Late Bird Review: Tekken 6 Bloodline Rebellion
I have been a fan of Tekken since the first game came out. The similar 3D fighting competitor, VirtuaFighter, never really grabbed my attention much and I constantly gravitated toward Tekken whenever I saw it on a home console or in the arcade. My favorite renditions of Tekken (3, 4, and Tag Tournament) make me hopeful that the designers learned from their mistakes in 5 and gave the game a fresh style and gameplay it needed for the jump to the next generation of console gaming.
For once, we’ll start with presentation. I’ve witnessed Bloodline Rebellion in the arcade and on home consoles and I have to say the graphics in the one-on-one fights are fantastic. The developers obviously knew it too because many of the stages you fight in are brightly lit with constantly changing colors and movement. One is in an underwater tunnel—like a scene out of that movie Daylight—where a gas tanker is rolled over and on fire while water is rushing in from the ceiling. There are constant bursts of fire in the background, with dangling electrical wires for sparks, all with water is rushing in and resting on the floor, showing off the effect of the character movement as they dash or attack. There’s another stage where the time for a day to pass is sped up so that you’re fighting in the morning, evening, and night just so they can show off their lighting effects. It can be hard on the eyes with all the flashes and flare the developers want you to see, but regardless, it all looks really good.
It is the best looking 3D fighting game out there right now, in my opinion. It still retains some of the classic limitless backgrounds that the series started out with, but most of the stages have taken a turn for the arena type Tekken began to adopt in part 4. Using some of the techniques that were in Dead or Alive, some stages change and allow the players to fall through floors or throw opponents through walls, to make the action more exciting. It is a little weird in some stages where the walls are invisible and there is a reaction from when you knock a player into a barrier that seemingly shouldn’t be there. But, it feels like the places where you’re knocking sheep and pigs around in the background were meant to be unrealistic and just fun for players to laugh at. Variety is what I’m trying to say.
Sound is consistent with the Tekken series. The sound of impacts and battle cries haven’t really changed and don’t have to; its part of what makes Tekken familiar. The grunts or intimidating insults of the Mishimas never get tiring. Music is also rather familiar to the series. Tekken has never had the best or worst soundtrack. It usually has a few stages with songs that stand out from others, but the rest can be rather forgettable. The same can be said for Tekken 6. It has all the usual techno beats to help make the matches move quickly with the occasional dramatic orchestral songs for the epic stages. But presentation isn’t the only reason people come to Tekken.
And it probably isn’t story, yet I am inclined to discuss it because of the effort the developers put into it. They didn’t put much effort into the story itself, but just in making you play it. Ironically, it is the ugliest mode of the game, in more ways than one. Many of the reviews online have docked the presentation grade mainly because of the absolutely fantastic Scenario Campaign mode. If you couldn’t sense the sarcasm I apologize for being unclear. The mode is atrocious. Why they continue to include a Tekken Force beat-em-up mode in each new rendition is unclear to me. It wasn’t fun the first few times and it’s still a grind here. Granted, this is nowhere nearly as frustrating as it was on the PS2; this one at least has short stages and frequent access to healing items and power-ups. But the mode itself is just bad. The textures and environment are bland and tasteless. The cut-scenes themselves look bad with the bland backgrounds, needless dialogue about issues that pertain little to the current situation. The only thing that really looks any good in this mode is the character lip-movement that matches the different languages each character speaks. The lack of effort put into this mode in comparison to the obvious flair of the fighting environments it makes me ask: Why do they want you to play this mode so badly? It seems weird that for a fighting game like Tekken—meant to be played in the Arcade and VS modes—that the first thing on the main menu to choose from is Scenario Campaign mode. Newcomers may think that it would be like playing a story mode like in Street Fighter where you fight a few matches, then an important rival, then a boss character. Nay, mode is present but any aspect of storyline is unlocked in SC mode.
For those who have followed the somewhat absurd Tekken storyline in the past, part 5 left off with Jin taking control of the Mishima Zaibatsu, Heihachi dead but then not really, and Kazuya dealing with the G-Corporation. In SC mode, you follow the newest characters Lars Alexanderson and Alisa Bosconovich on their rebellion against their extremely long names as well as Jin Kazama’s dark reign over the world. A war between the Mishima Zaibatsu and the G-Corporation, now controlled by Kazuya, has left the world in ruins (many of the characters have grudges against Jin because of this) and has brought about the rise of a new evil, a very oversized and, as always, overpowered boss character.
You may be asking: What about the stories of the other characters? What does Eddy Gordo get out of being a playable character rather than just a skin for Cristie? In order to get the storylines of the various characters you MUST play SC mode, fight them in the generic stages of which they are the boss character, then go to the Arena within SC mode and choose that character. Once that is done, you watch a brief prologue of the character’s story, then fight four traditional matches (thank goodness it’s short) and you get the CG ending for that character. If it sounds convoluted, it is. It may seem tedious to play through all of this to unlock your favorite characters for their story with just Lars, so they make it available for you to choose another character you have already unlocked with whom you might be more familiar. It was actually funny playing through the whole mode with Kazuya to be brought back to Lars’ problems in the crappy cut-scenes.
Perhaps what I dislike the most about this mode is how much they reward you for playing it. Adopted and enhanced from Tekken 5, the new customization options available for each character are seemingly limitless. You can change around the colors of the characters’ costumes or change them to something else altogether. Don’t like the traditional Mishima hairstyle? Change it to some emo hair in front of the face, or shave it off altogether. Don’t like Steve Fox’s blond hair and Aloha shirt? Give him slick black in a winter vest. Their bodies are your canvas for endless creation! But like all things in life, if you want a haircut, it’s going to cost money. You get rewarded some $25,000 (feels more like yen) each time you play through ten rounds arcade mode, which will buy you nothing in customization. Or you could play the Scenario Campaign mode where the generic Jacks drop the different clothing items you would have to pay $100,000 for. And if you finish the level you are rewarded with usually more than $100,000. You get more on a failed level than you do playing through . How infuriating.
