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Series Retrospective: Tekken

posted on November 9th, 2006 by christian

To wrap up, I give you some follow up impressions of Tekken 5. While this series has stumbled behind in the combat department, it has definitely tried to (slowly) improve over the years. 3 added the sidestep, Tag had, well, tagging, and 4 failed to bring the series into legitimate 3d combat (but at least it tried). 5 is where everything seems to come together. The Dial-a-Combo hasn’t vanished, but it’s less important now. Moves can be chained together with a bit more freedom than before, and it seems that Soul Calibur’s 8-way run combat style is starting to rub off as well. It feels quite good to have you and your opponent begin to circle around each other, waiting for an opening, and then rushing at each other to see who can land a devastating combo. That is, unless it is blocked our countered. If you actually know some of the moves and understand the timing, the game becomes much less stiff and awkward, and really begins to have the flow and feel of a real fight.

I fought Law and…Law won. I fought Law and…Law won.

The fancy production values are still there (more companies need to follow Namco by putting this kind of effort into Story Mode), the brutal moves and exploding concrete haven’t gone away, but it seems that all the excitement and the fury is starting to come together with a quality combat engine. It might have taken six games, but Namco may finally be reaching the true potential of the series. Guess all that experimentation on Soul Calibur was a success.

Still, I’m not completely pleased at the general reaction Tekken gets to this day. It’s a golden boy, one that gets considerable praise even when it falls a bit flat (like in Tekken 4). When King of Fighters uses the same cast members for all of its games, then the series is “getting stale.” For Tekken, it is a chance to see your “favorite characters in action again.” When Street Fighter 3 went for a slower and simpler style it was apparently a step back from the ridiculous super combos of the Alpha games. When Tekken 5 aimed to be closer to the third game than the fourth, reviewers praised it for going “back to the basics,” because apparently that worked better. KOF2006 throws a ton of 2d conventions into 3d, but apparently it’s too outdated (and somehow reminiscent of Bloody Roar). Tekken’s evolution has been slow as molasses, but no one ever calls Namco out on it. There seems to be a double standard when judging fighting games, and I wish that more reviewers would give everything a fair shake.

And speaking of Soul Calibur, I’m a little worried about it. Whereas Tekken seems to be borrowing the best parts from its cousin, Soul Calibur seems to be trying to bring in more and more Tekken style flashiness. In theory this should work, but Soul Calibur is a bit special. It is already close enough to being “Medieval Tekken” with many of its doppelganger characters, and the combat was close to perfect. It was a shame to see it tarnished when SC2 began to throw out balance when it decided to beef up the most popular fighters and leave the rest for dead. Now I see SC3 with even crazier pyrotechnics and neon green outfits for Yunsung.

Tekken needed Soul Calibur’s guts, but it doesn’t quite work the same way with aesthetics, not when one game is historical fiction and the other takes place in the anime injected modern world. If you want to bring Soul Calibur to a wider audience, just show it to more people. We don’t need to see Mitsurugi launch lightning fused attacks at an Irish bar fighter on the roof of the Taj Mahal while British Colonials cheer on with demon skeletons.

Actually, that might be kind of cool. Don’t get any ideas now Namco.

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