Tekken 6 Reader Review
Having sat on a pile of unplayed games for a considerable while, it would be quite easy for me to say that Tekken 6 wasn't exactly a game I longed to play -not that I should complain however. It was a present, one of those "I heard you like games so here's one I picked up because it has a SIX in the title, and hey, if it's on its sixth incarnation it MUST be good, right?". This is the same friend who would have in the past bought me Tomb Raider or whatever steaming pile of shit was being advertised on Dave in that given weekend. Come to think of it, why are we still friends then?
Anyway, personal issues aside, Tekken 6 is not a bad fighter, although I do wish they'd drop the pretense now. Tekken 6 is basically Tekken 4 Episode 3, in that really I can't see why they keep selling any of this as anything especially new...
On the upside, Tekken 6 is technically as a fighter accomplished, tight and balanced. This comes in no small part from the fact we had to wait two years for the game to go through a rigorous Arcade Scheme whereby it was continually balanced, tweaked and polished as people in Japan kept pumping a rather unhealthy number of Yen into the machines. Say what you like about Apple, but the Japanese are the true masters of milking it for every penny and then some.
Let's be clear about one thing - if you're playing this for the single player modes, then save your money and buy yourself a date or something, because this is not why you should be coming into Tekken. The single-player arcade mode is, as ever, punishing and hasn't been toned down for a home console market - now, I get it. Before all you Tekken fans jump in, I understand the business principles of Tekken being quite hard - like any arcade game, you're not likely going to make much money if you can swim through it leisurely in one go. But at the same time, we expect a bit MORE than a simple arcade port - what happened to the good old days when arcade ports were marketed as arcade SUPERIOR? I miss those days. Good times. Good... good times.
That said, when I'm waiting for my microwave to ping, my sister to drop off my niece or generally waiting on my guild in World of Warcraft to wake up and get to boss killing, I would - at least - prefer a fighter that is a brainless and mindless distraction from the tedium of waiting. I am all for technical polish and encouraging players to get better - but at the same time, keep some simple head-smashing for those of us who are just in it to kill ten or fifteen minutes, eh?
So, the AI is cheap. But that's not a surprise. The get-a-few-mates-around appeal is still there, and very very nice it is too. It lacks the spontaneity or comedy value of SSF4, and it surprisingly lacks the jiggle and OTT style of SoulCalibur 4 (I never in a million years thought I'd say something GOOD about SC4), but it's fine - and as always, a scrap between Anna and Nina Williams is less catfight more full-on softcore pornography, despite the fact they're sisters... which apparantly some people like. More power to you..?
What is a surprise is the superhuman effort that they put into the Story Mode. Now, here's a recap of the main storyline of Tekken for the uninitiated; Kazuya Mishima made a deal with the devil for power, which his daddy Heihachi wasn't too keen on. They had a proper fight in the first King of Iron Fist Tournament, for which Kazuya punished Heihachi's failure to stop him by throwing him off a cliff - much like Heihachi did with him some years prior. Anyway, Kazuya then has a romance with Jun after fighting in Tekken 2, which leads to Jun giving birth to Jin Kazama - who inherits his dads dark demonic powers. Heihachi beats Kazuya and all is right... well, aside from the fact that Jin has inherited his dads dark powers, which Heihachi isn't too happy about. Heihachi beats Jin, but Jin transforms into his devil form, kicks Heihachi as if possessed by Chuck Norris and flies off. From there, it's a power struggle between a rebel organisation, the G Corporation who specialise in making robots - and if some material is to be believed, they're diversifying into sexbots. Oh, and the Mishima Zaibatsu - the main corporation who run the show. They all keep fighting between each other, pulling in people from all walks of life because with two Devils in the world, bad shit is bound to happen. Leading into Tekken 6, where you take control of an amnesiac soldier called Lars (full marks for unoriginality!) who is accompanied by Alisa - the "daughter" of Dr. Bosconovich. When I say "daughter" I of course mean "robot", and when I say "robot" I clearly mean "sextoy for the masses". Anyway, turns out Lars is part of the rebel movement and along with Alisa sets out to make sense of things... wait, what?!
There are some setpieces before Story Mode starts that do their best to explain things better than I have, but generally you'll be asking the same questions I did. "What illegal substances are prescribed for Namco?". The story is messy, convoluted and a bit silly. It lacks the comedy value of SC4 (again with defending a game I gave a thorough spanking...), it lacks the polish and simplicity of SSF4 and it lacks the pantomime of the old MK games. It is, in effect, boring.
