In a world... Where a little game called Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection was still fun & one of the most rewarding fighting games for loyal players... Along came Tekken 6. The original Tekken 6 was released in winter of 2007 in Asian arcades, with very few cabinets finding their way to American shores. Tekken 6 hit the arcades in a very raw state and was patched several times to remedy balance issues and "death combos" found by top players at the arcades. About one year later, an upgrade known as Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion hit the arcade scene overseas (but again didn't see a widespread international release); and was the more complete Tekken 6 that fans demanded. Tekken players worldwide waited patiently for the next ten months, and finally, the definitive version Tekken 6 was released on consoles in late October of 2009... It was surely a long wait for Tekken fans, but was it worth it?
You'll most likely hear mixed reviews if you ask that question to a panel of gamers, but if you think Tekken 6 in particular is some sort of rehash or not "new" enough to be a called sequel, you're sadly, sadly mistaken. Not one, I repeat, NOT ONE mainstream review I've read even bothered to comment on the changes from the last Tekken game that most people played, Tekken 5: DR, to Tekken 6. So in this review, I'll be making up for their total disregard (or perhaps ignorance), because I feel some things must be pointed out; especially for the potential players that may not know of the differences. Not only are there 6 deep new characters to master, but every returning character has been updated dramatically... And that's saying quite a lot for a 40 character strong roster.
Firstly, the most impressive changes to me are in the animations... If you didn't spend a good amount of time closely watching 'replays' in Tekken 5 or Tekken 5: DR, you probably won't notice how nearly EVERY stance, attack animation, & throw animation in Tekken 6 was slightly tweaked, notably to make our favorite Tekken moves even more fluid and particularly hurt just a little more. Every classic move simply has a bit more "ooomph" behind it, and most of the brand new moves look nothing short of bone-shattering; which are highlighted ever-so-nicely by some of the most thunderous sound effects to date and the trademark Tekken sparks & hit effects, all of which were also updated ever-so-nicely.
Unfortunately, it seems Namco's effort in re-imagining most of these animations has fallen short of the mainstream's radar. I found it quite surprising that no mainstream game review even bothered to mention how nearly every character animation was updated from the prequel... Have gamers & "pro" reviewers really become that jaded? Sorry, I think the substantial improvement in the animation is kind of a big deal, especially since that isn't something all fighting game sequels (or video game sequels) bring to the table. Worry not Namco, TFG is here to set the record straight... Yet again. Pssst... How about sending some Tekken swag this way? Haha.
Tekken's gameplay engine has also undergone quite a few tweaks in itself, including a re-worked wall game, new ground "bound" combos and "rage" system, which activates automatically when your character's health is knocked down to 5% or less; increasing your character's power and making combos even more deadly. A comeback with only 5% of your life remaining was always possible in Tekken, but "rage" definitely ups your chances for a dramatic comeback; though isn't something that can be abused or causes any imbalance in the game. If you're a smart player, you can prevent your opponent from even entering rage mode (not in all instances) and you'll also learn which moves to watch out for when your opponent is in rage. Overall, the new rage system adds a nice touch to the gameplay and makes for some highly intense (and sometimes scary) moments during the fight.
With each sequel to the franchise, the gameplay has improved slightly if not significantly. Though with each sequel, the gameplay still preserved the majority of elements from the prequels; only expanding on the already solid system. Namco clearly follows the theory "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" when releasing a new installment, and long-term fans of the series have been continually rewarded with a game we can pick up and play easily, with our favorite characters retaining most (if not all) of their classic moves & familiar play-styles. Though Tekken 6 still feels very much like the Tekken we've come to know and love in the past, there is no doubt a handful of new gameplay nuances to master this time around. Actually, the vastness of the new content can be overwhelming even for a seasoned Tekken player like myself. With a seemingly countless amount of new moves and combos to learn, it can be intimidating for a casual player to take a stroll through and/or attempt to memorize a single character's move-set... "What? This character has over 100 moves?"... Yep, welcome to Tekken.The deep characters have always been one of the best aspects of Tekken, but ironically enough, this fact alone may actually "scare" some potential players away... Especially since Tekken 6 is a hardcore Tekken player's best friend. It's true that beginner & casual players can enjoy the game on many levels, but getting "the most" out of the actual gameplay (or playing it at a competitive level, if that's your thing) requires a considerable amount of studying and practice; something that many gamers these days are too lazy to do, simply put. It's no surprise why so many gamers and mainstream reviewers went "gaga" over a simpler fighting game like Street Fighter IV, with characters that only pack 20-25 moves at best; but can't really seem to "get into" Tekken. Have 3D fighting games become too technical & too deep for casual gamers? Only a few years back everyone was saying "2D fighting games were dead," but now it seems like the 3D fighting games aren't getting the respect they deserve from the mainstream... Moral of the story: F*ck the mainstream!!!!!
