PLATFORM: 360, PS3, PSP – Reviewed on the 360

So, the Tekken franchise. Robots, bears, skeletons, demons, animated wooden training golems, and goofy CG cinematics ensure that when you’re playing a Tekken game, you’re absolutely sure you’re playing a Tekken game.

Tekken 6 doesn’t alter this trend. Originally a Playstation exclusive, Tekken 6 makes appearances on not only the PS3 and PSP, but also (scandalously!) the 360, and features a staggering 42 fighters, dynamic arenas, and a variety of fight modes. In addition, there’s a single player brawler campaign, online battles, and a detailed customization system. 
The Pitch

Playstation’s flagship fighting game finally steps into the HD arena.

Jack gets offed

The Play

After a four year hiatus, the Tekken franchise is finally back. With a small army of characters and a byzantine “plot” that might give the Metal Gear series a run for its money, Tekken 6 is easily the biggest, deepest, and possibly the weirdest of all the Tekkens. Schoolgirl cyborgs with detachable heads and morbidly obese American brawlers round out the list of already colorful fighters, most of whom will be familiar to fans of the series. Faces like Marshall Law, Yoshimitsu, King, Hwoarang, and the Devils-Tower-Haired Paul Phoenix all make appearances, and come equipped with an array of old and new attacks.

While it’s by no means a completely fresh experience, Tekken 6 isn’t just a superficial upgrade, either. There’s a customizable “Rage” system that significantly boosts fighter power when vitality is low, allowing for more frequent comebacks. There’s also the new “bound” system, which can link different combos together by forcing your opponent to rebound from the ground after an attack. These new additions mesh well with the existing formula, providing a combat system that’s intuitive, strategic, and fun to explore. Furious button mashers will occasionally enjoy some massive damage output, but they’ll always lose to the more thoughtful player; there’s a definite science to the application of counters, takedowns, attacks, and combos in Tekken 6’s fight system. Unsurprisingly, it’s the best looking Tekken to date, with some outstanding character models and some nice effects. The action is just as frenetic and zany as you’d expect from a Tekken game.

CHUDTIP: defeat enemies by punching or kicking them until they fall down.

The arcade mode delivers exactly what you’d expect, featuring a series of battles punctuated by a few special boss encounters. Of note is mid-game boss NANCY-MI847J, a three-story-tall war bot with fangs and a missile launcher. If you can’t be persuaded to stop following the nonsensical Tekken storyline, you’ll want to check out the single player brawler campaign. It’s much more fleshed out than the old Tekken Force mode, but it’s still really painful to play through. Completists will be rewarded for slogging through the brawls and endless cinematics, but it holds little value for anybody else. There’s also a versatile training dummy mode, and a new “ghost” arcade mode that features endless waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Winning matches, whether in arcade, ghost, or campaign mode, nets the player cash which can be spent customizing characters in various different ways.

The most exciting new additions to the franchise are, of course, the online modes, and they’re easily the game’s biggest asset. Early reviews complained about buggy netcode and matchmaking problems, but after a recent update, online play works just as it should. Both ranked and quick battles ran lag-free, and although it often took a minute or two to find a match, there weren’t any serious problems. Aside from one-on-one fights, there’s a team battle mode that allows players to pick from up to eight characters to fight in an extended series.

SHOCK: This Japanese fighting game features girls wearing short skirts.

Tekken 6 does have its fair share of problems. On the 360, prepare to watch a LOT of loading screens. [Edit: the optional 7GB install may fix this.] The PS3 version allows for an optional 4GB install that might relieve some of this grief. It’s not a game that’s hard on the eyes, but at a native resolution of only 576p on consoles, it won’t make your jaw drop. The environments are colorful and diverse, but they’re built with some rough textures and suffer from a lack of detail.

There’s an inherent risk of overlap when creating such an enormous roster. Plenty of characters stand out amidst the gimmicky robogirls, panda bears, and kangaroos, but at 42 fighters, there’s the gnawing sense that the roster is spread a little too thin. And here’s a complaint that’s par for the course as far as Japanese fighters go: prepare to face a few really cheap boss characters. The arcade mode culminates with a boss fight so insanely cheap that if you’re playing with the wrong character, you’ll likely quit out of frustration. Azazel, a towering crystal bird with an unblockable laser attack, will kill you. Repeatedly.

Fortunately, these problems are mostly superficial, so Tekken junkies will probably have a blast with this. If you’re already worn out on Street Fighter IV and are looking for another fix, Tekken’s deep combat and various play modes won’t disappoint.

The Replay

There’s tons of replay value here, especially online. Ferreting out your favorite counterattacks and combos for the various fighters will take time, as will honing your skills against the sharp (albiet sometimes cheap) AI. If you like the genre, you’ll be spending a lot of time with this. Tinkering with customizable outfits and hairstyles will appeal to the deranged and obsessive.
The Verdict

Tekken 6 is a huge, deep, very Japanese fighter populated with bizarre characters. It’s also one of the best Tekkens yet.

8 out of 10

Namco sweetens the deal with the promise of some Tekken Nuggets