Thursday, October 30, 2014

Viva Oktober-Fist! Learning to Love Tekken

And goofy haircuts.
It's been nearly twenty years since the Tekken series first debuted in arcades... and it's taken me about that long to find the charm in the franchise. However, after picking up the PSP version of Tekken 6 at a steep discount, I'm determined to squeeze every drop of entertainment out of it that I can.

Some things I've learned from my time with Tekken:

* It doesn't hold a candle to Street Fighter X Tekken, but it looks pretty darned nice for a PSP game, and is more than acceptable on the beefier Vita. The fighters' faces are more detailed than the rest of their bodies, but you don't notice much when the camera's zoomed out. What you do notice are the attractive backgrounds, including a dimly lit backlot with train tracks in the distance and ground zero at a messy tomato festival.

* It's technical, almost to the point of obscenity. I went to Tekken Zaibatsu to look up a moves list for the Jackie Chan-esque Lei Wulong, and it was a daunting fourteen pages long. Seriously, count 'em for yourself! Some attacks are dependent on your position, your opponent's position, your distance from the wall and the other fighter, the current lunar phase... it's complicated, is what I'm saying.

Newcomers to Tekken 6 include Miguel and
the creepy contortionist Zafina.
(image from Modojo)
* The combat system seems like a random jumble at first, but things start to fall into place after a few dozen matches. There's a button assigned to each of your fighter's limbs, which isn't far removed from the two punch and two kick buttons in most Neo-Geo fighting games. Pressing a punch and kick button together throws your opponent, while pressing both kicks (usually) switches stances. You can move around the playfield by double-tapping up or down, and charge toward your opponent by double-tapping toward them. Running sets up some interesting possibilities that weren't available in Virtua Fighter... if you do it from halfway across the screen, you can tackle your rival for minor damage. Do it from a greater distance and you can shoulder check them for a lot more. 

* Never stop attacking. Whether they're on their feet, on their back, or stuck in mid-air, your opponent is always vulnerable, so keep that punishment coming! It may not seem sporting to kick a man (or woman, or panda, or wooden automaton...) while they're down, but unrelenting aggression is a big part of what makes Tekken Tekken.

* I'm a little surprised by how personality-impaired these characters are after playing Street Fighter X Tekken. You get comments before and after every match that offer some insight into each fighter, but the outrageous facial expressions and exciting cinematography from SFxTK are deeply missed. Tekken 6 is too grim for its own good, although there are rare moments when a sense of humor creeps into the gameplay. After all, one of the stages is set in a Swiss pasture, complete with wandering sheep and yodeling!

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