Straight from producer Harada himself: "Tekken's control scheme is designed foremost to be intuitive and responsive. After a player inputs a command, the move is executed the next frame and in exactly one frame after the input, you see the result displayed on screen. This is something that is not widely known, but this is unique to Tekken." Though sometimes appearing erratic (in high level play), the "movement controls" of Tekken 6 are as responsive as ever, with a variety of offensive & defensive movements at your disposal depending on your character. Any respectable fighting game player knows it's best to stay "a moving target" (like in a real fight), in Tekken's case, frequently using forward & backward dashing and sidestepping. Now that most characters in Tekken have special dashing & evasive techniques, there's even more diversity between the fighters & equally more strategy to fighting against them. Learning how to move properly is key to playing Tekken, it's not all about combos & attacking (in case you didn't know).
The 'ouch factor' in Tekken was always among the best the fighting game genre has to offer, and there's definitely no shortage of it in Tekken 6. The accurately authentic fighting styles featured in the game are completed with authentic (and sometimes not-so-authentic) martial arts techniques that would hurt, cripple, or possibly kill you in real life... Tekken 6 is actually a pretty realistic game when you look at it that way, but as you probably know Tekken doesn't take itself too seriously and there are of course a handful of silly (yet cleverly entertaining) moves thrown in there just for fun & entertainment value. The brand new (and long over-due) KO animations also add a refreshing visual element to the game; as certain mid & low attacks will cause your opponent to fall in a certain way... And for some reason I never get tired of watching those hard-hitting replays in slow motion. The new bound combo system is technically fantastic, and in my opinion 'Tekken combos' never looked quite so flashy (and so painful). Thanks to the bound system, there are nearly an infinite amount of new combo possibilities; which also means it's less likely to see "the same old combo" being done over and over again. Tekken 6's combo system > Spamming. Graphically, Tekken 6 was a powerhouse at the arcades; boasting some incredibly crisp character models & stages all at 60 frames per second. The home versions of Tekken 6 of course run at a particularly smooth 60 fps, but unfortunately the overall resolution has been downgraded from it's arcade counterpart. The new "motion blur" graphical filter correlates well with Tekken's action and adds a nice touch to the visuals, but unfortunately having motion blur turned on will actually lower the resolution by a slight amount. The default setting for Tekken 6 does have motion blur turned on, but ironically enough, the graphics will actually appear a bit crispier on your HD-tv if you venture to the options menu and turn motion blur off. Alas, some people may end up being slightly disappointed with the graphics, but where Tekken 6 truly excels is in it's fluid animation and incredibly detailed character models (of which were completely redone for this sequel, from the ground up). The badasses of Tekken never looked so ripped & all-out mean, and the babes never looked oooh-so-sexy. To sum up the graphics, unless you're sitting too close to your television and/or are looking for the imperfections, the console version of Tekken 6 is fantastically gorgeous at the end of the day and does not fall short on visuals... Nuff said.
"Scenario Campaign" is the new Tekken Force-inspired bonus mode included in the home package. Though this mode contains notably lower quality graphics than the main game, it is a simple & fun playthrough where experienced Tekken players will no doubt have some jolly old times destroying hordes of baddies, classic arcade beat-em-up style! In Scenario Campaign, using the analog control will allow your fighter to freely move in 3D and only a few random moves are at your disposal. However, using the d-pad will allow you to stay on the same plane of your targeted opponent; which in turn will allow you to play "Tekken" exactly as you know it... Basically every move & combo you can perform in the regular game, you can also perform in Scenario campaign! What beat-em-up do you know of that features 40 playable characters, each packing 100+ moves??? The answer is none. The overall controls and targeting system could be better, but with some practice; targeting nearby enemies is a rather simple & smooth ordeal. Those who might complain about the camera in this mode simply may not be using the targeting system correctly, because I personally feel the camera does an adequate job.
