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. Tekken 6 makes an appearance on the PSP this time, and features a staggering 42 fighters, dynamic arenas, and a variety of different fight modes. 
The Pitch

Playstation’s flagship fighting game goes handheld.

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. 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 PSP version is, for all intents and purposes, an identical fighting game to the PS3 and 360 versions, with one minor exception: there’s no campaign mode. Since the campaign mode was embarassing at best, this shouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking up the game. The visuals rival some of the best on the PSP, and since the sounds, presentation, and music match what we saw on consoles, it’s a viable alternative for fighting fans who pine for portable pandas. Ad-hoc multiplayer battles take the place of the consoles’ meaty online component.

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

Tekken 6 on the PSP does have its fair share of problems. As with the 360 version, you’ll see a lot of load screens unless you (wisely) choose to install the game. The environments are colorful and diverse, but they’re built with some rough textures and suffer from a lack of detail. Additionally, since it’s an identical across all platforms, owners of the console versions won’t have many reasons to pick this up outside of portability.

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