Should I feel bad hitting bear cubs with an iron bar for treasure?
Namco’s venerable Tekken fighting series has always been a divider in the genre with people either loving its serious, yet over-the-top style, or preferring one of the many other 3D fighting alternatives like Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, and Soul Calibur. This time around, the game divides itself, by putting as much emphasis on the traditional one-on-one fighting gameplay as the Scenario Campaign, a massive loot-intensive overhaul of the beat-‘em-up mode Tekken Force/Devil Within, which for the last three installments in the series served as little more than a side diversion. Unfortunately, the result is the same old Tekken with new modes that make their own fair share of triumphs and mistakes.
[image1]Nearly everything that fans love and hate about the Tekken series (namely Tekken 5) remains true for Tekken 6. You still left punch, right punch, left kick, and right kick your opponent until one of you can’t move because the health bar says you can’t. For newbies, that likely means spamming one of four moves over and over again, like using Eddy and pressing the kick buttons until you win. For experts, that means punishing said newbies by knowing when to block high, middle, or low, learning all of your character’s juggles and poke moves, taking advantage of when your opponent is still caught in an animation, and mastering every move off the floor. It also means being extra careful when the new mechanic Rage activates, which boosts a character's attack power when they are low on health.
Some experienced players would like nothing more but hear full-grown men whine and whinny about not being able to stand up from the floor. Of course, that’s also a part of the problem. It’s still too easy to fall into using “unfair” tactics like using powerful combinations that hit low and high, and/or drain opponents of half of their health, and/or keep your opponent on the ground, and/or are just plain evil. And let’s not even talk about what happens when you’re knocked against a wall five times in a row; it’s the kind of cheapness that fuels infinite combos. But then again, defenders will say that all of these moves can be blocked and countered, so it’s only your fault if you cry foul.
The final boss, however, cannot be defended - and if you try, it says something about your character and your tolerance for pain in some dark basement filled with leather straps. (Like a room of obnoxiously ticking Swatches, of course. What did you think I meant?) Azazel, which will henceforth be known as its backwards name “Lezaza”, is just about as ridiculous a boss as the fireball-throwing Jinpachi in Tekken 5. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Lezaza was supposed to be a boss in Final Fantasy: It’s a giant evil crystal chocobo that likes to roll on the ground and cast Ice 3 (I'm not kidding). Not only does Lezaza occupy about half of the screen, but he loves to block attacks while in mid-move, shoot you with unblockable lasers and swarms of bugs, teleport from who knows where, and counter everything you do by moving around like he’s got something sharp stuck up his ass (because he does).
It’s fine that the final boss is difficult (that’s by definition), but the boss should be difficult because it requires skill to beat it. Here, the key to breaking Lezaza into pieces is spamming, usually with some quick low-damage move. Since nearly every tactic against a normal-sized opponent doesn’t work against Lezaza, you don’t have much choice but to stay close and spam, wait for the clock to run out, or waste time looking for an “honorable” method. Otherwise, you’ll just find yourself at the continue screen, which for some reason forces you to sit through a loading screen and listen to the announcer repeat “Get ready for the next battle!” one more time.
[image2]In addition to Lezaza, Tekken 6 rounds out the roster with seven new characters, though it’s hard to “round out” a cast that already has a bear, a panda, a kangaroo, scantily-clad women, Wesley Snipes as a ninja, and a (furry?) Mexican luchador who always wears a jaguar mask and speaks in jaguar sounds. Further included are an obese martial arts legend named
Rufus Bob; Lars, a young rebel leader with moves like Mjollnir, Zeus, and Double Smack; a KOSMOS-inspired android named Alisa; a boyish girl who’s looking for revenge named Leo; Miguel, a Spanish brawler also looking for revenge; Zafina, a guardian who uses ancient assassination arts; and NANCY-MI847J, a gargantuan robot that serves as a bonus stage boss who fires homing missiles and can’t be lifted into the air.
