Tekken 3D Prime Edition was one of the more impressive titles we saw at E3 2011. Though it was strictly in prototype form, the folks Namco and Arika had achieved a solid sixty frames-per-second with 3D fully engaged, a feat even Capcom couldn't accomplish with their 3DS edition of Super Street Fighter IV. Tekken in 3D certainly looked nice, but what sort of game its tech would crawl into remained a mystery.
Tekken 3D's roster is a carbon copy of Tekken 6, with the exception of working Tag 2's younger version of Heihachi into the mix. I have no idea why Namco chose to do that instead of ignoring Kunimitsu's existence yet again, but a dapper Heihachi is nothing to complain about. Forty immediately available characters and the respective move lists are rather impressive, as is the 3DS' interpretation of their current renders. The poly count is obviously lower, but the game looks good and the 3D is quite prominent. Sixty frames a second in 3D is indeed a marvelous technical achievement, and the team deserves praise for reaching that goal.
I just wish they could have bothered to build more around the game. Three modes are present, and Special Survivor seems to be the only mode with moderate thought put in it. Like a normal survival mode, you see how many foes you can take down in a row before running out of health. Winning a battle results in a small boost and winning a battle flawlessly grants Rage mode. Quick Battle, a procession of ten fighters, is closer to your normal Tekken arcade fair, but lacks the wacky/wonderful CG endings that used to serve as an enticing reward. Instead you’re treated to a credit roll.
Versus Battle is theoretically sound until it's formally engaged. To its credit Tekken 3D does have an online infrastructure, albeit one that is severely handicapped. The good news is that most of my matches performed smoothly. I wish my Tekken proficiency hadn't climaxed with Tag over ten years ago, thus leading me to get smoked repeatedly, but speaking purely of technical performance lag wasn't often an issue.
My problem lies with Tekken 3D's assumption that I only want to be one character. When you boot Tekken 3D, you select a main character - a character which sticks with you when you go to battle randoms online. The only way to change your character is to completely quit out of online, go to your profile on the menu, and pick a new character. Local versus play and possibly online play with friends are probably unaffected by this, but it's completely ridiculous for it to even exist. Fighting games are about mastering a bunch of characters and beating the crap out of people, and Tekken 3D's inability to facilitate this fundamentally basic feature in 2012 is crushing.
And that's all. There are 700+ "Tekken Cards" to collect. They all feature a still screen piece of art relating to Tekken's rich history, which is neat, but the incentive to earn them in Survival and Quick Battle is nonexistent and the draw to get more via Street Pass is lost on a majority of us outside of Japan. I was sort of shocked that there was no character costume customization, or silly extraneous modes along the lines of Tekken Ball, Tekken Bowl, or even the usually disappointing Tekken Force.
What we do have is none of the interactive variety and it’s the complete movie Tekken Blood Vengeance rendered in beautiful 3D. The content of the movie is obviously subjective and I've already shared my thoughts on it when I reviewed Tekken Hybrid last fall. I watched it again anyway and the 3D made it bearable, but I was a little disappointed that it was dub only with no Japanese language option. In the latest (and fantastic) Iwata Asks, Katsuhiro Harada explained that attaching Blood Vengeance (and adding quick move combos to the touch screen - which is actually a great feature) was a way to entice newcomers into playing an otherwise intimidating fighting game. He may have been right, but if it’s come at the cost of interactive content then Tekken 3D should be recognized as a way in - and not a path veterans should bother to take.
Another issue is rather subjective but I thought I'd touch on it just in case. When I have to use a controller I usually play Tekken "claw style," which means I use my pointer and index finger to manipulate the face buttons. Acclimating myself to that method in the 3DS's smaller buttons was awkward but not impossible and I did actually get used to it. A potential problem arose when I noticed holding the 3DS that way frequently resulted in it moving outside of the angle required to view the game in 3D, but that's more of a problem inherent to fighters and intense games and less of Tekken 3D's sensibilities. In any case 3D is no longer an option for online play, so it was a concession I didn't mind accepting.