Review: Tekken 5 (PS2)

Tekken 5
Developer: Namco
Publisher Namco
Genre: Fighting
Release Date: 2/24/05

Ah Tekken. Has it really been ten years since you’ve first popped up in arcades? Time just seems to fly. Now that you’re a teen, we’re going to have to have a talk. First off, you’re going to start noticing girls. Also, you may start to think about more adult themes like killing off perhaps the most recognizable character in your series to try and prove you’re a big boy now. You may want to try out for some other genres too. Just remember Tekken, you’re special in your own way. Your younger brother Soul Calibur may be more fun, and that mean kid Virtua Fighter down the street may be smarter then you, but you’re still our special boy. That’s right, lots of people like you despite you’re flaws. Tekken, you’re special.

Now it’s time to go to a much harder school. A school away from all of your friends who give you 9s just because your parents made Pac Man. That’s right Tekken, you’re going to a place of awkward feelings and cracking voices. You’re going to a place where gamers beat up on you because of their own feelings towards companies that don’t even make systems anymore. You’re going to a place where your worth can be measured after being asked ten simple questions. You’re going to Inside Pulse Games, and let me tell you, young man. As special as we can make you feel, Inside Pulse is a bitch.



Story

Tekken 5 has all the standard fare of your modern 3-d fighter story. Let’s see, is there bizarre experiments on a main character? Yep, that’s here. Is there a main character getting “killed” in the opening FMV sequence. There sure is. How about a ninja who isn’t really all that stealthy? That’s here too. It may be a tad run of the mill, but is it interesting and well played out?

The basic story behind the game is that the King of the Iron Fist tournament is back for its fifth incarnation and everyone has something to gain from it. The story starts with Jin Kazama defeating Kazuya and Heihachi in battle at Mishima Zaibatsu headquarters. From there, all hell breaks loose and the opening ends with a new character, a Blade rip off named Raven blowing up Heihachi in a fiery explosion. A month later, “someone” starts a new King of the Iron Fist tournament.

*minor spoiler warning*

First off, when the folks at Midway killed off Liu Kang and left him out of Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, it took some serious cahones on their part. Namco however, really drops the ball here by allowing Heihachi to live through the explosion and be a playable character. There is absolutely no reason why Heihachi should be in this game with the story that they’ve established. It is a complete and utter cop out.

*end of minor spoilers*

Besides that, the usual silliness of Tekken is all here. You’ve got a bear who’s fighting to avenge his master, an assassin cured of her amnesia who’s trying to kill her sister, and all sorts of people trying to get revenge for losing in the last tournament. The most major developments occur with Jin Kazama as he has an entire side game devoted to his story and the ever growing influence of the devil gene that’s making him more and more evil.

Overall, for a fighting game story, it isn’t that bad. With the Tekken series, you have to take the story with a grain of salt as it gets pretty ridiculous at times, but it is a well-told story without too many gaps in logic, assuming you’re using “Tekken” logic. There’s enough story for those who haven’t played any Tekken games before to understand what’s going on, but those who have experience with the series are probably going to shout with joy for the new advancements in the plot.

That doesn’t make the story any good though, and that’s the biggest problem storywise with Tekken 5. The core story still seems like a bunch of 4th graders with a video game Mad Lib book are writing it even if the story isn’t bad for Tekken standards. Then again, who’s going to buy a Tekken game for the story?

Story: 5/10



Graphics

This game is a mixed bag in terms of graphics, mostly good. At its highs, Tekken 5 is probably the best looking game on the PS2. At its lows though, it looks like a first generation PS2 game.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is in some of stages. There are some truly well made stages. There is one where you’re fighting in a field of pussywillows under the moonlight, which just looks amazing. There’s another stage however where you’re fighting on a glacier and penguins keep vanishing as you move into them. Some stages pulls off ambient lighting very well while others make it practically impossible to see your character. And for every cool concept like the Final Frontier, you’ve got a stage that looks bland like Urban Jungle. The majority of the enviornments look good, but a few are just… ugly looking.

Stage effects are a different story though. Did you just kick someone with King and have them fall to the ground from about two feet in the air? If you did, then you’ve just seen concrete spray into the air. Effects are ridiculously overdone in most cases. The subtle effects look nice, but most aren’t subtle at all. Not only do the effects look out of place, they also end up being distracting from the fight.

Characters fair slightly better, but still have their share of problems. While the actual characters look fine, some movements come off as rigid. Again, this is a little bit of nitpicking, but it’s still worth mentioning. The models aren’t DOA quality, but they are more then serviceable. The other slight problem with the characters comes with the customizable costumes. Some of the items that you can add on to characters have little to no motion to them. Again, this is not really a big deal, but it’s worth mentioning.

