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Tekken 6
Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 (Online)
Genre: Adventure/ Fighting/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
It's that time again; time for the King of Iron Fist tournament, as Namco/Bandai's Tekken 6 hits the ground rolling. The graphics have been tweaked from Tekken 5, making this the most beautiful installment in the series yet, with dynamic lighting features such as sun-shaft, glare and flare, along with depth of field effects and new shading systems that heighten the sense of realism.

Afraid you'll be lost? Missed the first 5 Tekken games, while you were building your dream house under a rock somewhere? Don't worry about it; there are a series of black and white animated "summary" videos that will bring you up to speed quickly when you start to play the Scenario Mode. Well, I say quickly. If you're familiar with the story to date, you can skip past the various chapters, if you feel so inclined. If not, you might want to set aside about thirty minutes, because it takes a while to watch all of the backstory and then fight through the first few fights of the Scenario Mode so that you can save your game. (I learned that the hard way.)

Tekken 6 has more characters than any of the previous Tekken games, including 34 familiar characters from the series, along with 6 new playable characters: Lars Alexandersson, Alisa Bosconovich, Bob, Miguel Caballero Rojo, Leo and Zafina. Lars Alexandersson is (secretly) a descendant of Heihachi Mishima and is the main character of the Scenario storyline. Actually, this is a bit strange, as the Scenario mode allows you to change characters once you've gotten through a couple of fights, yet the pre-rendered cut-scenes still will feature Lars Alexandersson, while the cutscenes that use in-game graphics will feature the character you've selected, complete with whatever costume customizations you've done. Alisa Bosconovitch is a female robot in the image of a Dr. Bosconovitch's daughter, and she features jets that spring out of her back to assist her moves, as well as arms and legs that can detach and shoot off as projectiles, chainsaws that spring out of her arms and a detachable head that will explode when she hands it to an unsuspecting opponent. Lars encounters Alisa early on in the Scenario mode and she accompanies him on his quest, her A.I. improving as she gains experience by fighting.

My favorite new character is Bob. According to his background story, Bob began as an America martial arts genius, but no matter how much he practiced and how he perfected his martial arts, he was simply overpowered by heavier opponents. His solution? He goes into seclusion, practices a strict regimen of diet and exercise and develops his own type of martial arts to accompany his newly retrained and redesigned body. His efforts result in him gaining a lot of mass and power, while retaining his speed. He is, however, no longer handsome. He doesn't care for this, but instead remains obsessed with achieving a perfect balance between speed, agility and power. Well, that's what the story says, anyway. It's a bit odd that all of his moves are named after food items, however. So, as far as appearance, Bob seems more like a "token" fat character.

Leo is a rather strange character. Leo has a very androgynous appearance and is always referred to in the game simply as "Leo." So, no, not anywhere in the game do you get even a pronoun to help answer any gender questions you might have about Leo. Leo is, well, Leo, and you can speculate all you like, but Tekken 6 isn't going to help you out.

Zafina is amazingly flexible, looking like she must have taken years of belly dancing and, perhaps, contortionist training prior to learning martial arts. Her moves can be unexpected, making her an interesting character to play, but she can be a bit, um, distracting as an opponent. You have been warned.

Miguel Caballero Rojo simply sort of leaves me cold. He's basically a snot-nosed brat from Spain who has lots of problems with authority figures and ends up living in a bar at the age of 15, harboring an unnatural attachment to his sister that leads him to want to kill her fiance. He resists this temptation, but when his sister is killed in an attack on the church by the Mishima Zaibatsu, he vows to take revenge on Jin Kazama, its CEO, for her death.

In addition, there are a couple of large (read, "LARGE") non-playable characters serving as major bosses in the game. These characters are so large that you're basically fighting their legs, so you'll need to work them over without taking much damage, if you want to last long enough to whittle them down to something more manageable.

As for the familiar faces that have returned, you'll notice a little bit of spit and polish, with more detailed models, as well as some new costumes, to keep things fresh. I especially liked the Panda (an alternate costume for Kuma) and the new models for Yoshimitsu.

The music in Tekken 6 is pretty much typical for the Tekken series: sometimes fast-tempoed, often brassy and always ambient. It just sort of sits there in the background and keeps your television from simply having grunts, screams and impact sounds. You'll have to go out of your way to notice it and it's not going to be something you hum on your daily drive to work, but it's not going to grate on your nerves, either, so no complaints here.