Anyway, despite all this effort, Story Mode is a poor Streets of Rage-alike - with fiddly controls and very frustrating and uninspired locales, with a host of unsavory clones lined up for you to try and spank (and fail doing). It does tell a story along the way but I seriously found it indigestible and rather pointless. There is little to nothing redeeming about Story Mode - it's linear, it's flawed, it's buggy and the cheap gags got old real fast. The quality of the writing is worse than that of any self-respecting Twilight FanFic writer (I'm pretty sure that's not possible, but hey, it's a joke, it'll do!). I loathed it, it's as bad as past attempts to bring the formula into 3D and quite honestly, it's time they stopped trying. We get it, us casual players are an afterthought, you don't need to insult us with this crap.
However, all this is missing the point I suppose. Tekken 6 spent two years getting here for a reason - it was changed, tweaked, refined and honed through the worlds best players. It is a technical showcase, a game that when played correctly between two pro fighter fans is a graceful, deadly ballet of Black Swan proportions. The beauty of it isn't so much in the playing of it, more in the seeing it played well - but again, pay money just to see people duke it out? Isn't that what we have YouTube for these days?
Of course, I should mention that Tekken 6 has character customisation available (although I find it faintly perverse you can make most characters look WORSE than their default costumes...) - you can't "make" a fighter but you have literally loads of options available that cost in-game currency, which you get from completing Arcade Mode (hah!), playing Story mode (Dear god no!) or playing online...
Online isn't quite as fun as it should be. The netcode is still, in many regards, a bit pathetic and of course, the matchmaking is somewhat predictably bad as well. It's unpredictable, I can't profess to be in any way a professional fighting games player but some people don't do anything whilst the next will kick my ass in six seconds. It's simply not an environment that is a conduit to any actual fun.
Which brings me crashing to a conclusion I suppose. Or rather, a question. Is Tekken... sorry. Is Namco now elitist? I applaud the fact they have spent a long time talking with players who make money from playing the game in professional tournaments - but they've forgotten in many regards that they are a minority of players, and the rest of us mere mortals just want a few minutes of beating on some dopey AI punchbag who won't fight back much. And this isn't something I can level only at Namco - the upcoming Mortal Kombat is designed with professional gamers in mind as well. Which is fine - but is that healthy?
Which is, ultimately, the undoing of Tekken 6. It's a game aimed at a niche audience - a game that is technically brilliant, but simply has no shock and awe, it lacks the show and tell in favour of lots of very subtle nuances and mechanics. It's gaming inspired by Audi - they are brilliant cars, but the drivers are, sorry to say this, boring. They lay awake at night planning their gearshift aggression strategy for the next days drive to work. They can drive beautifully and amazingly, no doubt about it... but they've learned it inside and out. Walking in as a casual observer with some driving experience, you're more likely to hit a lampost than take a corner at 60 kicking the tail out a little. Which creates a divide - do you want to spend the next three years of your life devoted wholly to mastering the ins and outs of the machine... or are you just going to shrug, accept it isn't for you and jump into a nice little Ford Escort?
Tekken 6 is a game for a particular breed of gamer. If you love technical fighting games, I suppose nothing else will scratch that itch quite like this will - but the rest of us aren't really into that breed of massage. When compared to Super Street Fighter 4 or Virtua Fighter 5, which at least remember that not everyone is doing this professionally, Tekken 6 is a game that simply takes itself far too seriously. It's too self-absorbed in trying to be arcade-perfect, that the garnish on top does feel somewhat less lovingly crafted and an afterthought, like "Oh god what do we do for the casual players?!".
Much like SoulCalibur, Tekken is quite simply boring now. That isn't to say it is a failing on the part of the game - there will be a good chunk of fighting game fans out there who LIKE this sort of thing.
But it isn't for everyone. The real joy of this game isn't any of the extras - it's the experience of playing against other people. Some will like it, others won't... and others, like me, will simply miss the simpler times. Sure, the game wasn't as slick, but it had some soul and passion and we loved it for that. Now, it's for fighting game aficionados. People who devote their time to the inner workings of fighting games - every dodge, every counter, every juggle and every chain. All that is needed is a fighting game.
They're the people who want it. But I can at least bridge our two very different camps on one thing - drop the gimmicky crap. The customisation mode is horrid, the story mode is vile and the added extras are nothing to write home about. They want a fighting game they can get their claws into. I want a fighting game that I can at least swim in the shallow end for a bit before I jump into the big boys pool. We don't want, need or expect anything else.
Other games can do this. Super Street Fighter 4 and Virtua Fighter 5 are capable of bridging that gap - they keep the story in the fights, and light and frothy and somewhat irrelevent to the whole thing. It's just an excuse for a scrap at the end of the day. They know it. They keep it light, frothy and somewhat simple. They get it.
So... why can't Namco?