Tekken it to the streets.
Where most video games are defined by their characters, fighting games are defined by their characters’ movements. In turn, these franchises walk a delicate line between striking familiarity and blocking redundancy. With the new Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting available through Xbox Live! Arcade and every other fighting game playable online, a good online attack is one move every modern fighter wants in its bag.
Sadly, Namco “The Internet is a fad” Bandai once again ducked this all-important feature in their latest, if not greatest fighter, Tekken: Dark Resurrection. However, this little warrior compensates for its flawed online stance by giving you tons of characters, fun modes and plenty of incentives to master its style.
[image1]Strangely, Dark Resurrection gives you all 34 fighters right off the bat. On one hand you lose the reward of unlocking a fighter each time you beat the game, but we've all jumped through this hoop so many times, it was wise of Namco to toss it. Instead, the reward scheme is akin to Tekken 5’s, in which you earn gold for doing basically anything in the game outside of turning it off.
That’s tougher than it sounds, by the way, since at the end of this gold-farming, dopamine rainbow you’ll buy some truly funky accessories. How funky? Giant syringes and sniper rifles, funky. Even better, each of these wacky items is specific not just to an individual character, but a costume. There's a ton of stuff to play Tekken Barbie with, which makes us wonder why we also couldn’t have a full-blown character editor. Oh well, maybe next time.
Dark Resurrection inherits all of the fighters from previous Tekkens and adds a new pair. Lili is a wealthy heiress with a smooth, continuous fighting style, while Dragunov is a Russian special forces soldier who fights with swift, strong blows. They both fit in very neatly with the rest of the roster, though Lili takes a good deal more practice to master, which is not a problem at all considering the training content.
Among the myriad training modes, incoming and returning players alike will appreciate a pair of new highlights. Defensive Training lets you select a load of moves and combos for your opponent to throw at you, which will help you counter and find weaknesses in your friends’ strategies. Command Training, on the other hand, is a great, fast-paced crash course through any fighter's move list that's surprisingly fun to play for even the most seasoned geeks. Run through it enough with Lili, for instance, and you'll suddenly realize you know all her moves without having had to check her command list every ten seconds.
[image2]The rest of the modes show plenty of variety. Story mode gives your fighter some voiced-over intro plotpoints, a random string of challengers, and a beautifully rendered CG ending after the last boss, Jinpachi, who looks like the lovechild of Heihachi and a piece of charcoal. Arcade mode pits you against one fighter after another, indefinitely, while keeping track of your rank and winning percentage ala Tekken 5. There’s also Time Attack, Survival, and Gold Rush mode, which gives you cash for the damage you deal, letting you trade their shiners for your shinies. Sweet. The fastest way to get cash, however, is running through frames of the unlockable Tekken Bowl, which is as fun of a distraction as it ever was and fits the quick-play portable paradigm very nicely.
Taking full advantage of the ranking system is Dojo mode, where you enter league matches and simulated tournaments for cash prizes. Each dojo has a ton of matches to brawl through. Maintaining that pristine 100% win ratio will really make you fight for your record in tight matches. The problem is that it won't happen very often, since almost all the fighter A.I. you face in Dojo mode is punchy, usually falling for the same two moves over and over. Luckily, you can go online and download other players’ ghosts.
When a player uploads a ghost, they’re uploading a bot that has stored some of their tendencies and any accessories or new costumes they’ve worn. Inspired by the people who made them, the ghosts add some welcome variety to CPU matches, although as their name implies, they’re still mere shades of human competition.
Thankfully, you can wirelessly battle with friends via Ad-Hoc, and this is definitely a game they should all have. Still, it would be great to play against people outside of physical striking distance. You can upload nearly all your stats to a leaderboard from some slim bragging rights, although that isn’t nearly as compelling as climbing at a fallen heap of actual foes.
[image3]While only your geekiest buds will care about your Time Attack score, everyone will care about how smoothly Dark Resurrection plays. The gameplay's quick speed and silky framerate is that of Tekken 3, which means fast, functional and tight. Nothing is new or fancy, although it’s all new to the PSP and works perfectly. So do the replays, which are of the classic, elongated type - just long enough to savor the setup to that sweet counter punch. Whether you’re watching a replay or diving into Dojo mode, the loading times are fast.
The cost of such speed was the trimming of some fat from the environments, and though there are a whopping nineteen of them, they aren’t as clear or crisp as we would like. Then again, that's a small price to pay for blazing gameplay, especially in a fighting game.
If your thumbs aren't already in slings from the excellent Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max
, pour some 'tussin on them and pick up Tekken: Dark Resurrection
. Its arsenal isn’t as robust as it could be, but it makes up for it with a flurry of awesome modes and some deadly fast gameplay. If you see this one coming, don’t duck.