marino's Tekken 5 (PlayStation 2) review

Heihachi Mishima is Dead... Maybe?

10 years.  Tekken has been around for 10 years.  Feel old yet?  Well, don't feel bad, because Tekken 5 will remind you of the fun you had in the past.  The fifth (sixth if you count Tag) installment in Namco's blockbuster fighting franchise is excellent in virtually every aspect.  Gone are the adjustments and "features" that made fans turn away from Tekken 4.  It's almost as if Tekken 4 never existed, except for storyline purposes.  If you even remotely like fighting games, Tekken 5 is a must-have. 
 
 
Graphics 
One look at this game in motion and you'll have to look down at your controller to make sure you're actually playing a PlayStation 2 game.  Admittedly it's not quite as good as DOA Ultimate, but Tekken 5 exemplifies "milking the system for every last drop."  What's even more amazing about it is that the game has almost no load times at all.  The character models are extremely life-like as opposed to plastic (except for Jack-5 maybe, but that's probably on purpose), and the backgrounds are simply gorgeous.  You won't be throwing people off cliffs or anything, but almost everything on each level is affected by what you do.  Overall you simply won't find any game that looks better on PS2 than Tekken 5.     
 
 
Control 
Pure and simple.  If you've played Tekken before, you know what to expect.  Two punches and two kicks.  What more do you really need for a solid fighting game?  Seriously though, the game feels great.  The attacks feel like they hurt.  The animation in Tekken 5 is superb.  You won't find a fighter this fluid.  Some of the reversals are so elaborate that you're not sure who's attacking who.  The game also seems well balanced no matter who you choose.  Most of the fighters have their own distinct style, each of which would take ages to master.     
 
 
Sound 
Soundtracks have never been a huge draw in fighting games, but I still remember the first time I fired up Tekken Tag Tournament in my brand new PS2 and the soundtrack definitely left an impression.  It was so good that I drove back to work only to find that the one OST they sent us had already been sold.  Tekken 5's soundtrack is quite similar.  It is a perfect blend of electronic music that neither irritates nor gets old.  The effects need to be mentioned as well, as they add a wincing realism to the fights.  I said before that the attacks feel like they hurt, and the bone-crushing sound effects only add to that experience.  Another thing that's great about the sound in Tekken 5 are the voice-overs.  In a fighting game, I expect cheesey one-liners and other ridiculous banter, but Tekken 5's characters have excellent voice-overs.  Each character speaks in their own native tongue, which is cool.  At the same time, that feature adds some humor to the game when, for example, Kuma speaks through growls, which are translated in subtitles, and yet the human fighters somehow understand him.     
 
 
Replay Value 
Fighting games as of late have been trying extremely hard to add value to your purchase and Tekken 5 is no different.  First of all, you have your basic Story Mode where you choose a fighter, get treated to a few comic book style still pictures with narration, a series of 9 fights including a few storyline scenes, and finally a beatiful prerendered ending movie (or in Xiaoyu's case, an anime short).  Aside from this, you have the original Arcade mode.  If you haven't played Tekken 5 in the arcade, you're in for a treat.  First you need to register your username, as your stats will be tracked and ranked.  They've taken a page from Virtua Fighter by having the AI opponents have usernames and ranks.  They aren't as varied as it would be fighting a series of human players, but each does have their own tendencies. 
 
Another borrowed feature is the ability to customize every character to your liking.  Each character has at least two costumes, both of which you can alter buy purchasing new items to equip them with.  You could add a katana to Nina's back, slap a guitar to Hwoarang's back, toss sunglasses on Lei's face, or simply change the color schemes of each individual piece of their outfit.  How do you buy this stuff?  Well, you earn money through playing the game.  You get 100,000 every time you complete Story Mode, but the biggest income will come through Arcade Mode. 
 
Tekken 5 also throws in some great and not-so-great bonuses.  Devil Within is a 3D action platformer type game featuring Jin.  It's like Tekken Force, but with a hint of a storyline and a little bit shittier.  Honestly, it's not horrible, but it's nothing to rave about.  It's what you'd expect from a thrown in bonus feature.  The good bonus feature comes in the form of a history lesson.  Tekken, Tekken 2, and Tekken 3 are all present and playable in their true arcade form. 
 
The days of breezing through 20 story modes and being done with a fighting game are over.  The only drawback with Tekken 5's value is the lack of an online component, which the other big fighting franchises have adopted.  Even so, Tekken 5 packs a lot into one disc.     
 
 
Conclusion 
The game is great.  Not one thing comes to mind as a hideous flaw.  It's a joy to see Tekken come back from the stumble of Tekken 4.  My only concern is that alot of these characters are about 40-50 something in age.  If/when Tekken 6 rolls around, it's going to need a hefty amount of new characters.  Tekken 5 is an excellent game and is highly recommnded to anyone who owns a PS2.     
 
 
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***
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