The FMV sequences are drop dead gorgeous. They are perhaps the best from any fighting game on any system period. Namco did a really great job with the opening video sequence and with the video sequences in between fights.

Graphics: 7/10



Sound

Tekken 5 has one of the blandest soundtracks I have ever heard in a fighting game. Usually if the background music in a stage is memorable, it’s because it’s aggravating. Take the Urban Jungle for example. It has single-handedly the worst music in a single stage for a fighting game I have ever heard. I reached for the remote every time that stage popped up to mute the TV.

My big problem with the music is that it just has very little variety to it, and most of it is completely unmemorable. Even the absolute best music in the game is forgettable and repetitive. The only memorable songs turn out to be the songs that are completely irritating (Urban Jungle). The music adds nothing to the fights, and often times, distracts from them. This just seems to be a very weak effort from Namco musicwise.

There is some good in the sound though. The voice acting is serviceable. Chinese, English, Korean, and Japanese are all spoken relatively well. It’s not perfect though. Anna Williams, who is supposed to be sexy and mysterious, sounds creepy like she’s trying to lure a child into a van with false promise of candy and presents. Overall though, the voice acting is pretty good with a few glaring exceptions.

On the other hand, sound effects are really flat. The punches, kicks, and thuds lack that oomph to them that a great fighting game tends to have. Not only do the sound effects sound flat, but they lack a variety to them. Hitting someone sounds the same pretty much wherever you hit them. The lack of depth to the sounds really took me out of the fights more then anything else in the game. Sound is the weakest part of Tekken 5.

Sound: 3/10



Control and Gameplay

I’ve always viewed the Tekken series as sort of a bridge between DOA and Virtua Fighter as it has a deeper engine when compared to the fighting in Dead or Alive, but is much more accessible from the get go then Virtua Fighter. I got this feeling again playing through Tekken 5 and am left feeling like the engine has grown sort of stagnant.

Tekken 5 controls in general are all right. The game is a bit faster then any previous Tekken game, which is certainly a plus. I still think that it could be sped up some more as there are times where I’m just aggravated that I can not get across the screen to fight someone I’ve sent flying with a roundhouse before they can get up. Increasing the speed is certainly a step in the right direction though.

I have always felt that the Tekken games have no real flow to the fighting, and Tekken 5 is no exception. Unless you’re air juggling someone, each move seems completely divorced from every other move. This is a bad way of doing things in my opinion as only premade combos seem to ever feel right. I like my fighting to be more open ended. At no time did I ever feel in tune with the Tekken fighting engine. Tekken 5’s controls felt unresponsive and, at times, slow to me.

My biggest gripe about Tekken 5 is what my gripe has always been about Tekken games. Idle guard sucks. It would have been so easy to put in an optional, seperate guard button for players like me who completely lose their concentration if they have to go idle in a fight to block. Holding back to block in my opinion, should have been a relic left in 2-D fighters. This is more of a minor annoyance then anything as Tekken 5 plays like a 2-D fighter more often then not.

The major control issue is how difficult it is to have most of your characters move around the background. Again, Namco could have easily looked to Soul Calibur and taken the 8-way run system they created way back in 1999. The lack of movement into and out of the fore and background does make my first issue with guarding less important but that still doesn’t account for the larger issue of almost the complete lack of a 3-D experience. It astounds me that Namco could borrow all sorts of ideas from other fighting games for Tekken but never actually look to its own best fighting franchise for ideas.

Speaking of borrowing, Tekken’s one player mode comes in two distinct flavors. There is story mode and arcade mode. Story mode allows you to play through the game with your favorite characters and learn their back-story. Arcade mode lets you compete against computer opponents that have similar rankings to you, sort of like Virtua Fighter Evolution’s arcade mode. This added option not only adds some depth to the game, but it also allows you to almost completely ignore the story mode after you unlock a few characters. Variety is the spice of life and Tekken 5 certainly has it.

Controls and Gameplay: 6/10



Replayability

There is a ton of stuff here to go back and play. The replay value is increased exponentially by the addition of five separate games. While one is a throwaway (Star Blade) and the other is complete crap (The Devil Within) you’ve still got three arcade perfect Tekken games. Namco has done a great service to gamers by essentially tossing in an anthology that would have sold quite a few copies separately.

In addition to the five extra games included, there’s a lot to do in Tekken 5. Each character has multiple accessories and costumes to buy that will take quite a while to unlock. Add in the fact that this game is meant to be played with other people and you’ll be playing Tekken for a long time.

The only disadvantage that I could see is the lack of an online mode. Even though the Arcade mode has the next best thing in playing against opponents of different ranks, it still is disappointing to see no online mode. On the other hand, after seeing how laggy DOA: Ultimate’s online play was, maybe this is a good thing. If you like this game, there will be quite a bit to keep you here.

