Fighting game fans have had quite a few things to be happy about this year. Street Fighter IV, Soulcalibur IV and BlazBlue all found their way to consoles these past several months and each game was very well received. If those fantastic fighters weren't enough for you -- or they just didn't float your boat -- a little game called Tekken 6 might be what you were waiting for. Following in a long line of arcade fighters, Tekken 6 continues the one-on-one, 3D tradition with the franchise's biggest roster yet, and some nice gameplay refinements.
Tournament-level players won't have much to learn, mechanics wise, from this article besides the fact that this is a great game and it works well on consoles. For Tekken newcomers, however, I'll tell you that Tekken 6 -- like its predecessors -- combines a pick-up-and-play mentality with the potential for seriously in-depth strategies and mind games. While Tekken is not for everybody, Tekken 6 should appeal to a fairly wide variety of fighting game fans.
Although the Campaign Scenario story mode might seem like the primary mode in Tekken 6, it's no more than a simple distraction from the real fighting at hand. What's most important here is the offline modes and online multiplayer, which all use the standard Tekken fighting engine in one way or another.
If you're planning on playing Tekken 6 on your own, you'll be able to enjoy the Arcade, Ghost Battles, Time Trial, Survival and Practice modes. The only things here that might be unfamiliar to fighting game fans are the Ghost Battles. This mode is actually one of my favorite elements in the single-player equation, as you're pitted against a steady stream of new AI opponents, or ghosts, that possess different ranks. At the end of the battle, you can use the D-pad to select your next opponent out of a list of three, or you can opt to end the Ghost Battle session. This mode is made even more palatable thanks to the monetary reward you receive after every victory.
You'll be earning some sweet coin for almost everything you do in Tekken 6. The primary use of money is to purchase extra customization items for every character on the roster. For example, earn enough cash and you can buy a sweet new jacket for your favorite fighter. Or perhaps you'll pay more than 1.5 million dollars on a ponytail haircut for Lili (I'm guilty of that one). Being able to constantly earn money for unlocking costumes is a great way to reward players that keep coming back for more.
Character customization is no fun if there isn't some rewarding gameplay to back it up. Fortunately, Tekken 6 has some extremely enjoyable gameplay to sink your teeth into. Once again, there are really only four buttons you need to worry about: one assigned to each limb of your character. With two punches, two kicks and then basic movement, almost anyone can pick up a controller and start mashing away to execute some basic attacks. However, there's a surprisingly deep system underneath the simple interface. Once you begin to study parries, counters, ukemis (falling and/or getting up from being knocked down) juggles, wall hits and more, you'll soon see that Tekken 6 is hardly a button-masher.
One of the first gameplay elements that might tip off a new player to the underlying depth of Tekken 6 is his ability to block from a neutral position. Players do not have to hold "back" on the D-pad in order to block in Tekken, which means you won't have to perpetually move backwards if you're trying to anticipate an oncoming attack. Of course, players must still perform a crouching block to defend against low attacks (the crouching block also helps you avoid high attacks), but this just enhances the amount of options you have for your defensive game.
More depth emerges when you examine the proper way to string combos together, which must be varied enough to prevent your opponent from predicting your next move and responding with a counter or side step. If you do happen to find your character on the ground and vulnerable to a follow-up attack, you'll have to learn the best way to get up. Do you roll to the foreground, background or away from your opponent? Do you get up right away and immediately block and/or crouch block? Or do you try and catch your opponent with a standing kick? Clearly there are subtleties at work here that must be studied.
When it comes to the actual fighters, Lars and Alisa are the newest characters to join the Tekken roster (next to Bob, Leo, Miguel and Zafina, who appeared in the original Tekken 6 arcade version before the updated Bloodline Rebellion arcade machines were available). The fresh faces are respectable additions to the roster -- at the very least in terms of their aesthetics. I really enjoyed playing as Alisa, if only for her ridiculous move set. This move set includes handing her own head to her opponent and waiting for it to explode, as well as using her chainsaw arms, booster wings and rocket-powered feet. If you didn't already know, Alisa is a robot.
Of course, the real bread and butter of Tekken 6, like all fighting games, is the multiplayer, and you'll find plenty of multiplayer action here. Not only do you have the classic one-on-one local matches that you would expect out of a console fighter, but there's also a team battle option to enjoy. This mode allows you and a friend (or the computer, if you're playing alone) to pick out up to eight characters to fight with in a row. This is not a tag team setup, but just another way to enjoy some competitive shenanigans.
When facing another human player, all the strategies of Tekken 6 come to the surface. Trying to read your opponent, interpret his or her attacks and stay on top of your ground game is what makes Tekken 6 enjoyable. To sweeten the deal, Tekken 6 also has some online functionality to take advantage of. Gamers can play in either ranked or unranked matches (and peruse leaderboards) fairly easily. During our play tests of Tekken 6's online stability, I found the game to run just fine once the matches got started.
The real problem comes from the game's load times, which are poor all around. Not only is there a frustrating amount of loading before an online match (while the two players sync up) but there's some unusual loading peppered throughout the entire Tekken 6 experience. Even selecting a fighter off the character select screen takes a fair amount of time, as the character models pop into existence after a hefty delay. This issue is present on both the PS3 and 360 versions, even after the PS3 version's optional install of more than four GB. These awkward load times, while disappointing, are still tolerable and won't spoil Tekken 6. I just wish we could have seen the game perform a little better.
My only other disappointment with Tekken 6, if you could call it a disappointment, is the Campaign Scenario mode. This scrolling brawler really is a distraction at best, as the bland environments, repetitive enemies and the absurd odds stacked against you during boss fights make this mode terribly frustrating. Unfortunately, Campaign Scenario is the absolute best place to earn money and items for character customization. If you're a sucker for new outfits like I am, you'll have a reason to play through this mode.
In Campaign Scenario, you'll follow Lars and Alisa as they attempt to... do something. Honestly, the Tekken storyline makes little sense at this point so don't even try to keep up. All you need to know about Campaign Scenario is that it forces the Tekken combat engine into a classic beat-'em-up format, which doesn't quite work that nicely. I appreciated the ability to cycle between targets with the push of a button, but the entire system just feels clunky, especially when you lock on to an enemy and lose the ability to run around the environment freely and keep yourself out of trouble.
My final frustration with Campaign Scenario comes from dying at a boss fight, as you must restart the entire level over again. You can even be knocked off a ledge on a whim and you have no choice but to die instantly and start over.
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