Luckily, all of the characters are unlocked in arcade mode, so you don’t have to rush through each character’s story to fill the entire roster. This time, however, it’s not as easy to get everyone's story ending. The "story mode" has been embedded within the Scenario Campaign as an Arena, where you have to unlock each character by beating them as a boss at the end of one of the mode’s levels. In other words, you are forced to play through every beat-‘em-up level, even the “secret” ones, before you can fully experience the story mode. The other option is to play Scenario Campaign until every ending eventually unlocks, but that means grinding for many hours, mostly after you’ve already beaten it.
Scenario Campaign follows the pursuits of Lars (though you don’t have to pick him as the main fighter), who wishes to find an end to the war between the hostile and uncompromising Mishima Zaibatsu, now run by Jin Kazama after winning the tournament in Tekken 5, and the newfound savior G Corporation. Upon discovering Alisa in a secret laboratory beneath a corporate building, he is knocked out by an explosion and awakens with temporary amnesia (of course...).
On one hand, the ensuing journey of Lars and Alisa weaves together every character’s storyline into a plot that is far more cohesive than anything the Tekken series has provided before. On the other hand, the story dissolves the already weak illusion that the fighting tournament has anything to do with the fate of the world, and well, don’t try to think about the campy and absurd story for more than ten seconds or you’ll have to punch yourself before slipping into a coma. (In fact, just read Penny Arcade’s Tekken 6 comic instead.)
[image3]Every level in Scenario Campaign has you run through a timed linear course with an A.I. partner as you fight a horde of various grunts - soldiers, tough guys, street brawlers, agents, and even bears – who all jump out of the bushes or drop from the sky, before you face one of the game’s characters at the end as a boss. Along the way, you can collect fight money to use in unlocking clothing, grab weapons that last for a limited time, pick up health items, and obtain special treasures that contain a piece of clothing that have special RPG-like attributes, such as adding health, increasing attack power, and imbuing attacks with elemental damage. With all the fight money that’s awarded at the end of a level, players who want to customize their characters with unique clothing items (I turned King into a UFC fighter) will be glad to grind in this mode and not through arcade mode.
At best, however, Scenario Campaign is a light and occasionally comical romp that lasts for ten long hours’ worth of frustration and ho-hum dialogue. Since you don’t have control of the camera, the orientation of your character to a moving enemy constantly flips which means that learning all of the attacks that require a left or right direction can become more trouble than it's worth. On top of that, the targeting system has you lock onto specific enemies, which as in previous Tekken Force modes, is a weak attempt to slap the 2D fighting engine onto a 3D plane. The transition between targeted fighting and free 3D movement is clumsy and constricting, and blocking only works against the opponent you’re targeting. This ultimately makes you, once again, spam one to three moves that have a wide range and hit enemies low and high (like Kazuya’s Spinning Demon).
Online mode should have been the title’s saving grace, but matches tend to experience a lot of… lag. Though it wisely incorporates the game’s ranking system for matchmaking, about half of the matches I fought online had about a quarter to half second lag, which is just unacceptable in a technical fighting title. Hopefully, the network code is patched soon, perhaps with a “sort by ping” method that is made priority. (It seems that a fix to the lag is already in progress and many people are not experiencing as much input lag.)
There’s also no co-op mode, with the exception of an online co-op mode for Scenario Campaign that Namco says should be coming soon. But I still don’t see why Namco can’t build a Tekken Tag mode (the only real co-op mode), let alone an off-line co-op Scenario Campaign.
Without a completely robust online mode and a decent but not remarkable improvement in graphics, Tekken 6 doesn’t take full advantage of being on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Both the Scenario Campaign and the final boss encourage players to dumb down their game with cheap moves in what should be a technical fighter. But otherwise, Tekken 6 still retains the same high-quality fighting engine, with an incredible and distinct character roster, that fans expect from the series, and collecting items in Scenario Campaign can be addicting. Then again, this is supposed be a fighting game.