Wait a minute . . . There's supposed to be a plot??
The King of Iron Fist tournament has returned. Heihachi is back and he's mad as hell. New characters have entered the scene. A sixteen year-old girl has decided she could win the tournament due to her extensive experience handling pandas. The Panda has also entered the tournament, to fight for the right to arm bears. Let us not forget the nature friendly American Indian, who you can easily pick out of a crowd due to the feather in her hair. Finally, and strangest of all, is Mokujin, the little wooden boy that could... Nobody said Namco was brilliant at character design, but they sure can make a good fighting game.
When the PlayStation first launched, Tekken was its breakthrough title. Pit against Sega's pitiful attempt at original Virtua Fighter, Tekken made the PlayStation look damn good. So what if its loading screen was so long that you could play Galaga while you waited, it was still a cool game. With Tekken 2, Namco fortified its hold upon the PlayStation and was the pinnacle of all third party developers at the time. With a recent rash of new games, including Point Blank and Time Crisis, Namco is back in full force. But Tekken 3 is their current crowning achievement, producing one of the most diverse, and downright fun, fighting games of all time.
The graphics engine has improved immensely since the Tekken 2. The polygons are smaller and more numerous, the movement is smoother, and the loading is faster than a greased pig at a weight watcher's meeting. Mokujin, for example, randomly chooses a fighting style at the beginning of each round. The loading was so fast that it took me a while to realize that he had completely different moves each round. Truly impressive.
Kudos must once again go out to Namco for their continually amazing FMV. Very few games motivate me to play with the promise of FMV reward, but Tekken 3 succeeds where others have failed. Just go to your local game store and watch the opening movie, it'll blow you away. Though the movies don't generally make much sense at all, or even have anything to do with a fighting tournament (ie. win with Paul, and he gets a speeding ticket), they are still a ton of fun to watch, and well worth your time releasing them.
Another good aspect of Tekken 3 is that the characters you release aren't simply mirrors of existing characters. In Tekken 2, the new characters were simply the old characters with different polygons and about three different moves. Tekken 3, however, actually has several new characters with new and interesting moves. This is one of the few fighting games with a ton of replay value.
Just a fighting game is not good enough for you? Well, the folks at Namco were out to see that you were well satisfied. There are several modes of play. Besides the normal game, the survival mode, and the training mode, Namco added a few more modes of play to please the gamer. Care for a sadistic game of volleyball? Tekken Ball mode ranks up there as one of the most bizarre additions to a fighting game. Opponents stand on either side of a line, and perform their moves on a big beach ball. The ball is then used to damage the other player. Though nifty, it is not really all that fun. More of a novelty than anything else. Tekken Force mode, however, is slicker than Alaska after the Valdez. Take two parts Tekken, add one part Streets of Rage, shake vigorously, and, viola: Tekken Force mode. Using the Tekken fighting engine, you take the character of your choice patrolling the streets. You fight against multiple opponents at a time, finally facing one of the other characters at the end of each scenario. After Midway's flop with Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero, it's good to see another fighting game attempt to mix with another format. Once again, Namco succeeds where others have failed.
This is not to say that Tekken 3 is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Though there is some blood (a plus) there are still those annoying sparkles that have been in every Tekken game. I'd like to see some consequences to some of the more impressive moves. If I break your arm, you shouldn't be able to use it anymore. There were also just too many goofy characters. A bear, a wooden boy (not Pinnochio), and a dinosaur/turtle are just a few of the released characters. Nobody really uses them much, they're just there to satisfy the creators' bizarre sense of humor. Sure, you can have one goofy character, but enough is enough.
The bosses were also much too easy to beat. A couple of jump-kicks and they fall as if the Mafia had paid them to. One more thing that bugged me was that several of the women fighters fought in high heels. C'mon people, most women already hate video games entirely and believe that they are sexist; no need to prove them right.
All in all, Tekken 3 ranks as one of the best console fighting games ever. With this title, and the fabulous Soul Blade, Namco is easily the king of fighting games. If you have a PlayStation, and you love fighting games, the decision to buy this game is a no-brainer. If you're still dropping quarters in the arcade version, forget it, just get the home version. With everything that the arcade version has and more, this is one of the few times that a console game outshines its arcade counterpart.