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Tekken (PlayStation) artwork

Tekken (PlayStation) review

"A score of ten out of ten for what is now a rather creaky old playstation game may seem a bit over the top. But I have decided to review this as a classic game. I think that in the fast moving world of videogames, Tekken, which came out in 1996 in the UK, can now be judged by the standards of history and not the standards of the present. In that respect it is still one of the most important and exciting fighting games ever to appear on the original PlayStation. "

A score of ten out of ten for what is now a rather creaky old playstation game may seem a bit over the top. But I have decided to review this as a classic game. I think that in the fast moving world of videogames, Tekken, which came out in 1996 in the UK, can now be judged by the standards of history and not the standards of the present. In that respect it is still one of the most important and exciting fighting games ever to appear on the original PlayStation.

Tekken was one of the first titles to appear on the fledgling console. Along with Wipeout, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy 7, Tekken proved that SONY's new console could not only cover old gaming ground, but also turn many established genres on their heads. Tekken was a real shot in the arm for the 3D fighting game
genre. The super fast 2D fighters produced by Capcom and SNK still ruled the roost as the best fighting experiences around. The Virtua Fighter games had pioneered 3D fighting on the Sega Saturn and in the Arcades, but due to the decline in interest in Segaís output they never had the impact that Tekken later achieved.

What Tekken offered that was so refreshing was the realistic characters and fighting styles of the po-faced Virtua Fighter games, allied to a Streetfighter style of super unblockable type moves and combo heavy gameplay. After mixing these two disparate elements together, Namco (the developers), came up with a fighting game that look realistic and played intuitively, and also had a sense of humour.

The genius was in the control system. One of the four controller buttons were assigned to each limb. This combined with taps, sweeps and holds of the directional pad would allow you to perform very specific moves that felt natural to the way you were pressing the buttons. The number of moves for each character was amazingly good. Although a person new to the game could possibly play well by simply bashing the buttons, extended play by a devotee would reveal the correct blocks, counters and throws to outfox the lesser trained.

The character design is what possibly sets Tekken above all others. Tekken presents us with eight initial characters who have come to take part in the King of Iron Fist Tournament (Tekken). This is run by the head of a multinational corporation called Heihachi Mishima. Kazuya Mishima is the first combatant, he is Heihachi's son whom Heihachi threw over a cliff when he was young, disgusted at his perceived weakness. Kazuya is up for nothing more than revenge. Paul Phoenix is a flamboyant biker in it for the cash and glory as is his mate Bruce Lee look-alike, Marshall Law. Jack is a Russian Robot in the tournament to test his mettle. Michelle Chang is a Native American girl who desires revenge against Heihachi for kidnapping her mother. Yoshimitsu is a robotic ninja, who wishes to donate his cash to the poor. King is a wrestler hoping to get the cash to build an orphanage. Nina Williams is an assassin hired to kill Kazuya.

Taking control of one of the default characters, you then battle through several stages until you reach the characters sub-boss. This boss will be related to the character by the plot line. For example, Kuma is Pauls boos and also his fighting rival. Lee Chaolan is Heihachiís adopted son and anxious to keep Kazuya out fo the picture. And so on. Itís this back story that actual makes the game more compelling to play. The characters whoís story and plight you identify with become all the more enjoyable to learn and master. When you finally reach the end stage you fight Heihachi. Win and each default character gets an FMV ending (fairly crude by todays standards), you also unlock the sub-boss you just beat as a playable character. You can also unlock Heihachi by playing through Arcade mode in fewer than 5 mins without continuing. Finally you can unlock a palette swapped ''Devil Kazuya'' if you score a PERFECT in the Galaga loading screen game you can access when you put the game in for the first time.

The actual fighting is fairly simplistic. Each character fights with recognizable styles and will have weaknesses and strengths related to that system. For example, Law fights using the Jeet Kune Do system. His kicks and punches are lethal and fast, but often his basic attacks are overused by novices and can be predicted, blocked and countered. King is a wrestler, many of his basic kicks and punches are very slow, but his throws come out lethally fast. As throws most effective as counters or on blocking characters he is one to play defensively. The characters in general are well balanced. Fighters such as Paul, Law, Kazuya and Nina offer instant gratification for the new player. More seasoned types will soon discover the pleasure of winning with the underrated, big, slow fighters such as Kuma and Jack.

The graphics again are fairly crude. The models all move very well, but lack the detail of their sequels. The backgrounds are just flat backdrops (nicely painted and all interesting) which scroll round with the characters. There is no dynamic lighting, the characters models are ''gourad'' shaded, which means they have shadows painted onto their rounded smoothed bodies. Later games used polygonal figures and light source shading. The graphics also glitch occasionally, with heads disappearing into bodies when characters are lifted. However, overall the sense of strength and power in the clash of the two fighters is palpable, they grunt, shout, roar and yell in a superbly realistic fashion. The music of Tekken has always been some of my favourite. I can still hum the bouncy stage tunes that reappeared in Tekken 2 and Roger and Alex's theme and Michelle's Theme.

The game is insanely playable even today. You are always finding new tactics and new approaches depending on whom you are fighting against in two-player mode. Although it lacks the defensive parries and reversals of the later games, there is still much tactical play to be had. Ground attacks, juggles, smacking up floored opponents. As everyone's fighting approach is different, you'll need to be constantly changing and refining your skills with the characters to stop yourself become predictable.

The bottom line is basically this. If you are still looking for a top class fighter for the PSX then go for Tekken 2 or 3. Both offer a radical overhaul and improvement of the basic plan lay down by Tekken. However if you have both of those games and maybe want to own abit of gaming history then I would advise you to complete your Tekken collection as soon as you can. If only to marvel at how the series has evolved and how it showed that fighting games could be realistic and insane. Not one or the other.

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Community review by falsehead (March 08, 2004)

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