Nearly as contentious as the matches within the Tekken games are the conversations which surround Namco-Bandai’s respected fighting franchise. While some clearly prefer the outlandish hit combos present in contemporary entries, others (such as the staff of PlayStation: The Official Magazine) fervently insist that Tekken 3’s methodical fisticuffs represented the series’ pinnacle. Personally, I’ve always asserted that 2000’s Tekken Tag Tournament ranks supreme- for ushering in a strategic character-switching mechanic on top of the deft tweaks which enriched the third iteration of the game.
The recent PlayStation 3 release of Tekken Hybrid might just help to substantiate my assertion. Bundling a remastered adaptation of the PS2 launch title, a high-definition version of the CGI film Tekken: Blood Vengeance, along with a demo of next year’s Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the disk aptly demonstrates how hot-swapping fighters helps elevate the Iron Fist Tournament’s already competent combat. While neither the revitalized Tag Tournament or its sumptuous-looking sequel is going to win over the hearts of say, Virtua Fighter purists, Tekken Hybrid’s compilation of content is bound to satisfy franchise followers.
With a roster which includes cast-off characters such as Michelle Chang, Kunimitsu, Ogre, and everyone’s favorite wooden sparring partner- Mokujin, revisiting Tekken Tag Tournament can feel a bit like a homecoming, as players helm forsaken fighters. For better or worse, matches lack the extended juggles of Tekken 6, entrusting victory to an abridged mastery of basic strikes, specials, netsu, as well as grapples. With a round ending once one of your combatants is KO’ed, TTT has always required players to vigilantly monitor each of their teammate’s health bars. A decade later, this mechanic still feels fulfilling- endowing each match with additional level of complexity.
While the scrapping remains satisfying, the game’s graphical makeover isn’t as placating. Character models animate well and are pleasingly textured, while the title’s makes to jump to a widescreen format effortlessly. Yet, the game’s antiquated parallax-scrolling backgrounds are a reminder of how contemporary fighters render convincing three-dimensional arenas. Likewise, a bulky countdown timer and clunky heath bars belie Tekken Tag Tournament’s revisionist efforts, with a HUD which recalls turn-of-the-millennium aesthetics. The inclusion of Tekken Bowl should help offset any visual qualms as well as the absence of any shoehorned online multiplayer components. Using tactical teams of potent power rollers as well as finesse characters to clean up a frame still reigns as one of the fighting genre’s best side diversion.
Moving to the demo of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, players will be able to sense the trajectory Namco has taken with the franchise. While clearly built around Tekken 6’s movesets and mechanics, TTT 2 diminishes the influence of bouncing- where downed opponents rebounding off the ground, allowing for a juggle opening. Since a limited scope of characters are provided (Alisa Bosconovitch, Ling Xiaoyu, Devil Jin, and Devil Kazuya), it’s hard to get anything more than a superficial taste of what’s to come. However, it is apparent that the upcoming title will offer opulent visuals (as flaunted by a built-in model viewer) as well as an augmented tag system which allows for quick tag strikes and wall tags. While Tekken 6’s balcony and wall-break stages make a reappearance, so do the regular and infinite stages of previous games.
Evidently, TTT 2’s character selection was influenced by Tekken: Blood Vengeance- the hundred minute film which rounds outs the Tekken Hybrid collection. With direction by Youichi Mori, who oversaw the introductory videos in Tekken 5 and 6, and production by Digital Frontier (Appleseed, Summer Wars, and Resident Evil: Damnation), problems with the storyline pacing and plausibility are counterbalanced by immaculate character rendering and brisk action sequences. Clearly, uniting Tekken’s cast of characters into a comprehensible narrative was a formidable task, and Blood Vengeance offers a valiant attempt. Although an Enter the Dragon styled tournament would have been the obvious choice for the film’s impetus, the decision to make the movie into a thriller was inspired, giving Blood Vengeance the edge over the 2010 live action Tekken movie. Owners of 3D televisions should take note- many of the film’s action sequences look stunning on a capable set.
With the high definition version of Tekken Tag Tournament and Tekken: Blood Vengeance unavailable though retail and digital storefronts, Hybrid offers a scandalizing selection of exclusive content for diehard devotees. Although slightly less fanatical fans will probably want to wait for a sale to pick up the forty dollar collection (some retailers have already offered a ten dollar discount), the title is an advisable addition to any fighting game enthusiast’s library.
A copy of Tekken Hybrid for the PlayStation 3 was provided by the publisher for review.