Review: Tekken Hybrid (Sony Playstation 3)

Tekken Hybrid
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
Release Date: 11/22/2011

The High Definition re-release has become the hot new way to cash in on your old properties, because why remake a game when you can just slap a “HD” label on it and shove it out the door at a budget price? High Definition releases and collections for all sorts of games are finding their way to the consoles to cash in on games that might not have been available to the current generation of gamers, and while most of these collections are simply game compilations and little more, some developers are trying to come up with ways to dress up these sorts of releases as more involved than they actually are. This is the route Namco has chosen with Tekken Hybrid, as while their Soul Calibur release was a straight HD downloadable release of the original game, Tekken Hybrid is actually a retail release that contains three separate items: Tekken Tag Tournament, a demo of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a fully rendered film that fills in some events between Tekken 5 and Tekken 6. The good news, then, is that for Tekken completionists, Tekken Hybrid is a solid release at a slightly below normal price that will fill in your collection with some things you’ll likely enjoy. The bad news, however, is that for everyone else, Tekken Hybrid is basically a forty dollar HD re-release of a ten year old game, a tech demo and a movie that’s not worth the asking price.

So, let’s break down what you get in this package. You get:

THE FILM: Tekken: Blood Vengeance.

This film is basically a ninety minute Tekken cutscene, as the whole thing is a 3D rendered film that is both viewable in 2D and 3D, according to the film options. The film takes place between the events of Tekken 5 and Tekken 6, and focuses on the Mishima Zaibatsu and G-Corp conflicts, as they’re both looking for a young man named Shin Kamiya, who disappeared several years ago under mysterious circumstances. Ling Xiaoyu is sent as an unwilling representative of G-Corp to research Shin, where she meets Alisa Bosconovitch, the Mishima representative, and after a bunch of misunderstandings and battles, the big three Mishima bloodline holders do battle, stuff happens, and the credits roll. From a technical perspective, the film looks absolutely fantastic, featuring some great fight scenes with excellent detail and animation, and the film also offers English and Japanese Audio and multiple language subtitles, as well as some trailers and behind the scenes films. Both the Japanese and English voice work are perfectly fine, and the film is very pretty, so if you can turn your brain off and watch it for the combat, Tekken: Blood Vengeance is basically about as pleasant as anything else you’re likely to watch.

Once you start investing any level of thought into the film at all, however, you realize that the plot is very, VERY, VERY stupid.

Where to begin? Oh, how about the fact that Shin, the WHOLE PURPOSE FOR THE FILM and THE WHOLE MOTIVATION FOR EVERYONE TO GET TOGETHER is literally tossed aside in the third act? That’s kind of important, as it literally turns the plot from “Here’s this big conspiracy about this dude who’s been missing that we need to discover” into, literally, “Pfft, screw that guy, MISHIMA FIGHT!” in ten seconds. That anyone anywhere thought this was a good idea is just the worst. Further, most of the film contradicts the internal logic of Tekken 6 right from the get-go. For one, Xiaoyu’s whole motivation for joining the King of Iron Fist Tournament in the game is, ACCORDING TO NAMCO’S WEBSITE, “for a chance to make Jin change his evil ways”, which is stupid because Xiaoyu realizes he’s not evil at the end of this film, plainly, and would not try to stop him from killing Heihachi after Heihachi tried to murder her in this movie. For another, Alisa’s big introduction piece in Tekken 6 is that Lars finds her in the lab she’s stored in and brings her into the world, which is contradicted by the ending of this film, so, OOPS. For a third, Nina is apparently captured at the end of this film, which is an event Tekken 6 never even implies ever happened. For a fourth, Xiaoyu and Jin have this big discussion about battle and how some day they will meet, which Tekken 6 pretty definitely says “Nope” to for the immediate future, and let’s just stop here because, really, you could go on all day.

