The problem with taking a critical look at any new fighting game is that the experience ultimately boils down to “it’s the best one you’ve played since the last one.” Fighting games are a difficult balancing act. On the one hand any effort to add new elements will be viewed as superfluous at best and an unwelcome distraction, and any new additions have to be implemented with the intent of appealing to newbies without alienating the hardcore fanbase that have been playing the game for years. As a series, Tekken has always strived for the comfortable middle-ground and mostly succeeded.
Most of the sequels usually hit that sweet spot between accessible to the masses but there’s a depth to the system long-time players have come to enjoy. Tekken 6 once again pulls it all off, but hits a few bumps in the road.
Tekken 6 marks a few new steps in the series—it’s the first current-gen iteration, the first time it’s been released on a non-Sony home console, and it’s online out of the box. Based on the most current arcade version of Tekken 6, there are a total of over 40 fighters with six new challengers: Leo, Zafina, Bob, Lars, Miguel, and Alisa. Each fighter meshes well with the existing roster and none of them have rehashed styles. Every character is balanced and has a long list of combos, reversals, and throws for you to master.
In many ways, if you’ve mastered any of the moves from Tekken 3 onwards then chances are you’ll be able to pick up and play with ease. There are more moves and a few slight tweaks to be found, but the core of the game remains the same. It’s still one-on-one, hand-to-hand combat where juggling opponents with combos is a key ingredient for victory.
Matches in Tekken are fast and tend not to last very long. In an effort to extend the matches and give the losing player a chance, Tekken 6 introduces a “rage” system. The player’s energy bar will glow red along with their chosen fighter and they can dish out a little extra speed and damage. In reality it doesn’t change things—and the system kicks in when only a sliver of health remains, much too late for anything to come of it.
While the gameplay remains unchanged, Tekken 6 boasts a slew of extras such as a ridiculous amount of items for you to customize your fighter with. Essentially it’s all window-dressing, but it’s a nice change of pace when you want to give your fighters a different look.
These items can be either won in the new Scenario Mode or bought with any of the money gained from matches in the other modes. There’s the standard Time Attack, Team and Survival modes, but most confusing is the Arcade mode which isn’t set in the traditional mold of watching a prologue and ending after the final boss. To do that you’ll have to play through Scenario Mode until you unlock Arena which is where you can find all the endings.
The popular Ghost Mode returns in which you fight AI based off players and attain money while ranking-up. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the Online Mode which is just what it sounds like. It isn’t awful, but neither is it the cutting edge of wireless pugilism that you’d wish it was. Connection issues diminish the experience with slowdown, and Tekken 6 is a game where one lost second can cost you the match.
Tekken 6 is an attractive package until you factor in Scenario Mode. It seems like the developers didn’t get the hint with the last unpopular beat ‘em up modes Tekken Force and Devil Within. This would be fine if Scenario was an inconsequential addition, something you can play for five minutes and then never have to deal with again—but it isn’t. The problem is you can’t ignore Scenario as it’s easily the most lucrative way of earning cash and items, plus it’s the only way for you to unlock the Arena Mode in order to see the game endings.
It’s a beat ‘em up that goes on for far, far too long and casts the player as Lars as he fights to regain his memory and—oh my, what is going on exactly? Despite all the cutscenes, written dialogue and exposition it’s hard to deduce what’s supposed to be happening and why anybody should care. Jin Kazama starts a war, there’s some gigantic Egyptian fight demon, and Law gets punched in the balls somewhere along the line. It’s crazy.
Unfortunately, none of that zaniness translates into the actual gameplay, it’s just standard brawler fare. You’re funneled through linear stages with enemies hurled at you in droves and the level ends with a boss fight. While it sounds good to have the entire combo list of every Tekken fighter at your disposal, the truth it’s often difficult to get a bead on a particular enemy in the thick of things. The constantly shifting camera angle makes a mess of everything, especially when you’re trying to pull off a certain move but can’t because you weren’t pressing the right directional button due to the angle.
Even with Scenario Mode taking up far too much time and effort, Tekken 6 is a pleasurable gaming experience and the fighting mechanics are as polished as you could hope. Is it better than Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection? Not necessarily, but there’s so much in Tekken 6 it would be hard to complain about a lack of innovation.