Namco's popular Tekken series returned to the PSP late last month with Tekken 6. A couple of weeks earlier, Tekken 6 was released on the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and our resident Tek-head Eric Layman was impressed. Normally when you think of console to handheld ports, you expect a lot of missing content and other short cuts, but I'm pleased to say Tekken 6 on the PSP is a full featured fighter that is well worth your consideration.
Enter the Tournament
Tekken is an interesting series on many levels. Historically it's always had some of the weirdest characters (and some of the coolest) in any fighting game, and not surprisingly that hasn't changed with Tekken 6. The gameplay design that focuses on realistic movements for its characters is unchanged as well, so you won't find any fireballs or teleportation special moves here. If you're unfamiliar with the Tekken series, think of it as more of a Virtua Fighter than Street Fighter.
Tekken 6 features forty characters that are all available to play from the get-go. Eighteen stages, multiplayer support, character customization, unlockables, and a variety of modes make for a very well rounded and deep PSP game -- not unlike Namco's Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny that we reviewed earlier this year. Tekken 6 has a Data Install option that Broken Destiny had as well. It's a great idea to do this one time install. 380MB of data will be put onto your memory card, in this fifteen process. After that, load times are drastically reduced and that really makes sense for a portable title. Better still, it reduces UMD access which saves time, naturally, and battery power too. After the Data Install, load times are honestly near arcade level -- I'm talking just a few seconds from player select to Round 1, Fight!," and that impressed me.
Rather than rattle off the entire list of playable characters, I'll point you to a the character index on the official
Tekken site. Expect many of the stalwarts of the series, including Heihachi, Jin, Lei, Nina (who had her own spin off
game on the PS2, Death By Degrees), and King (as well as many others). My favorite character, Martial Law, makes a return as well. The new characters include Bob, the nimble but obese fighter that reminds of Rufus from SFIV. There's also Leo, Jack-6, Miguel, and Zafina, and Lars and Alisa from the Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion arcade. I'm not a Tek-head enough to be familiar with most of these characters, but there's at least one character here for everyone. You've got your sumo wrestler in Ganryu, cyborg dude in Jack-6, a load of typical Japanese male and female fighters, and even a bear and kangroo in Kuma and Roger Jr, respectively. During your profile creation at the start of the game, you can choose one character to default to, so that no matter what mode you select, your fav will already be highlighted (but not selected until you do so).
After profile creation, you're ready to dive into the action. Players begin at a Beginner rank, but within a couple of hours you can bust through the Kyu rankings and into the Dan ("black belt") ranks, which reminded me a lot of how Virtua Fighter 5 does things. Players also start with zero coins, or Fight Money as it's known in Tekken. Fight Money is earned in Arcade mode by winning battles, and by quick roulette games that pop up after said battles. Fight Money is used to purchase unlockable goodies like alternate costumes and a large variety of accessories -- everything from hats to chest scars to a new hairstyle. Cool stuff.
Arcade is much like you would expect -- you select a character, battle other random CPU controlled characters one at a time, using any of your unlimited continues along the way, until you face the final two boss characters. I played Tekken 6 on Medium difficulty and like most fighting games, the first three or four matches in Arcade mode are generally pretty easy but the difficulty quickly ramps up around the fourth character. You'll have an idea of what you're in for by looking at the opposing characters' rank during the load screen. Still, with some practice, it shouldn't take very long (less than a half hour) to get and through the final boss, Azazel. You earn rank and Fight Money during Arcade, but to get an actual ending for your character of choice, you need to play the Story Mode.
Story Mode is a great way to get to know each character if Practice mode is a little too boring for you. In Story, you'll
get an opening cutscene to describe your character's situation going into this iteration of the Iron First Tournament.
Four random battles later, you'll get an ending cutscene that sums it up. I noticed that the difficulty shot up dramatically for the fourth battle. I suppose that's too be expected though, but things felt a little unbalanced in that it took me about five minutes to get the fourth battle, and then another fifteen to finish things off. Fortunately load times are so smooth that it takes just a couple of seconds to get another crack at it, which can make all the difference when you're struggling.
A third mode is Ghost Battle, where you combat randomly generated characters one after another. It's a great way
to earn Fight Money and rank up. I also like the sheer randomness of the battles. Not to keep comparing the two, but this is a similar feature to Virtua Fighter 5 that I really enjoyed. After each battle, you can quickly choose, with the d-pad, between three different Ghost characters to fight next. You'll see their character avatar and rank to help you decide. If you don't choose quickly, the game will just choose for you. This is another instance where the load times really shine -- having done that Data Install, load times were seamless in between battles.
The Challenge Battle mode is broken down into three different types: Time Attack, Survival, and Gold Rush. These are pretty self-explanatory, but with Time Attack the idea is to blow through the Arcade mode as quickly as possible. Survival has you trying to defeat as many CPU characters as you can with just a single health meter. Finally, Gold Rush is all about earning Fight Money by beating up your opponent. Between this bunch, I found Survival to be over too quickly with my skill set, and Time Attack to be more interesting than Gold Rush.
In addition to a detailed Practice Mode, you have a Network mode where you and a friend can play Ad Hoc. While connected, you can also share saved Ghost Data. Ghost Data is a small save file of a Ghost Character that you encountered that you would like to share with your friends. It's a neat idea, but not one I was able to test out during the course of this review. Finally, a Gallery mode lets you view character prologues and endings, but only if you've unlocked them in Story Mode. You can also view the opening vids for Tekken 6, Tekken 6 Arcade, and Tekken 6 Bloodline Rebellion.
The final point I would make about this Main Menu screen is that your profile's avatar, name, Win-Lose record, rank, and Fight Money are all displayed, which is convenient. The techno tune that plays at this menu is also fitting. Speaking of music, Tekken 6 features a variety of music tracks to go along with the eighteen different stages. The music understandably takes a backseat to the effects though, which include a lot of impact sound effects and various character sounds, like Martial Law's voice work that imitates Bruce Lee. Given that his entire character is based off of the legend, that makes perfect sense. Graphically, this PSP version doesn't disappoint -- silky smooth framerates, brilliant colors, and lots of impressive animations get the job done.
In general, there's not a lot bad to say about Tekken 6 on the PSP. Any complaints I have with the game are minor and not a fault of the PSP version itself. If you had any reservations about the handheld version of this game being inferior to the console one, I think it's safe to set those concerns aside. As far as those gameplay concerns I had, they're minor. My first nuisance is the juggling that goes on. When the CPU really wants to put a hurt on you, it will block constantly and then do juggling combos for maximum damage. I find blocking in Tekken 6 harder to do than it should be, but despite having spent several hours with it, I know I still have a lot to learn. Other than that, this is a fantastic fighter.
Let's get to the summary...