It also doesn’t help that the film just makes everyone who isn’t the Mishima clan and Alisa look like losers anyway. Nina and Anna have a fight in the beginning of the film that Nina clearly and decisively wins, followed by an end film fight (off camera) where Anna decisively wins, despite the fact that Nina clearly has superior firepower and the combat advantage, which is like Namco’s answer to WWE booking. Xiaoyu is allowed to hold her own for about two minutes before everyone treats her like a complete loser and she’s rendered to an ineffectual “teach the robot how to LURRRVE” role for the rest of the film, which is also great because WHY IS THIS IN A TEKKEN FILM ANYWAY? Alisa gets to look like a badass for five minutes before being beaten down by a bunch of grunts, then teases being a badass again before the plot completely screws her over, leaving her in basically the same position she’d likely have been in without that intervention. Oh, and WHY IS LEE EVEN HERE? All he does is act like a creep every time he’s on screen and there is literally no reason for him to be in the film because he just says a couple stupid things and disappears again. Look, bottom line, Tekken: Blood Vengeance is a very pretty, very stupid film that is unlikely to have any long-term ramifications in the game universe, and you can safely ignore it without concern, which you probably should unless you want to see the fights.

THE GAME: Tekken Tag Tournament.

As you’d expect, Tekken Tag Tournament is a HD re-release of the PS2 game from the system launch back in 2000, and surprise, it still looks like an eleven year old game and plays like a game that’s three releases prior to the modern systems the franchise is using. On the plus side, though, the game comes intact with all of its game modes, and the HD upscale, while by no means impressive, does look solid enough that you can play the game without it being an issue. The game suffers no technical issues from its conversion either, and runs smoothly in all modes, and sounds fine all in all. Basically, as ports go, Tekken Tag Tournament isn’t a terrible one; the concept hasn’t been done to death, the game still plays smooth and it holds up well enough for a port of a PS2 title.

If you’ve somehow never played any of the Tekken games in your life, explaining the game is actually pretty simple. The battles you fight take place on a pseudo-3D plane. Pressing forward and backward on the D-pad moves your character in those directions, while holding up jumps and holding down ducks. Tapping up or down allows your character to step into the background or foreground, holding back allows you to block (which you’ll also do if you remain stationary), and double-tapping allows you to dash. Combat works with the four face buttons, and their placement and layout are relative to the arms and legs of the characters. In short: the buttons are mapped to the arms and legs of the character, with the top buttons acting as the left and right arm of the character, and the bottom buttons acting as the left and right legs, by default. Pressing both of the left or right side buttons initiates a grab against an opponent, and you can chain various different presses of these buttons, with or without directions, into combinations to destroy your opponents. This is basically how Tekken has worked for almost its entire existence, and this remains intact with Tekken Tag Tournament, so fans of the franchise should be able to jump right into the game with little difficulty and know how things work. Where this game differentiates itself is in the fact that, in most modes, you’ll be playing as a team of two characters who can tag in and out as the situation merits, as is similar to other tag-based fighting games (most notably the tag team battles in Dead or Alive). What is not so similar is that if the character in battle is knocked out, you don’t switch to the other character, the round ends, period, so keeping your tags going heavily is the ideal method of play.

On the positive side, Tekken Tag Tournament has a lot of interesting modes to play with, including the standard Arcade, Versus, Time Attack, Team Battle, Survival, and Practice modes one would expect from the series, as well as thirty four characters to choose from. It also comes with some cute novelties that are fun to play with, such as Pair Play Mode, where two players can play on the same team, and Tekken Bowl, which is exactly what it sounds like: a bowling mini-game that’s pretty fun and amusing. There are also Trophies to unlock for those who find such things amusing. The game is also technically solid, in that there are no significant technical issues to it whatsoever and the game loads quickly in all modes. However, it’s not an especially technically impressive game at this point, in any respects, and lacks anything that might make it interesting, such as any sort of additions or even an online mode. As an inexpensive downloadable release that might make sense, but as part of a forty dollar package, nothing was done with the game at all to make it more interesting or accessible, especially since anyone with a backwards compatible PS3 could likely find Tekken Tag Tournament for, if Amazon is to be believed, A PENNY. Also, it bears noting that the characters in the game are also based off of their Tekken 3 versions (when applicable), which means that while characters like Ogre and Jun Kazama will basically be new territory for players who never played as them, those who are coming into this game who, theoretically, spent weeks or months learning Tekken 6 will have to re-learn the characters all over again, as there are significant changes across the past three games. Oh, and the whole “when the current character gets knocked out, the round ends” mechanic the game works with? It was lame over a decade ago and time has not made it any less so.

