Review: Tekken 6

Tekken has long been a viable alternative to those who have strayed from the Street Fighter, Soulcalibur, or Mortal Kombat camps. Ever the dark horse of the genre, it’s been around long enough to avoid the typical pitfalls that riddle efforts considered unsuccessful by the community. With the advent of Tekken 6, that lucky streak seems to have been cut short. While the core gameplay is slick and enjoyable brawler, the pithy Scenario mode and overall presentation mire this flashy fighter in a mess of broken gameplay, dated graphics, and disappointing online play. While it may be enjoying great success in the arcades, I can’t quite recommend it as a console port.

Tekken 6viewed strictly as a fighter is an adequate offering. An appreciable treasure trove of combatants are at your disposal, including fan-favorites Jin, Hwoarang, Christie, Nina, and Yoshimitsu. Combos may be strung together as effortlessly as rippling water, though advancing and jumping feel a bit stunted. Character movements are muddy and slow, though in this day and age smooth, fluid control is almost required (think Dead or Alive 4 or even Marvel vs Capcom 2). Even the sprightly female fighters felt strangely clunky — the limber Christie Monteiro, Capoeira expert, seemed even more difficult to control than in previous entries into the franchise. I’m no stranger to Christie’s combo moves, but pulling them off felt just a tad foreign; same goes with Tekken 3favorite Hwoarang. It was an exercise in frustration that was exacerbated by the lack of detail and finesse presented with each familiar fighter.

The addition of the Rage system is an interesting new facet for Tekken. When health is low, players receive significant strength bonuses. Since seasoned professional Tekken players rely on much more advanced techniques than the layman gamer, often taking advantage of technical misfires and movement inconsistencies, Rage becomes much more of a liability than an aid. On the other end of the spectrum, it can be viewed as an enhancement for series vets inject some variety into otherwise predictable matches. A quick burst of power via Rage can turn the tables far quicker than a sudden wave of expertly executed combos or launches ever could. It’s a double-edged sword that works well enough, but may be viewed as unfair due to its tendency to reward players who button mash their way through a fight, then come out on top. It’s interesting, to say the least, but whether it’s necessary or not is still open to consideration. With a bit of practice one will become accustomed to Tekken 6′s finicky fighting mechanics, but as far as improvement upon past efforts, I feel as though the latest release is a bit of a step backward.

Perhaps if the game focused more on the act of fighting, the complete package wouldn’t be marred by the despicable Scenario mode, a “story” mode meant to tack on a bit of extra gameplay and a means to unlock skills, videos, and various other items of interest. This could be viewed as a positive thing, except it’s absolutely horrendous. It’s a recipe for disaster from the very start — tossing two brand new characters into an action/adventure hybrid riddled with antiquated game mechanics is never a good idea. If you’ve ever been subjected to PS2 beat-’em-up The Bouncer, you should have a clear picture of what’s going on in Scenario mode. Unlike random matches linked together with snippets of narrative told via cutscenes (like you would expect), you must traverse a flat, yawn-inducing world via newcomers Lars and Alisa, fiddling with murky fight controls, dim AI, and battling through recycled stages over and over. Envision running through long corridors simply beating up the same boring bad guys over and over. Right — just what I want to see from the latest installment in such a venerable fighting series.

Eventually as you make your way across the world map via Scenario mode, you’ll unlock the Arena, which makes for a much faster way of earning items and cash you need to customize your characters. Since online play doesn’t net you enough to get by, you’ll need to utilize Scenario mode in order to deck out your characters the way you want to. If that’s not something you’re into, then skipping this entire mode is entirely acceptable. It’s a throwaway experience that could have been enhanced with simple attention to detail and a real, engaging story — but I suppose no one is going to be picking up a fighter for the storyline anytime soon.

Unfortunately, the game falls short in yet another arena — online play. For the purposes of this review I played through the PlayStation 3 version and was utterly disappointed. For the first few matches I breezed straight into matchmaking play for a quick ranked battle (you rank up as in DOA4, Virtua Fighter, etc). After about three or four heated bouts, I began to run into massive lag and slowdown, as well as difficulty even landing a battle. This continued on, hit or miss, for a good hour or so until I wasn’t in the mood anymore to take my show on the road. Subsequent tries received the same shotty results. When I did receive a decent connection, fights were the very same as you would get from local co-op. Unfortunately, this doesn’t occur often enough to label Tekken 6′s online features a true success.

At the very least, you would expect the sixth (official and not a spinoff) release to have been much improved graphically over the past installments. This is not so. I found the look and feel of the characters to be decidedly more blocky than current competitors. Christie’s thighs were massive, Raven was lacking detail, and the environments were flat, bland, and tinted with excessive crimson. Cut scenes provide a taste of what could have been, but for the most part, and especially within the confines of Scenario mode, aesthetics are ultimately disappointing, even though the sumi-e depictions of Heihachi, Jin, and the exhibition of previous storylines in Tekken were quite decadent and deserving of recognition. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is quite unmemorable as well, though I wouldn’t expect much from a fighter, as Soulcalibur generally takes the cake in that category. There is minimal English voice acting, as well. I’m not sure why they could not be bothered to dub characters, especially for Scenario mode, but perhaps that was a decision that was for the best.

Tekken 6 is full of such wasted potential. As one of the most long-awaited fighting releases on my list of most-wanted games, I expected so much more. It’s unfortunately a step backward instead of a powerful step forward that was much-needed for the franchise. If there ends up being a Tekken 7 or another spinoff, hopefully these missteps are cleared up and tightened for a much more polished and engaging fighting experience.

Comments are closed.