While most fans of Tekken games are looking for the multiplayer modes, either in the same room or over the Internet, there is a single player "Scenario" Mode that follows a storyline which leads from one fight to another. This storyline is not the most in-depth or well written, but it does serve as a line to connect the string of fights into a somewhat coherent stream of events. Each playable character acts as a "boss" at the end of the locations in "Scenario" Mode and beating them makes them playable in the Scenario Mode. As you fight your way through the Scenario fights, you want to watch for little treasure chests that are dropped when you defeat a foe. These are "pickup" items - costume pieces with enhancements to various attributes. You can use up to five of these modifiers to do anything from tacking on additional damage with every hit to increasing the amount of fight money earned or even increasing the frequency of item drops in the Scenario Mode. These items can be equipped and used in multiplayer games (including online matches), so you'll want to collect these vigilantly. Also, these items are only available to the character that picked them up, so if you play with a few characters, you'll want to run through some of the Scenario mode with each of them.

The main thrust of Tekken 6, of course, is the versus action, be it Arcade Mode played locally with one or two players, or Online Mode's Ranked and Player Matches. Those who play online are familiar with these terms, most likely, but Ranked Matches are online matches whose outcome will affect your online ranking, while Player Matches are online matches which will not affect your ranking, win or lose. My experiences online were generally favorable. It was rare that I was matched against someone who was completely out of my league (either better or worse), although this did seem to happen on a couple of occasions. Also, there were times when a game would fail to finish "synching" and would drop out before the match began. However, once the match actually started, I don't think any matches dropped out on me.

There are quite a few factors that affect difficulty in Tekken 6. Due to this fact, things will occasionally get frustrating, when you think that something should be easier than it is. However, if you're willing to jump to another mode adjust your equipped items or switch characters, you should find that there is some way to find less frustrating gameplay in the game.

If you find that you are having a hard time using a certain character, you can access a list of the character's moves (and how to execute them) from the Pause menu. If you need more than just these hints, you can jump into the Practice Mode and work the kinks out. Even playing online isn't too frustrating, since the matchmaking service matches you up with players with about the same skill as you.

If you're looking for more challenge, you can try the Survival Mode, where you are tested to see how many opponents you can dispatch before your health runs out. Again, online fights are a good option here, as well, as long as you're playing when other skilled players are playing.

Another option is, of course, to play against friends. You can choose a specific player to play against and invite them to play against you. As for the difficulty, here, it depends on which friend you invite and whether they will really let you test something out without hitting you or not.

Game Mechanics:
Tekken 6 has a fairly firm foundation to build on and the developers were smart enough not to "rock the boat" much. However, the people I've talked to seem to respond to the introduction of Bob in the same way... "What happened to balance?" Bob is both powerful and fast, and that paradox is pivotal to his character's background, but is that enough to justify this dual nature? While he is fast and powerful (in the same character), a closer look reveals that he's not really both at the same time. He has some moves that are really powerful, but not so fast, and other moves that are really fast, but not as powerful. This makes Bob a well-rounded character (pun intended), but not necessarily unbalanced.

There are some issues with Tekken 6 that bear mentioning. The load times were... annoying. I had recently suffered through the horrid load times on Band Hero on the PS2, so I may have been a bit aggravated to begin with, but it really helped to accentuate how unacceptable long load times such as these were on the most recent consoles. Mind you, there is an Install option, and when I did that, the load times improved quite a bit, bringing them back into the realm of acceptable for the latest generation of consoles, but still not "speedy" by any stretch of the imagination.

Also, the boss battles were tough. Not just a little tough, but tough enough that you'll really need to get very familiar with your character of choice and upgrade them with items from Scenario Mode to have a better chance of beating the end bosses. This puts more importance than the series traditionally has on the Scenario Mode, rather than the Arcade Mode. This is a shift in the approach to making a Tekken game. This is likely to alienate fans of the series and, for that matter, the Scenario Mode really isn't the strongest aspect of the game, so the emphasis would have been better placed on the Arcade Mode.

These comments aside, Tekken 6 is just as fun to play as Tekken 5 was, but the graphics are better, the storyline has been developed more and there are new playable characters to keep things interesting, as well. If you are into fighting games, Tekken 6 is definitely worth adding to your collection. I do wish, however, that a Tekken game would be released that supported DLC and offered additional characters, clothing changes and stages for download. In the meantime, call me Bob, but don't call me late for dinner.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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