The story element of Scenario Campaign definitely isn't as good as it could be and is agonizingly slow paced at times, but it has it's entertaining moments. The inclusion of ridiculous weapons that characters can pick up (chaingun, flamethrower, & lead pipe) adds to the classic beat-em-up experience, but also seems very out of place for Tekken... Though, as much as I hate to admit it, mowing down those fools with a chaingun is strangely satisfying at times. SC mode also features an online co-op option, however Namco hasn't included this option with the game's launch (due to time constraints) but it will be available this winter as a post-launch downloadable update! I'm personally looking forward to playing Scenario Campaign co-op, especially since my comrades and I are pre-planning some brutal team/infinite combos. At the least, Scenario Campaign is one of the best bonus modes for a fighting game to date and is a fun way to unlock extras & customization items in the game if you give it a chance. Where SC mode went wrong is probably that it was presented as the main attraction, which it's most certainly not.
Tekken 6's customization mode has also been redone & is much improved over Tekken 5's. All of your favorite Tekken fighters can easily acquire some all new threads if you tire of their original costumes. The intricately detailed character models are practically "naked," so you are able to remove or switch out tops, bottoms, gloves, & footwear as well as set their default clothing color scheme to your liking. Another completely new feature implemented into Tekken 6 is the ability for certain customization items to have an actual effect or use during gameplay, in some cases giving your character an extra move and/or taunt. Each character has several specific item moves, and it'll probably take quite a while for you to see all of them actually used in game. Some of them are awesomely badass (like Kazuya's, where he puts a gun to his opponent's head during a throw), and others make little sense but are simply hilarious. The new item moves add some variety & flash to the gameplay, but thankfully, they don't effect balance or gameplay in a negative way since they don't take off much damage at all. The designers were clearly just having fun, which is nice to see.
As with previous Tekkens (notably the more recent ones), certain high & mid attacks will occasionally make contact with a grounded opponent; often-times picking them up to extend an air combo, for some guaranteed "how did that even hit me" moments. It's a cosmetic flaw for the most part, but in reality those jump kicks and uppercut punches really shouldn't touch an opponent on the ground... The thing is, this isn't reality, this is Tekken!! Every character has those pick-up type moves so that balance isn't an issue, and occasionally the new ground bound animation "assists" the effect to make it look more natural; though we all know it's unpractical to hit a human being 7 or 8 times in the air. Some "surface gamers" might look at this as a flaw, but it's one of Tekken's familiar gameplay quirks and most of us can get past it. Having "the advantage" for a period of time in a battle in the form of a combo, has always been an enjoyable feature about many fighting games, including Tekken... In the history of fighting games, longer combos do usually equal more fun for the hardcore players, so it's a reasonable trade-off.
Next, the new ground bound animation looks natural during combos, but as the new "low parry" animation it almost always looks out of place... It rarely makes sense why a character ends up on their back with their legs up in the air after their opponent anticipates their low punch or kick. If you remember correctly, this was only apparent in the Bloodline Rebellion update to Tekken 6; and in my opinion there was nothing wrong with the original Tekken 6 low parry animation. The breakable walls/ground adds a nice change of pace to the gameplay at times (though isn't a big deal if you ask me), but it could have been done much better visually. Ground damage & chunks of the floor still disappear after a few seconds, and it gives off a rushed & cheap kind of vibe. Several low-quality floor textures are also apparent on a few stages, however the stage designs themselves do take you're eyes away from the floor and look excellent; each setting containing a commendable amount of background animations & detail as well as some interesting lighting effects... Ohh and not to mention the badass soundtracks, a few of which deserve a spot in the "best fighting game BGM's of all time" list!!!
