marino's Tekken: Dark Resurrection (PlayStation Portable) review

Find Your Charger. There's a Reason to Turn On Your PSP Again.

For over a decade, Tekken has been a revolutionary force in field of 3D fighters.  It was one of the originals and to this day it is still one of the best.  The arcade scene in America may be dead, but now you can get your Tekken fix anywhere and anytime with this excellent arcade port of Tekken 5's expansion.  With the PSP version of Dark Resurrection, you actually get more than the arcade version offered and even some stuff the home version of Tekken 5 did not have.  The game features over 30 fighters including two new entrants in the Monacoan girl Lili and the Russian military fighter Dragunov.  Also, fan favorite Armor King returns to the ring, seemingly back from the dead.  If you played Tekken 5, you know that customizing your characters was a big part of the game.  With DR you'll have even more customizable options to make your characters unique when going into multiplayer fights or uploading them for the world to see.  Along with a robust new Dojo mode, the game also features a slew of new mini-games including Gold Rush, Command Attack, and the grand return of Tekken Bowl.  Dust off your PSP's folks, there's a reason to play games on it again.     
 
 
Graphics 
Much like Tekken 5 did for PS2, Dark Resurrection milks the PSP for some of the best graphics you've ever seen on the system.  Ghosting, which is prevalent in most PSP games, is almost non-existant here and the jaggies are kept to a minimum.  While the character models aren't a polygon-to-polygon match of the arcade counterparts, they are still excellently done for the handheld.  The characters are still extremely life-like (unlike the plastic look of some other fighting games) thanks in part to exceptional lighting and effects.  The backgrounds are still loaded with interactive elements that smash and explode throughout the fight.  The backgrounds themselves look amazing as well.  Most of the stages are taken from Tekken 5 but redone in respect to weather and time of day.  It's pretty cool to see some of your favorite stages in a new light, literally and figuratively.  What's more astounding in the game are the load times.  The PSP has been a haven for atrocious load times in its short history, but not here.  The wait between menu and fighting is easily less than 10 seconds, an increase in time that is almost indistinguishable from the PS2's Tekken 5.  Quite simply, the graphics are amazing in every respect for the PSP.     
 
 
Control 
First off, there is a large group of people complaining about the controls on the game, not to the fault of the game itself, but because of the PSP's D-pad.  Personally, I don't understand what the big fuss is about considering the PSP's D-pad is exactly the same as the PSX and PS2 controller and no one's been complaining about Tekken 1-5 over the past decade.  If you are used to playing the games on PlayStation, then you should have no problem adapting to the PSP even if you play keyboard style with your right hand. 
 
PSP D-pads aside, the game still features dozens of unique fighting styles and endless amounts of combos to learn and master in a simple setup of left and right punches and kicks that takes moments to learn and ages to master.  Some of the fighters have been tweaked a bit since Tekken 5 but nothing major.  The two new fighters fit in with the game perfectly with Lili's unique somewhat acrobatic style and Dragunov slow but punishing sambo style.     
 
 
Sound 
Tekken has a legacy of great soundtracks, at least since Tag.  Namco continues to do an excellent job in creating background music that is enjoyable, yet never gets tiresome.  This entry uses mostly the same effects from Tekken 5, which is by no means a bad thing.  The impact of many moves, much in thanks to the sound effects, simply feel like they hurt.  You'll catch yourself cringing every so often.  The voice-overs are still good, but the only new ones you'll get are from the three new fighters.  Even so, having most of the fighters speak in their native tongues is a nice touch.     
 
 
Replay Value 
Well, the story of the game still takes place within Tekken 5, so if you played that last year, you've already seen all of the beautiful ending cut scenes (aside from the three new fighters).  That won't stop you from playing through each character's story again though.  Why?  It's all about the GOLD!  Alot of Dark Resurrection's replay value comes from the collection and spending of the game's currency.  With gold you can completely customize every character in the game including their secondary outfits.  Alot of these upgrades are quite expensive, and Story mode is a quick way to make 100,000 gold for each character. 
 
Tekken Dojo is the biggest new addition to the game and it will definitely eat up your time.  Once you pick your preferred fighter, you are sent to a dojo where you enter leagues consisting of 5-7 other fighters.  Fight each one once, and whoever comes out of the league with the best W-L-D record gets bonus prize money.  Through the leagues, you increase your rank in the dojo, and upon reaching a certain rank, you may enter that dojo's tournament.  Win the tournament to walk out with a fist full of gold and a ticket to the next dojo.  Through the six dojos, you will not only earn loads of cash, but your profile's overall rank will steadily increase from "Beginner" to "Lord of War" and beyond. 
 
Also included are various mini-games.  Time Attack and Survival are back, but this time they yield gold as well.  New to the game is Gold Rush, which is a timed fight that rewards gold based on how much damage you can do to an opponent vs how much damage they do to you.  The opponent has no life bar, so punish him/her all you want.  But if you can't survive the 30 seconds, you get nothing.  If you're good, this is the fastest way to make gold.  Last, but certainly not least, is the triumphant return of Tekken Bowl.  Not only do you get regular 10 frame bowling that yields gold, but you also get a second mode called Strikers where you are given 5 balls to see how many strikes you can get.  Make a strike and you get to keep using that ball.  In this sub-game, each pin only counts as one even with strikes. 
 
The other big addition to this installment is Ghosts.  "Ghosts" are what the game refers to the AI as.  As in Tekken 5, when you play single player, the CPU opponents have a user name and are customized using parts from the customization shop.  Some of these ghosts will actually level up with you in the Dojo mode and be recurring rivals throughout your journey.  The real addition though is that you can create your own ghosts, and send them not only to friends' PSP's, but also upload and download ghosts online.  These ghosts not only look like your customized fighter, but thanks to the new recording technology, they will fight like you.  Sadly, there is no actual online fighting, but with everything else included in the game you'll be fighting for a long time to come.     
 
 
Conclusion 
Let's put it this way.  I have not purchased a game for my PSP in 11 months.  This game made me dig it out again.  Even if you played Tekken 5 to death, you will love this addition to the franchise.  Dark Resurrection features more than enough new stuff along with the "old" to make for one of the few gaming reasons to own a PSP.  With beautiful graphics, short load times, abundant single player options, addictive customization options, and yes...stat tracking, Tekken: Dark Resurrection is a must-have for any PSP owner.     
 
 
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***
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