Heihachi Mishima is dead! Or is heÖ?
Tekken 5 contains a valuable history lesson from Tekkenís decade long presence in the video game world: The complete arcade versions of Tekken 1, 2, and 3. These older games let everyone see just how far the series has evolved and improvedÖ and how much it hasnít. Tekken 5 doesnít take a huge leap for moving the series forward but what it does do is give you the best King of Iron Fist experience yet.
The graphics have been redone from the ground up. The fighters look better than ever and have some new moves and combos. The stages also look great and slightly improve the interactive elements that Tekken 4 started. Every time a fighter takes a hard fall to the ground, it crumbles or the glass floor or ice cracks (depending on the stage) from the impact. But, every time this happens, the previous hole in the ground disappears when a new one is made. So much for making the interaction really stand out. At least the statues and walls that crumble seem to stay that way. There is something to be said about variety and the stages themselves have a huge range. There are rooftops, a flowered garden, a gangland alley, a church, a field thatís reminiscent of the final battle of Metal Gear Solid 3, Antarctica, and even a space station with Pac-Man banners. The arctic stage even has penguins that will attempt to get in on the fight if you get too close to them.
The fighting mechanics are as good as theyíve ever been. Tekken 5 remains accessible and rewarding to anyone who can button mash a controller, but an experienced Tekken player has even greater payoffs in the form of painful and sweet looking moves and combos. Unfortunately, the Tekken glitch, suffered since Tekken 3, of jump kicking your way to success against the computer still remains. I figured that would have finally been taken care of, but it hasnít. I was also hoping for fuller movement of the fighters and not the baby steps theyíve always taken. Regardless, the game is fun and easy to get into for new blood, but better if you really know what you are doing.
Tekken 5 ďborrowsĒ a couple things from Virtua Fighter 4. Well, let me rephrase that. Tekken 5 blatantly steals a couple ideas that gave Virtua Fighter 4 such lasting power. The tournament Kumite mode in VF4 is called plain Arcade mode here. Here you fight other computer controlled player opponents to move up in the world. Work your chosen character up through kyu ranking through dan and eventually to master. This mode would take an exorbitant amount of time if you chose to do this with every character. I stuck with one character and started a second that I may never finish up. Until Iím old and gray or win the lottery, Iíll never have enough time to make everyone a King of the Iron Fist.
Three new fighters fill in the amazing thirty-two playable character roster. I initially thought that two of the characters would be nothing special and just be cardboard cutouts of other fighters from past games and that the third would just be a Blade rip-off. Well, Iím glad I was wrong. Feng Wei is an excellent addition with his Chinese Kenpo art and ďI going to beat the hell out of everybodyĒ attitude. I thought Asuka Kazama would just be the new Jun Kazama, but she has plenty of her own moves, style, and a hilarious ending featuring Jin. Raven really is a lot like Blade, but has an awesome Ninjitsu fighting style and looks especially cool dressed in his full ninja garb that looks like a cross between Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden and Hotsuma from Shinobi, but with a flair all its own.
Again, all the other characters have updated and newer trend-setting costumes. I thought Yoshimitsu looked cool in Tekken 4, but his new looks just blow everything away. To complement the appearance of the fighters, Namco also "borrowed" Virtua Fighter 4ís character accessorizing. With the money earned from the various game modes you can buy new costumes and accessories for nearly every character. There are normal accessories like sunglasses, swords, jewelry, and gauntlets to name but a few. Tekken has never taken itself too seriously since the introduction of Roger the Kangaroo, Alex the raptor, and the bears in Tekken 2, so there are also tons of humorous and damn hilarious items. For example, there is a metro-sexual hairstyle for Jin, an Elvis style for Kazuya, bunny slippers for Panda, and mushrooms for Yoshimitsu. You can also change the colors of every characterís outfit, which is something youíll immediately want to do with Ninaís urine-colored jumpsuit. The only character you canít customize is the living tree stump, Mokujin. This is an unfortunate thing because items for him could have been comic gold.
The mini game this time is a 3-D action/adventure starring Jin Kazama called Devil Within. Devil Within is a huge improvement over the atrocious Tekken Force from Tekken 4, but it isnít all that great or exciting. The textures of the stages are very bland and are endlessly repeated, as are the countless JACKs and random cyborgs that Jin encounters. The controls have been extremely simplified, only giving a punch, kick, jump and block options. The game contains some simple puzzles and bosses, but on the whole is a big fat bore. I enjoyed learning more about Jin but I would have liked a mini game that included all the characters like the ultimate Tekken Bowl. The only reason to play through is to get tons of cash for buying items for your favorite fighters.
Story plays a more prevalent role than in previous games. Whereas other Tekkens had only the endings for you to watch, Tekken 5 has an intro, a middle where your chosen character talks with another fighter, and the ending. Some characters also have two or three story related conversations during the fights. The stories and endings follow tradition with their range of serious to hilarious. Namco has once again outdone themselves with the endings and the new intro movie. The intro movie is some of the best Tekken-based CG youíll see and, like all their other openings, is a joy to watch over and over. The disc also contains extra movies shown at various game shows that show a little of the progress that the game made.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, Tekken 5 also includes the arcade versions of Tekken 1, 2, and 3. Since these are the arcade versions you canít save anything, but you donít really need to because all of the characters are already available. I canít believe I was ever impressed by the graphics of these games. Tekken 1 and 2 look muddy and blocky now. Tekken 3, while much better visually, appears all jaggy with its seemingly incomplete textures. Ah, Iíve been spoiled by better game technology. For gamers that were just introduced to the series with Tekken 5 or the unremarkable Tekken 4, these games are a terrific history lesson of the roots of this grandiose fighting series. Those of us that are already Tekken aficionados will undoubtedly have the old PS One versions of the games, but itís nice to see that Namco cares about its fans and gives them the most fighting action available in one place.
If I was reviewing just Tekken 5 and its blah mini game, my score would be slightly lower. However, we need to recognize just how much Namco loves us with the addition of the four (oh, did I not mention the inclusion Namcoís awesome arcade shooter Star Blade?) extra games. Therefore I bump my score to a 9. Tekken 5 doesnít do a whole lot that is new, but what it does do is pure, glorious Tekken, and it does it better than any game before it. I feel like Iíve fallen in love with Tekken all over again.
Those that pre-ordered Tekken 5 received a cool art book. The art book not only contains art and renders from Tekken 5, but also from every previous installment of Tekken. I know there is a lot of art that's not in the book, but having items from across the whole Tekken span in one book is pretty nice.
Score for The Art of Tekken book: 7.5
There was also a super-duper premium package that included a collector's art box which held all the Tekken games in one convenient case and an arcade style Tekken 5 joystick. I'm not one for joysticks so I took a pass on this. Plus, the case only held the Tekken discs. What were you supposed to do with all the actual game cases if you put all the games in the art box?