THE DEMO: Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Prologue.

Last, but not least, you’re also provided a fairly early build of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 to play around with, which is at least mechanically closer to the modern games you’re likely used to. The demo is using the modern graphics engine and offers four playable characters, presumably as a nod to the film: Ling Xiaoyu, Alisa, Devil Jin, and Devil Kazuya. The demo offers you the ability to play through several rounds of the same four opponents to test out the game, as well as a model viewer if you want to look at the character models without being in battle. The demo indicates that there will also be 3D support in the final game (as it’s in the demo), for those of you with 3D TVs out there who are looking for a good fighting game to have fun with on it.

On a mechanical level, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Prologue feels like Tekken 6 overall, bringing the elements from that game over into the demo, so it’ll be instantly accessible for fans, most likely. The demo also shows off the Tag Throws and Tag Assaults; the former being throws where both characters get into the throw as a tag action (again, similar to Dead or Alive), while the latter is basically team combos where the characters switch off on an opponent (again, see DOA). It also shows that the “active player KO equals round lost” mechanic is back, unfortunately, but that’s to be expected. As demos go, however, it’s basically only something you have to play, at most, twice to really get a feel for. Now, in fairness, it’s nice to see that the game is coming along well, and it really does look and sound great and feel strong mechanically. It’s nice to see that they’ve even got a dubstep song in the game, if only because if any musical trend seems like it’d go along well with fighting games, it’s dubstep. But the point is that it’s basically just a tech demo, and while that’s fine as an add-on, it doesn’t do anything to really say “BUY THIS GAME FOR ME”, as there’s really not a lot to it. Now, yes, of course that isn’t the point, but the point of that observation is…

OVERALL:

… there really isn’t much of a reason to buy Tekken Hybrid at all, honestly. If you don’t a backwards compatible PS3 or a functioning PS2, want the Trophies associated with the game and demo, or are an obsessive Tekken fan who has to own everything in the series, then you might be able to justify dropping the cash on the game at some point, but not at forty dollars, if ever. Tekken: Blood Vengeance is a terrible film by every non-technical metric one can use to measure the product, and paying any amount of money to watch it for anything but the pretty visuals is basically a waste of your time. Tekken Tag Tournament was fine a decade ago, but time hasn’t been especially kind to it, those who have adjusted to modern Tekken mechanics will be loathe to step backwards, and there are zero modifications or additions to the game to even try to justify the purchase, with online play being the giant neon sign of glaring omissions. The demo of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is fine for a tech demo but that’s all it is, and it’s not so exciting a thing as to justify the forty dollar asking price for an unimproved decade old game and a movie that’s basically a waste of an hour and a half. If you happen to find this on discount somewhere for very cheap it might be worth adding to your collection, but at the moment, Tekken Hybrid is basically an overpriced, underdeveloped experience.

The Scores: (scores are averaged across the product)
Story/Game Modes: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: POOR
Balance: GOOD
Originality: WORTHLESS
Addictiveness: POOR
Appeal: POOR
Miscellaneous: BAD
FINAL SCORE: MEDIOCRE GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
If you’re a diehard Tekken fan to the point where you have to own everything with the franchise name attached to it, or you’re in the position of being unable to play Tekken Tag Tournament on the PS2 and desperately want to do so, Tekken Hybrid might be a worthwhile investment after a price drop, at best, but there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to buy it at forty dollars. Tekken: Blood Vengeance is a very pretty and very stupid movie and you will feel cheated for having watched it if you spend more than five seconds thinking about anything but the fight scenes, and maybe even then. Tekken Tag Tournament is a fine port of a decade old fighting game but it’s archaic in comparison to the modern franchise titles and offers no enhancements that might make it worth owning except at an extreme discount. The demo for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is solid and shows that the game is likely coming along well but does nothing to sell the overall package given that it’s a tech demo and the other two pieces aren’t worth the price. For the exceptionally devoted, Tekken Hybrid might be worth acquiring at a reduced budget price, but for everyone else it’s basically lacking in merit in any capacity, and can safely be avoided.

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