Years ago I bought my first Playstation (later on dubbed PSOne). While most people buy a console for a number of reasons, I had only one: Tekken 3. If it hadn’t been for this game, I probably never would have bothered buying a console. Now we’re years later, the Playstation2 is running at the end of its life and Tekken 5 dropped in my mailbox. After some disappointments with Tekken Tag Tournament and Tekken 4 I was hoping that Namco would be able to revive the Tekken series and get it back at the top of the genre it once ruled.
One thing can definitely be said: Tekken 5 delivers a lot for its money. Even when first starting up the game, you don’t get some boring loading screen but instead are invited to play Starblade, a once classic space fighting game that ruled the arcade halls back in 1991. Ok, the graphics may look obnoxious and your first idea will be something like “What the hell? Did I put in the correct game in my PS2 ?” but it’s a nice addition and brings forth nostalgic feelings. If you’re bored with Starblade, you can skip it by hitting the start button and head off to the real Tekken 5 intro.
The intro shows promising graphics. A fierce battle that leads to the death of Heihachu Mishima makes you want to immediately start and that’s exactly what you should do. If not, the intro will continue with an overview of characters and all the dynamic atmosphere that was built up flees like ice from the sun. To Namco: an intro should make you long for the game, work towards a climax and then let it end.
The rather simple but effective menu immediately shows you that Tekken 5 is more than just a simple straightforward fighting game. Much like the navigation menu of IGN.com, you get to see a list with different modes and options so without further ado, we’ll give you a rundown.
Story Battle: this is where you continue the storyline(s) as shown in the intro movie. Actually, the story isn’t worth much but as usual we don’t really care with a fight game. One by one, you’ll have to defeat all opponents until you reach to the big boss (no, I’m not going to tell you his name). Once having finished him off, a nice but short end-movie is displayed on your screen and some stuff gets unlocked.
Theater: each character has a set of movies and in the Theater menu you can check them out again after having completed their Story Battle. Also some Tekken trailers and movies – including the arcade version intro – can be checked out and if you really like the music of Tekken 5, you can rejoice as the full soundtrack is also available for you here.
Arcade Battle: this is the version of Tekken 5 which was available in arcade halls. Personally I didn’t feel like this was a real addition to the main game.
Arcade History: To give you an idea of the evolution of the Tekken series, you can play the arcade versions of Tekken, Tekken 2 v3 and Tekken 3. At first you may think of this as a fantastic extra, but once you’ve started up these ancient versions, you’ll quickly put them away as they’re really horrible to play. The graphics of Tekken 3 are still doable but even those are way too bad compared to what we’re used to these days. I didn’t check out Tekken 3 again but I’m pretty sure the arcade version is graphically even worse than the one we had on PSOne.
Team Battle now gives you up to 8 characters that you can choose and once having done that you’ll enter the ring and have to try defeat your opponent’s team.
Tekken: Devil Within is a small game that let’s you play as Jin as he runs through the Mishima complexes and has to get rid of a large number of enemies. This mode makes me wonder why Namco ever thought of releasing Death by Degrees as a separate game and not add it as bonus extra with Tekken 5. If they had done that, we would have applauded it while now people have to pay full price for something that’s total crap as a standalone game. Anyway, Devil Within can be seen somewhat as a very simple version of Death by Degrees with Jin as main character.
Survival, Practice, Time Attack and “Versus” mode have been available in the Tekken series for quite some time already so they don’t really need much explaining.
Last up is the “customise” option where you can spend the money you’ve earned in the other modes to buy stuff for your characters. Actually, it’s even more than that as there are quite a lot of options available (more than Virtua Fighter 4) and before your character is completely as you want it to be, you’ll be busy for quite some time and need a lot of cash.
As you by now have probably figured out, Tekken 5 isn’t just one game, it’s a bundle of titles with various gameplay elements and should be seen as such.
The main game contains all the basic things we want a fight game to have these days but, unfortunately, nothing more. Where Virtua Fighter 4 has a very tactic approach to the fighting, Dead or Alive has very dynamic environments, Soul Calibur has sublime weapons usage, and Mortal Kombat has blood and gore to set it apart. Tekken 5 sadly has nothing that sets it apart. There’s no extreme violence, the environment can change but not to the extent as we’ve seen in DoA, and the fighting is still as straightforward as we’ve known it for years already.
The arcade history games are a nice addition from a nostalgic point of view but as for playing they’re a true horror. The graphics are hideous and when it comes to gameplay they are way outdated. This remind you of an era where special moves weren’t invented yet and arcades had one stick and two buttons. Not really something you’ll enjoy playing for more than ten minutes.
The Devil Inside bonus game is plain fun. Unlike Death by Degrees, the camera use is good and although the graphics are quite simple, gameplay elements like special moves and destroyable walls are all present. However, repetition comes in pretty fast so after a short while you get the “seen it before”-feeling and will just stop playing.
All in all, Tekken 5 is a decent game with some nice options but like Tekken 4 it doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before and doesn’t even improve on any level beyond what other games have to offer.