2009 is arguably the year of the fighter, featuring releases for games like Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue. Now it's Tekken's turn with Tekken 6, the newest version of this notable 3D fighting game series. With such a large roster of fighting games available already, does Tekken 6 still deserve some shelf space?
Tekken 6's graphics are some of the best that gamers will find this generation – fighting game or not. It features detailed models and backgrounds. Oddly enough, this does not hold true for the Scenario Campaign mode, where the characters look awkward and stiff, and the backgrounds are repeatedly recycled. Otherwise, though, players will spend the bulk of their time in the actual fighting game modes, where the graphics are practically flawless.
The music retains the same tone that past Tekken music has had. The fast paced electronic music helps to create an intense mood for players, while still representing the respective stage's tone. The theme of Manji Valley accents the harsh, icy battleground, rather than the beautiful, white scenery. Choices like these in the score allow for beautiful scenery complimented by intense battle music.
Load times are horrendous, sometimes taking up to half a minute. While the optional installation takes a large chunk of that time off, the load times are still considerably longer than most other fighting games. The time spent sitting around, waiting for a fight to begin, only bore players, rather than hype them up more for a fight. Thankfully, there's a rematch option, allowing players to fight battle after battle seamlessly without load times in between. However, when players aren't using the rematch option, load times can really bog down the pace of a Tekken 6 session.
The Tekken formula hasn't changed much from previous games. Players still have access to three different directions to attack in: high, medium, and low; there are four attack buttons, each corresponding to single limb; throws are done by either pressing both right or left limbs together at the same time, with some special throws having special commands. Most of this is common knowledge for anyone who's played an older Tekken, but can be quite overwhelming for new players. Most of the fighting games released so far in 2009, such as Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue, have small learning curves; it's interesting to see Tekken not dumb its game down for new players. On one hand, it's great that Tekken 6 remains pure and sticks to its roots, but on the other hand, this aspect of the game will turn away new players who become too frustrated at the game to keep playing.
Thankfully, that only holds true for gamers who want to play Tekken 6 at a competitive level. For those who simply want a fighting game to play against other drunken friends on a Friday night, Tekken 6 gets the job done by giving players easily executable moves that provide decent eye candy.
While Tekken 6 doesn't change much from the previous iterations, it does add a new feature: the rage system. It activates once a character has low enough health to hit the danger zone, where the character and health bar will flash red. In this mode, all moves will deal more damage; it's not as noticeable if players don't use combos, but competitive players know the myriad of death combos that exist just because of this meter. It's a fun addition to the Tekken formula, giving players who have seemingly no chance to win a second wind.
Besides the fighting modes, Tekken 6 also features the scenario campaign mode, which is a rehash of the Tekken Force mode from previous Tekken games. When the player is targeting an opponent, the controls mimic the controls in the standard fighting modes. Otherwise, the controls mimic that of a brawler, giving players free movement. Anyone who has played the previous Tekken Force mode knows that it has subpar gameplay at best. On the bright side, this mode gives players far more items and money to buy items with than arcade or ghost mode, which is enough of an incentive to sit through it on a boring Sunday afternoon.
Online multiplayer is practically unplayable in Tekken 6; even when matches had full, green bars, there was still almost half a second of input delay. Essentially, combos had to be executed with completely different timing and it was almost impossible to react to moves. It's a shame to see other games have such great online options and netcode, such as BlazBlue, yet see the next big 3D fighter fall short. Fortunately, Bandai Namco has announced a patch to improve the game's online component, so time will tell how enjoyable the online multiplayer will come out.
UPDATE: On November 26, 2009, Bandai Namco released the patch that improved the netcode drastically. Matches with four or five bars are no longer unplayable. While it still can't match the fluid netplay in BlazBlue, Tekken 6's netcode is still commendable. Players can easily find others within a reasonable distance and play games for practice. It's no replacement for offline competition, but nothing beats a crack session at 1AM when it's too late to go to someone's house for some games.
Lack of Tutorials
As mentioned, Tekken 6 is one of the most difficult fighting games to come out in 2009. Oddly enough, while Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue both included tools to help players improve, Tekken 6 features nothing of that sort. Thankfully, there are a myriad of online resources to help players learn the basic gameplay system and even techniques that players will need at high level play.These include IAMTEKKEN.COM's series, "Level Up Your Game," featuring Triple Threat champion Michael "MYK" Kwom, Aldrin "TRUE!" Espinosa, and Evolution 2009 Champion Reepal "RIP" Parbhoo. It goes into great detail about the gameplay system all the way from the basics that new players need to specific strategies that even seasoned players will find surprising.
Tekken fans will undoubtedly enjoy this new entrant in the series, which brings back all the gameplay features that fans have come to love. Gamers who don't like fighting games or may have never touched this series before may want to stay away due to the game's high learning curve. While definitely the most beautiful fighting game to hit store shelves this year, Tekken 6's difficulty will surely drive away the uncommitted, but anyone who sticks with this game long enough will find an engaging, deep, and technical fighting game that matches, if not exceeds, Street Fighter IV and BlazBlue.