Thursday, June 18, 2009

There's a brand new dance, but I don't know it's name... TEKKEN!

Tekken: CLAMP Bloodline! Given Street Fighter's historic influence on the entire fighting genre, you'd be forgiven for being slightly concerned by the potential precedent set for "extra" materials by Street Fighter IV .
I'm referring in particular to the standardized tradition of extra costumes, something unfeasible in Street Fighter's heyday of 2D hand drawn sprites, but now an expected trope of the character-driven polygonal punchfests. SFIV offered a limited selection of grossly uninspired extra outfits for their fighters, adding insult to injury by not including them as default content accessed from the disc, and placing a hefty pricetag on the expected feature.

Fortunately, (for PS3 owners in particular), Tekken 6 will walk a path beaten by it's own predecessor (Tekken 5), offering Sony gamers exclusive extra costumes for that extra little bit of fan service. Of particular note is news coming from Famitsu Magazine that manga super-studio, CLAMP, will provide a design for conflicted lead protagonist, Jin Kazama! [Pictured right,  via Kotaku]

The CLAMP contribution will be indulgent sugary frosting for fans of the Sony original, added to a game already going lengths to ensure a few extra hours of gameplay with fondly remembered modes. The 3D scrolling beat 'em up mode from the third gameTekken Force, is set to expand the war story of Bloodline Rebellion, along with rendered cutscenes for presumably up to forty characters!

Tekken: A Personal Rebellion!
Having come from the increasingly fast paced world of 2D fighters, it took me a while to get past the frustrations of the first two Tekkens. While the series seemed to garner unequivocal praise through those early years, I felt the floaty physics and limited fighting sets of "3D" polygons were yet to prove themselves against the fluidity and speed of a hyper moded Street Fighter II.

Tekken 3 changed everything.
As a fan of characters and implied plots, rather than button combinations and time tables, it really wasn't going to take modern 3D fighters a lot to win me over. While Tekken didn't benefit from the initial awe of polygons I'd shown toward Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers; by the time Tekken 3 rolled out, Sega Saturn was a distant memory, and the Tekken dynasty was ready to be born.

The PlayStation had well and truly hit it's sweet spot by 1998, giving all PSX games the slight benefit of associative goodwill egendered by the growing catalogue. Unlike the previous Virtua Fighter-clones, however, Tekken 3 wasn't going to need to rely on that exclusivity. