Tekken 6: An In-Depth Review

With the advent of Tekken 7’s release, I wanted to revisit the games previous canon title:

The most important thing to consider, when trying to decide whether or not to bother even playing Tekken 6, is that it is a TEKKEN game.  Meaning?  It’s awesome.

For fighting-game fans, Tekken is the ultimate experience.  Every single character is unique not only in appearance and personality, but their fighting styles (averaging around 110 moves each) are all completely different, with only a few of the most basic moves seen repeated in the over 40-character roster.

To truly compete in the upper echelons of the game, one must master not only their own character, but gain a deep understanding of each of the additional characters.  You must learn the various ways to get up from being knocked down, timing, choosing when to attack or defend, controlling the distance between characters, avoiding being backed into walls, distancing your attacks, choosing attacks that are capable of being fired off quickly after a previous attack, and last, (but obviously not least) actually learning the really cool moves and pre-set combos.

It seems terribly daunting, but for the beginning or casual player, the game is still quite fun, as you can button-mash your way through the easier modes.  The beautiful graphics, interesting locations (now more interactive), special moves, combos, and the unique gaming ability to actually create your unique attack strings with the huge movelist to choose from, makes Tekken 6 a damned fine fighting game.

That being said, Tekken 6 was in my opinion, the worst new installment in the Tekken series, next to Tekken 4 (which was the absolute worst).  To explain this, I must take you on a journey of nostalgia, to previous Tekken games.

When Tekken (the original) first came out, it was interesting.  You had about 8 characters (if memory serves), each of them was relatively different, and the 3-D fighter was still relatively new, making it a decent (if flawed) fighting game.

Tekken 2 is where they really picked up momentum.  Having had a bit of practice at it, the Tekken team seemed competent and creative, and delivered an incredible new fighting game that (in my opinion) humbled all other comers.  Tekken 2 had a line-up of interesting and different characters with completely different move sets (with a few exceptions) and a large roster of characters.  When the game was released on PS1, the ending digital movies were cutting-edge graphics and gave a glimpse into each character’s story or personality.  The intrigue of their whole story made the over-all game that much more enjoyable.

Tekken 3 was one of the best new releases in the series.  With even more new characters, fully-fleshed out storylines (still only part of which could you discern through just playing the game), a new level of depth was built into the game.  This was due to advanced move-list programming including versatile counters, counter-counters, differing grab-breaks, grabs at multiple height levels, and many more new features.  Tekken 3 also brought along a “beat-em-up” game mode, which allowed you to move through a Final Fight-esque side-scrolling street scene.  That mode wasn’t very fun, but it did allow you to unlock the super-secret “Tiger” character, who was an alternate costume of Eddy Gordo, and not really seen again after Tekken 3.  (Eventually, we would see him again in Tekken Tag 2, but that’s not until after Tekken 6 came out, so I’ll be ignoring such facts from now on.) Tekken 3 also had a Volleyball game mode, in which characters hit a beach ball back and forth across a line on a court at each other, the ball gaining speed and power as it took more damage.  When a player allowed the ball to hit them, or to touch their side of the court, the player took the damage that had been stored in the ball.  It was an excellent training game, and quite fun– it was also never seen again.

Between Tekken 3 and 4, a “quick release” Tekken game came out entitled “Tekken Tag Tournament”.  Tag Tournament, unlike the previous games, did not seem to posess a consistent storyline into each character, but did hint at what was going on between the official tournaments.  Tekken Tag also didn’t have ending FMVs for most of the characters, much to everyone’s disappointment.  Still, the game held the largest roster of characters yet– unfortunately, their moves (while awesomely unique to each individual character) were not very well-balanced.  Some characters (specifically Kazuya Mishima and Jun Kazama) were horribly under-developed, discouraging their play, while other characters (i.e. Jin Kazama, True Ogre, and Paul Phoenix) were under-balanced, making them hideously over-powered (Jin was good at everything AND had a full-counter, True Ogre could ground juggle you to death on top of his horribly powerful attacks, and Paul Phoenix could 1-hit K.O. you on top of being ridiculously fast and strong AND versatile; and also possessed a full-counter).  Tekken Tag also featured a bowling side-game that I found to be quite enjoyable.  Its new Tag feature was also an awesome new element of strategy involved in the game, which is disappointing that it wasn’t really developed into later games.

There’s not a lot I can say about Tekken 4.  It was fun in that it was still Tekken, but they chopped their character roster down to the bare minimum, added a few (very few) new characters, removing many old ones; they had cool new levels with walls (and wall-ukemi!) and varying height of terrain; but they hard-core nerfed some of the existing characters, completely changed the fighting style of Jin Kazama (actually balancing him down SO much that he became the weakest character in the game); and in my opinion even the outfits for the characters pretty well all SUCKED.  Still, at least the characters had good stories and endings again, and this time we actually got to hear a voiceover while comic-like pictures and text played before each battle in the arcade mode.  They made a lot of interesting new discoveries in this game, but the over-all product was terrible.  Wrong way to go.

That brings us to the very best incarnation of the Tekken series so far.  Tekken 5 had nearly everything; Even the loading screen while you waited to get into the real game was fun and interesting.  I don’t know the title, but it was an (ancient, now) arcade space-shooter game.  Vastly entertaining in its simplicity, you could either continue through that for a short while, or skip ahead to the real game.  The “real game” proved to be absolutely mesmirising.  Firstly there was the Arcade mode, classic in design, you played through each battle just as you had done in all previous version, unlocking new characters as you won and opening new elaborate and beautiful movies.  The two-player versus mode was even better, with all previously explored elements of battle included (with the exceptions of the tag feature, wall-ukemi, and variable terrain height), a large roster of characters (possibly the largest before Tekken 6), and most impressively: hundreds if not thousands of moves throughout the character list, each almost entirely unique to every individual character– and they were WELL BALANCED.  Only Nina Williams, Bruce Irving, Lee Chaolan, Paul Phoenix, and Bryan Fury (in that order) found themselves with a little extra edge (just a little).  Tekken 5 had new interesting characters, a new “Devil Within” mode where (like in Tekken 4) they brought back the beat-em-up, and you could even play the original three Tekken games all on the Tekken 5 release.

Then there’s Tekken 6.  By comparison to its predecessors (excluding Tekken 4), Tekken 6 was a HUGE let-down.

Things Tekken 6 did poorly:

The list is so large it’s difficult to fathom where to begin.  Game balance is a pretty huge issue.  It isn’t difficult to notice that practically all of the new characters (with exception to Miguel and Dragunov) and a few of the old characters, are easier to play, and have a larger list of short juggles, bound moves, and combos that chain into larger combos, than most of the other characters.  This pretty well puts about 8 of the 40 characters at a range of slightly to a lot better than the rest.  Particularly, I found that while they finally had Jin at a good re-balancing in Tekken 5, they nerfed him again in some ways, gave him a little more versatility, but really screwed him over with the new game mechanics.

The bound feature, for example, allows characters to knock their opponent to the ground, causing them to be stunned helpless for a few moments on the ground before they completely fall, or are able to roll to recovery.  There is no way to avoid this, apart from simply not allowing yourself to ever be hit.  This bounding is coupled with an old, but newly tweaked feature of “floating”, which keeps an air-borne character in the air just a tic longer so that the attacker can pull off a juggle.  In previous games, this floating was kept down to a modest amount, and was just fine– now, the air hang-time is so long that juggles can chain into juggles with just a short in-between move that re-pops your juggle-dummy-in-waiting back into the skies.  Between extra-long floating and inescapable bounding, the juggles of Tekken 6 go on for miles and miles.  This is horribly damaging to the game-play, as with all this damage piling up during the juggles, the strategic and technical battle when both characters are standing is greatly shortened.

The battle is further lop-sided by the advent of the “rage” feature, which causes you to do more damage when your health is low.  On average, you don’t do so much extra damage with rage that it makes the rest of the battle obsolete– but if you get a few counter-hits in there, it sure enough does.  It’s worked out to my advantage on plenty of occasions, and one thing I’ve always loved about Tekken is that no battle is over until it’s truly over– but now that case is more true than it ever has been before.  It’s easily possible to be beat down to your last speck of health at the beginning of the battle, then through rage-fuelled counter-hits and ridiculously long juggle combinations, completely come back and win the fight easily.  It really adds a cheapness for both the victor and the loser.

The new characters, while interesting and unique, are quite obviously built for the new mechanics of this game.  Where our old favourites do have a few moves or juggles that may link into other short juggles, Jin used to be the only character who could make his own short chains of short combos.  It seemed to be a (successful) balancing technique to make up for his very short move list.  Now while his move list is still short (though a little more versatile), his ability to string together short combos is made completely obsolete by (particularly) Bob’s, Zafina’s, Lars’, Alisa’s, Baek’s, Nina’s, and Asuka’s ability to make longer strings of short and long combos, hitting at variable hi/mid/low attack levels, large variety of moves causing you to bound and float, and abilty to capitalise on you while you’re in those positions.  Then there’s Lee, who’s now so ridiculously fast that the right player could be invincible with him.  There are a few  other characters who may have somewhat broken moves, but for the most part, the rest of the characters are fairly evenly balanced.

I can’t clearly recall which title it was, I’m thinking Dead or Alive on the original Xbox or perhaps Virtua Fighter or maybe something completely different, but I know for sure that one of those 3D fighters had beautifully interactive environments in which there were variable terrain heights, and awesomely-changable interactive environments (for example, in the same level you could get thrown through a wall, then down onto a lower platform, then down again onto the ground), with excellently-executed cut-scenes amidst the action.  Tekken 4 came out, and failed to use these techniques.  Tekken 5 came out, and still these techniques were not present, and now we’ve come to Tekken 6, and they’re just now incorporating some of these features, and still not as well as they had way-back-when.  It’s also pretty pathetic to find that there’s STILL no quick-rematch option available when fighting the computer in any single-player mode (and why the hell not?!  Namco, the creators of Tekken, also make Soul Calibur in which this feature has been present for the last few games!), and on Xbox the Start-and-Select soft reset is not present in any form.  To replace that convenient soft reset that could be used at any time, they now have a Start-then-A-Button soft reset that is only available from certain screens, and is terribly inconveniently easy to do by accident.

Also in Tekken 6, you’ll find the text so ridiculously tiny, that unless you have a large, hi-def TV, it will be practically impossible to read the command list, menus, dialogue, and damn-near everything.  It really becomes a nuisance throughout the entire game.

Yet I’ve saved the most maelevolent part for last: the single-player experience.  As I mentioned above, in all previous versions of the game, you could simply play through the arcade mode, fight a boss at the end, and unlock a new character and movie.  Well, all of the characters are unlocked right from the beginning for two-player and non-campaign mode; and the arcade mode isn’t the main way to play anymore, so you no longer unlock movie endings by playing it.  No, there are a few game modes now, including Scenario (Campaign) Mode (I’ll explain more about later), Arcade Mode (as in previous versions besides Tekkens 4 and 5, minus unlocking stuff), Ghost Battle (Which was called Arcade mode in Tekken 5), Survival, Time Attack, Team Battle, and Practice Modes, all of which are identical to previous games.

The Campaign Mode takes you back to the old beat-em-up style game from previous Tekkens, except now with the full list of moves available to you from each character– a major improvement.  Also, the levels are more varied and well-put together with destructable and (somewhat) interactive environments, intersting items, power-ups, and scores of enemies.  It’s a much better version of the beat-em-up, but ultimately still sucks.  It’s just not much fun to play.  Repetative, pretty easy, and easy to die by simple mistake (like accidentally kick-sliding yourself off an edge you didn’t mean to run toward in the first place), the campaign mode is simply not much fun without the supplement of recreational drugs.  What’s even more unfortunate, however, is that you’re practically forced to play this mode in order to get a decent amount of money, to more quickly unlock character’s endings, and to unlock more clothing, items, and weapons available to add to your character through customization.  Which brings us to. . . .

What Tekken 6 did right:

Finally getting around to adding destructible and interactive environments was a nice touch.  It’s unfortunate that this was done poorly, but at least it was done.  There are animals kicking around in a few levels that can be jostled cartoonishly from their positions, there are a few walls and patches of ground you can break through to access different parts of the level, and a few minor objects in some levels which can be disturbed.  Still, it’s nothing new or amazing, and comes nowhere close to fulfilling the potential it had.

The character list is huge, and the moves remain to be interesting and distinct.  It’s unfortunate here, as well, that the moves are not quite evenly balanced.  I touched upon this earlier, but to sum it up in short: the average new character’s sample combos do an average of around 110 damage, while the average pre-existing character’s average sample combo does around 75 damage.  These combos, as the name implies, are only samples, but they do go to show the general move-list superiority of new characters to previous ones– again, with a few exceptions.

The wall-ukemi is back (sorta’).  It’s not as fluid or useful, but at least you can roll yourself to a standing position from having been smashed against a wall.  With the new bounding and floating mechanics, though, meeting a wall pretty well spells death for most characters.

Unlocking all characters right from the beginning was a smooth move for the Tekken team.  Versus mode is much more fun to be able to play right away with all characters, and not have to worry about having your save file on someone else’s machine just so you can play with the full roster.  It gives a little less incentive to play the one-player mode, but considering the one-player campaign mode is terrible, that makes this all the more a good thing.

The additional customization you’re capable of with each character is wonderful.  It really allows you to add even more unique flavour to your playing style, which is especially great because the game is FINALLY playable online as well.  I haven’t actually gotten to experience the online play, yet, but everything I’ve read and heard has been relatively positive, with the exception of some Playstation gamers expressing dissatisfaction with the online lag.

In all that, I didn’t even bother to mention that Tekken is definitely a PLAYSTATION platform game.  A while back, I had a PS3.  There were several games on X360 that came out that I really loved, but I hate Microsoft, so I refused to get an Xbox.  Besides, my favourite titles of all were all PS exclusive– like Tekken, Final Fantasy, and a few others.  When I found out that many of my favourites were actually going to be realeased on X360, that meant that there were Xbox exclusive games that I couldn’t play with my PS, but no PS exclusive games I cared about; so I made the switch, got an Xbox and have been kicking myself ever since.  Tekken was not made for an Xbox controller.  The D-Pad is too touchy and bulky for a game requiring such finger dexterity as Tekken.  It is possible to play the game, and even to get good, but no matter how good I am on Xbox I will always be better on PS, because the d-pad has individualised directions on the PS controller.  That one aspect makes the difference between playing the same game on these two different platforms MONUMENTAL.  Particularly concerning your ability to move back and forth quickly, which at the highest echelons of skill in this game, is quite wretched on the X360 d-pad.  Le sigh.

I give Tekken 6 an overall 5 out of 10.  For a fighting game in general, it rocks like a magical mutant robot ninja pirate; but compared to the potential it had, it sucks like a two-bit you-know-what.

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