally and online.
For the rest of you, the Street Fighter IV’s and BlazBlue’s of this world will in all likelihood provide more digestible and refreshingly different propositions to an old battle hardened stalwart, too stubborn to change its ways.