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Tekken | 5 | review | game | Lollipop
(Namco for the PS2)
by Eric Chon
There was a time when a certain game so consumed me that I nearly failed out of school. Every lunch found me at the university game room with a stack of quarters and frenzy in my eyes. Tekken 3 had me heart, mind, and soul. It was more than a game, really. There was something there that drew not only myself to its dark digital designs, but a fair group of others as well.
Tekken itself meant something to me. It sounds extremely geeky to say that a video game had an impact, but it's true. Our devotion to the game and its complex inner workings was a sickness, and we all fell victim. We whispered and wondered where the game could go. How much better could it actually get?
It seemed as if the answer was "it couldn't." Tekken 4 was a huge disappointment and Namco's new rising star, Soul Calibur, was getting the star treatment. Constrictive arenas, gimmicky tactics, and a "me too" aping of Virtua Fighter 3 marred this great series and our collective interests waned. My friends and I moved onto bigger and better things. Apparently, Namco took notice and did something about it.
Like the prodigal son, Tekken returns home after an interesting but flawed foray into fighting folly. Lessons were learned, experience was gained, and what is before our eyes is nothing less than the greatest 3D fighter poised to reclaim the crown. Anyone who gets in the way better prepare for punishment.
Tekken 5 is a showstopper of a game. It's the best-looking PS2 game on the block, and it knows it. Backgrounds are rendered with aplomb, and the environmental effects are intense. Scenes range from a desolate wasteland befitting a demon's playground to a serene, dream-like field of ghostly wheat, to a platform on some futuristic space station. They're filled with life and energy, giving you the perfect backdrop to deliver the beatdown of a lifetime.
But the real stars are, of course, the characters. And they really steal the scene. Every costume and feature has been painstakingly rendered, from scowls to laughs of derision to flowing robes and dangling chains. Movement flows like water: It can be fluid like a river or crash like a tidal wave! Every gut-wrenching slam and kick resonates. Each crunch of bone and grunt of pain is so real you'll cringe. This is visceral stuff, and there isn't a game that can match it.
None of this would matter if the gameplay was crap, and here is where Tekken 5 shines. Responsiveness in the game is instantaneous. Punches and kicks are crisp and control is complete and total. Reversals, chickens (reversal reversals), grabs, and power attacks were never easier to execute, and a match can be over in an instant with dozens of moves executed. Also present are Tekken's famed and spectacular juggle-combos. Often the highlight of a match, juggles are deadlier and more impressive than ever. There's nothing quite like catching your opponent off-guard and launching them into the air to deal some death!
Gone is the mish-mash of techno/electronica crap that has plagued the series. In its place is a soundtrack worthy of such a monster of a game: Hard-driving riffs, bass-heavy beats, and a variety of tunes help get the blood flowing and the fingers mashing.
But in the end, it's the multiplayer you'll constantly return to. A somewhat lackluster AI mars an otherwise entertaining single-player and arcade mode, and playing dress-up with your favorite muscle-bound bad-ass seems a bit off to me. Which makes me pretty pissed that they failed to include an online option. It's not always easy to find other players to go against (my friends now refuse to play as I constantly wipe the floor with them). An online mode would've been fantastic! And if both Street Fighter and Dead or Alive can do it, I think Namco could've easily put it in.
But what the fuck!?! Namco delivered the goods with Tekken 5 and brought a smile to this veteran's face. The King of Iron Fist is back and all you motherfuckers better beware!