Tekken 6

A music critic once told me never to compare one album or sound to another — it’s lazy writing.

Well, you should not play Tekken 6 when games like Street Fighter IV and Soulcalibur IV (and a host of other fighters released this past year) exist.

Tekken has a long and storied history. The third installment of the series remains one of the greatest Playstation fighters ever, viewed as such by both critics and players. Starting in 1994 and releasing eight games since then, the series is loved by many for the “technical” skill required to play — unlike games like Mortal Kombat that rely on special moves.

A “beat ’em up”-style mini-game was introduced in Tekken 3. This feature persists in 6 as a “Scenario Campaign” (translation mix-up much?) mode. This mode is awful. From a third person perspective, you take the role of someone who is trying to do something. What it is is really inconsequential. Reminiscent of Resident Evil — games in which there are familiar faces and similar plots — yet the plot is so convoluted and winding that it speeds past distracting and takes the next exit into mind-boggling. Furthermore, the mode itself is not fun. Movement is clunky, as you’ll go from “moving” stance to “fighting” stance whenever an enemy appears. Also, while there is merit in actually performing attacks, button mashing seemed to work for me under most circumstances. Waves of enemies — who outnumber you at every turn — abound, boss fights can kill you very easily, and a throw-away plot line makes this mode seem very tacked on.

But you didn’t get the game for the story mode. And the actual fighting in Tekken 6 is enjoyable. Like all good fighters, there is a pick-up-and-play aspect to the game that then leads to a desire to learn a much higher degree of strategy. With only four buttons to worry about (the face buttons, which correlate to left/right punches and kicks), it’s easy to start performing moves. But where I ran into trouble was actually learning combos. Some of the moves in Tekken 6 look like this: X, A, B, A, Y, Down, X. Compare to a game like Street Fighter, where a quarter circle forward punch does something with 50% of the characters in the game. Such controls make it much easier to execute moves that you want to universally without having to memorize lengthy command strings.

And yet pulling off a combo (whether unintentionally or not) is very rewarding with each one looking as if they were choreographed from a martial arts film. And getting into parries, counters, and recoveries adds a lot of depth to the strategy of the game.

What’s a fighter sequel without a deep character roster? With 42 fighters from the history of the game , including multiple versions of a few staples, there’s a lot to choose from. But to those new to the series, a lot of these characters’ faces seem to run together. Adding to the dizzying roster is a list of available upgrades to customize your favorite characters. If you need a new piece of clothing for your favorite fighter, you’ll have more incentive to play the campaign mode, as there’s money to be made there.

Graphically, fights look gorgeous with lush backgrounds and fluid fighter animations. And it should, as loading times can be an annoyance. There was also some lag with online play, but it was nothing game-breaking.

But as a whole, I was left wanting more with Tekken 6. Ever the competitive tournament staple, the series begs to be played for hours and hours, honing your skills and mastering counters and parries. If you’re a Tekken fan and this is the fighter that you’ll buy, then you’ll be satisfied. But with games like BlazBlue, Street Fighter IV, Soul Caliber IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on Xbox Live, and a host of others, we are in a true renaissance of 2D or quasi-2D fighting titles. If you’re in your local game store and looking for a fighter to scratch that itch, I can’t recommend that you pick up Tekken 6 over any other fighter with so many strong contenders to choose from.

RATING 6 / 10