Replayability: 9/10



Balance

If there is anything that a long time Tekken player can tell you, it’s that Tekken is all about cheese. This game is no exception. Experienced players will be able to air juggle you to death using the same continuous combos. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as that’s what experienced players do in practically any game. The game is easy enough to get into, but can become hard enough to keep you interested. The problem is that against human players, fights will often be who can cheese each other the most. This is quite annoying for someone who tries to play fighting games without exploiting broken characters.

Despite having the core fighting system having some problems, the main issues of balance come with the computer, specifically Jinpachi Mishima. Jinpachi Mishima is the final boss of the game, and he will probably own you often. Is this because the computer plays him with great skill? No, on the contrary, the computer plays him particularly poorly. Why is he so unbalanced then? It’s because he can phase away from you and launch an unblockable and practically unavoidable fireball that completely consumes your health gauge in two hits. He’s a complete pain in the ass.

Otherwise it’s a game that you can pick up and play, and win some fights without feeling like you completely suck. There is a noticable difference in difficulty level at each level, and the game will get harder on a level where you get better. This is a pretty well balanced game once you discount all of the cheese that is contained within it.

Balance: 6/10



Originality

On the one hand, Tekken 5 is the 5th entry into the series, 6th if you consider Tekken Tag Tournament a real game. On the other hand, you’ve got a game where you can have a ninja fight a bear. The majority of the original characters that are in Tekken have been around since the 2nd game, and the new characters… well let’s just say Wesley Snipes has a reason to be a tad bit miffed with Raven. So let’s just say that the characters hit an apex in creativity some time ago.

There are a few new ideas here that win Tekken 5 some points. Arcade history is one of the coolest and most refreshing uses of a company’s existing library. It’s nice to see something other then a Pac Man game get a mostly complete arcade history for free in the package. It’s not worth proclaiming Tekken 5 as a completely new experience, but it is worth saying that this is probably the most innovative thing Namco could have done with the game short of redesigning the entire engine.

Originality: 6/10



Addictiveness

Tekken 5 felt like a chore far too often for me. Unlocking Devil Jin, one of the coolest characters in the game, practically requires you to play through the worst part of Tekken 5, The Devil Within mini-game. Playing through The Devil Within is also the most efficient way to earn accessories for costumes. Let me just emphasize this, if you’re going to have a mini game be the most efficient way to unlock extras in your game, please don’t make it suck.

As for the core of the actual game, the most fun you’ll have with this game is with a couple of buddies, passing the controllers back and forth. You’ll play through the Story Mode once to unlock characters, but you’ll probably never come back to it. Arcade Mode and Time Attack have a bit more to them, but still, the best time you’ll have with this game is against a friend.

Thankfully, if you have that friend, the game is a blast especially when you consider that you can switch to your favorite version of Tekken at any time, assuming that your favorite version isn’t Tekken 4. Addictiveness is a 4 if you’re alone and an 8 if you’ve got a friend. Therefore through the magic of mathematics…

Addictiveness: 6/10



Appeal Factor

Tekken is one of those game series that has a huge fan following, but if you’re not already in that following, you’ll probably never be. The one huge advantage that Tekken 5 has over all other Tekken games in attracting new blood is the Arcade History. The fact that you can go back and play through the majority of the Tekken saga greatly adds to the appeal factor, and allows new players to not feel completely lost.

Tekken fans will also be incredibly happy with this new game as it has a lot to offer them. Tekken 5 won’t convert any Tekken haters to suddenly toss away their favorite fighting game for the series. It is an exceptionally accessible game though for people who want to get their feet wet. If you’re trying to get someone new into the Tekken series, this is the perfect place to start.

Appeal Factor: 8/10



Miscellaneous

I’ve already said how awesome the addition of every Tekken game that popped up on the PSX so I’m going to let what I’ve said before stand for how I feel about that.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve bitched about The Devil Within nearly enough. The Devil Within is a piss poor attempt at a game. Between incredibly cheap enemies, a broken camera, and a bad soundtrack, this is a huge suck fest. It is possible to never touch this game as everything that can be unlocked through it, can be unlocked by playing a bunch of versus matches. The problem is that what gamer has the patience to play 200 odd versus matches to unlock Devil Jin?

It’s just annoying that it exists in the first place. If you’re going to make a game within a game, make sure at some point you stop and make sure it doesn’t suck completely. A little bit of quality control is all I ask. Arcade History cancels most of the badness of The Devil Within. I’m just upset that the space that The Devil Within took up could have been spent adding in something better, or bringing over some of the cooler special features from previous Tekken games.

Miscellaneous: 6/10



Final Scores

Story: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 3/10
Controls and Gameplay: 6/10
Replayability: 9/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10

Overall Score: 62/100
FINAL SCORE: 6 out of 10 (ABOVE AVERAGE)