So the big question is... Is Tekken 6 the best Tekken to date? As far as gameplay & graphics goes, abso-f*in-lutely!!! I must say Tekken 6's graphics completely blow me away... From the unique muscle anatomy that each individual fighter has, to the noticeable differences in the fabric textures & folds in countless clothing items, to the reflections of the actual backgrounds in shiny parts of clothing, to the individual motion physics that clothing & other wearable items have game during gameplay!? Crispy stuff. Other visual elements like water effects & floor breaking effects could have been done much better though. As far as gameplay goes, it's Tekken... You should know by now if you fancy Tekken's style of gameplay or not, and even in this latest installment it has stayed very close to it's roots (and us Tekken players are indeed appreciative). Namco clearly knows what the players want, and we don't want a completely new game, we want Tekken.
Tekken 6's online mode had a slow (and laggy) start, but things were cleaned up considerably after the November 26th update. Thankfully, ranked matches can now be set for "connection priority," and the ability to cancel a potentially laggy match before it starts is also much appreciated. The ghost & replay sharing option is also quite cool, and I'd say overall, T6's online mode gives the current gen of online fighters a run for their money. Still, as someone who put countless hours into Tekken 5: DR Online, I do miss some of the previous (and rather basic) battle lobby features like being able to 'name' your room and the ability to show off your character rank to your friends in the casual "player match". I have a few other nitpicks of course (like why isn't Mokujin random online), but at least Tekken 6 online is now fully playable and much more user-friendly. That said, it's good enough for me, and damn fun... See you on PSN for the next 4-5 years at least!!!
Closing Comment : What more is there to say? How about... Tekken 6 is a brilliant fighting game and one of the best I've ever played? Seeing classic characters looking dramatically new both in appearance & in terms of how they fight nearly brings a tear to my eye. The overall presentation is a bit compromised this time around, but the production value found in the animation & especially the gameplay more than makes up for it; which is of course what really matters in a fighting game. I love the reworked wall game, the improvement of side-walking, and the gameplay experience as a whole... there's a lot to learn, and I'll be addicted for a long time. Fun Factor = 10/10.
Cosmetically, Tekken 6 delivers with some gorgeous visuals and some of the hardest-hitting, most authentic, and most fluid martial arts seen in any video game, period. Even though there are several "less-than-authentic" and borderline silly fighting styles introduced in this installment, the returning "serious" martial artists still accurately represent their traditional styles, all of which looking notably more impressive than ever before. Players who appreciate fighting games that contain the most authentic martial arts and hard-hitting moves, will always prefer Tekken among many other fighters out there.
Tekken was always a rewarding game to the hardcore players that have stuck with it for all these years, and thankfully, it still is. Namco tried valiantly to attract a larger audience with Tekken 6 by going multi-platform & launching various advertising campaigns (and I hope it works for them), but more importantly they have delivered a quality fighting game for those of us who've been loyal to the series & love playing Tekken on a regular basis... That said, no doubt many of us will be playing Tekken 6 for years on end. The gameplay alone, and the characters that take a ton of effort & time to truly master, is reason enough to play Tekken 6 for years; but Namco also included a ton of extras like item moves & hidden moves (not on the in-game movelists), which of course adds even more replay value for loyal players. Beginner players should also find a lot to like about Tekken 6, as the developers have further streamlined each character's movelist to make them feel more natural... Thus, it's fairly easy for new players to pull off a good amount of "cool looking" moves.
Now for a side note I'd like to bring up... The fact that many titles in this next gen of video games seem to somewhat "play themselves," technical masterpieces like Tekken 6 that require more work & practice will ignorantly be written-off and overlooked by many lazier/less-talented gamers in the long run. It's 1000 times easier to find a reason to say "I don't like Tekken 6" than to become a skilled player. Many "next gen gamers" also don't like loosing unpreventably, and Tekken 6 is a game where pros will relentlessly destroy amateurs (with finesse). It's easy to hate the game if you're a noob, and many will quit before they even start. It's a sad truth, but also a bittersweet one since the characters of Tekken will seem to magically "come to life" when under the control of a skillful player. To get more people interested in the game, we're going to have to continue to show our skills, Tekken players... Hold tournaments, play in public places, and represent Tekken to it's fullest potential. This is your fight.