But enough about the inferior mode. Versus mode is where this game thrives. Tekken has remained relatively the same in all the years it has existed. Occasionally they mixed things up like in part 4 with the introduction of boundaries and characters like Jin getting a sudden fighting style change. Part 4 stands out in my mind as the best because of its simplicity, it was very much like the first: No overpowered bosses and a small roster. It also had a superb side-stepping system that made many of the most aggressive fighters have to rethink their strategies. Then 5 came along and ruined sidestepping, brought back the massive roster of characters, and bestowed us one of the most annoying final bosses of the Tekken series. Tekken 6 on the surface seems like 5 with its large roster and cheap final boss, yet it does something unexpected. It’s very, very balanced.
In previous renditions of Tekken, there were always a few characters that stood out among the rest with their priority and strength. Sure, there are still characters that I would gravitate towards because they’re a little more powerful, but the developers managed to even things out a bit so that no one character was stronger than all the others. Some new characters like Lars are just fun mess with for the wild moves, while Feng Wei and Leo are intense power houses showing off some crazy Kenpo moves; and they're strong too. Regardless, it doesn't feel like you could pick Nina and feel like each jab she throws is going to hit first like before. There is no clear winner when it comes to priority in this game.
There are also some interesting mechanics thrown into the mix. I was never a juggling fighter in the past; it was usually too difficult and people who were really good at it pretty much took away any possibility of you winning if they managed to get you in the air. That is still partially true in this installment, but it makes juggling much easier in this so that even a person picking it up for the first time might be able to do some good damage and a five-hit (+) combo with a character in the air. If you want a real vivid and intense example of how the playing mechanics work check out video from these experts: http://www.youtube.com/user/LevelUpYourGame.
Most of the mechanics are typical Tekken and haven’t changed over the years. There are still two punch and two kick buttons each corresponding to either the left or right. The main throws of the characters are still the kick and punch button of each side. And if you’re familiar at all with the series, you know that the main method of doing damage is through juggling your opponent in the air as long as possible to maintain control of the match. There is a new addition to this juggle physics which is the rebound effect. Sometimes a character will hit the ground with an impact that will cause them to rise up a little. This allows for the attacker to get off one or two more hits. This wouldn’t seem like a big deal except that it is a way for those who aren’t that skilled at the juggling combos to keep control of the fight a little bit longer.
I’ve also noticed that many of the combos that were difficult to pull off in previous versions have been given enough leeway for most of the 10-hit combos to come out much more frequently. Timing was always an issue when it came down to these moves, but the window of opportunity to continue the combo has been lengthened, making it easier to do. This leniency is part of why Tekken 6 feels so balanced. Yes, masters will still wipe the floor with new players, but beginners will be able to pull off some of the same crazy moves, making the experience much more exciting.
Ok, so I already discussed the balanced system a little, which would make multiplayer a great experience, right? Well it does so long as you’re in the same room together. And it would be a good idea to install the game onto the hard drive of your system because the load times between matches are some of the longest I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Even after it’s been installed, it still takes a while (the 360 load time is significantly less). But that isn’t really the flaw of the multiplayer system.
In my review for Street Fighter IV I said something to the extent that a fighting game of this generation without online support was pointless and unacceptable. Tekken 6 does have online play, but it is not very good. It doesn’t quite get to the status of SFIV and doesn’t even come close to the support of Blazblue. It is bad when you press the input of a move and can count a full second before your character starts to do anything. This was several hours of the same matches. No chance at pulling off combos, just hoping the other player did a move that had enough recovery time to pull off something devastating. Tekken is not a slow game; a lot of the moves require precise timing. Though the windows have been widened for proper timing in combos, there is no way you can put that into the online modes. Playing opponents online will not make you better at the game, in fact, you may get worse. This still isn’t the worst online fighting I’ve attempted (we’ll discuss that next time).
As though the developers foresaw their failings online, they put a mode into the game called “Ghost Battle.” This is a mode that takes data of other human players and uses their recorded fighting styles with their characters to build an AI opponent. It sounds weird, but it works to a small degree. Since it is offline, there is no worry when it comes to lag. An AI opponent could never match up to the real thing because they can’t adapt to the way you might adjust your style mid-battle. For instance, in a few ghost battles I went up against a Jin AI. He had one particular combo that he frequently used and was very effective. He also used a certain move whenever I side-stepped. So the AI is able to take the way another human being was using this character on a regular basis and map out how he or she responded to different situations and use it as ghost data. I play a certain way with Kazuya so I’m sure my ghost data uses a particular combo a great deal. However, if that combo were not to succeed, the AI is not able to keep itself from continuing to try, regardless of if the other player knows how to cancel it out. A good effort, but it still does not measure up to the real thing.
The game is worth buying. If you like fighting games and want a 3-D fighter that you can pick up and play, this is it. I’d sooner recommend this as entertainment for a party than any other fighter because even the button-mashing players can enjoy this one. It’s a shame that the online doesn’t work, especially considering all the other fighters that came out in 2009 could have shown the developers what to do and what not to do. But it is the most balanced Tekken has been, maybe ever. If you have friends who love this franchise, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy playing one another in a room together. The huge roster is bound to have some characters players will appeal to; plenty of the new characters can hold their own against the ever powerful Mishimas. Considering the number of time’s I’ve seen this game on sale since its release, it is definitely worth picking up.