I had a chance to go hands on with Namco-Bandai’s latest entry into the Tekken series at the recent Playstation Holiday Preview Event. Tekken 6 is the seventh installment (if you include Tekken Tag Tournament) of the fighting franchise is the first truly next gen entry. The game continues the story of the King of Iron Fist Tournament, pitting the best fighters from around the world against one another. As a long time fan of the series I was very eager to get my hands on the latest iteration. The last Tekken game I played seriously was Tekken 4, considered by many to be a bit of a let down. In fact, I was so let down that I skipped Tekken 5 altogether. Thankfully Tekken fans will not be disappointed, Tekken 6 improves upon its predecessors in almost every possible way.
Tekken 6 features the largest roster in the series’ history, with a total of 42 playable characters. Favourites like Kazuya Mishima, Lei Wulong and Nina Williams are all present and accounted for, but Tekken 6 also has six new playable characters. The backgrounds of these new characters are as colourful as their costumes: Leo is the son of a world-famous spelunker who was murdered by the G Corporation; Zafina is an astrologist whose family has dedicated their lives to fighting evil; Miguel is a Spanish matador out to avenge the death of his sister at the hands of Jin Kazama’s Mishima Zaibatsu; Bob may look like a stereotypical obese American, but this master martial artist put on the extra girth intentionally so he could battle opponents that were once larger than him; Alisa Bosconovitch is the cybernetically enhanced daughter of the mysterious Doctor Bosconovitch; and finally Lars Alexandersson, the German bastard child of Heihachi Mishima — what he doesn’t share in fighting style, he more than makes up with the trademark Mishima hair style. The game also features a fairly deep character customization mode, where players can create their own fighters.
In addition to the standard story mode, arcade mode and versus mode, Tekken 6 features several new modes of play. The online versus mode is a first for the series, if you don’t count the downloadable Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection. There is also a story-based brawler mode similar to the “Tekken Force” and “Devil Within” modes found in previous games. This new mode, called “Scenario Campaign” pits players against wave after wave of enemy interrupted by the occasional cutscene. Players can collect and unlock items and equipment in this mode that will increase their statistics. This mode will eventually be playable online and cooperatively when Bandai-Namco releases a patch some time after the game’s launch. What I played of the “Scenario Campaign” was quite a bit of fun; I was reminded of my youth playing classic brawlers Streets of Rage. Playing this mode online or with friends will be an absolute blast. Sadly, there is no word yet if “Tekken Bowl” will be be making its triumphant return this time around.
The thing that has always set the Tekken franchise apart from other fighters is the great attention to detail the development team puts into every game. The fighting system is incredible deep; every character has nuanced fighting style the can take years to fully master. That’s the beauty about a long running series like Tekken, if you’ve played it in the past you can jump right in with your favourite character and still do well. The moves have definitely been tweaked and tightened over the years, and the timings may be a bit different, however the core gameplay remains essentially the same. Their are only a few noticeable additions to the game: one is the new “Rage” system, which gives players a burst of strength when their health is extremely low. The other is the ability to “bind” players while juggling them, slamming them to the ground and leaving them susceptible to a followup combo.
Sure if you’re new to the series you’ll probably have a lot of fun just button mashing your way to victory, but Tekken 6 was designed with hardcore fans of the series in mind. It was this concern for long time fans that prompted Namco-Bandai to bring in some of the top competitive Tekken players from around the world to consult on the game. As a result, Tekken 6 feels like the tightest game in the series to date, the control is responsive and the combat flows incredibly well. I always felt like I was in full control of my character. To put it plainly, Bandai-Namco’s flagship fighter is an absolute joy to play and to watch. I can’t wait to sit down and spend some real time with it.
Tekken 6 punches and kicks its way onto the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 27th, followed by the Playstation Portable on November 24th.
Writer’s Note: As it turns out, I actually bought the Greatest Hits edition of Tekken 5 shortly before I got my PS3. I bought it while I was heavily into Final Fantasy XII and never got around to playing it. I guess that gives me about a week and a bit to get caught up.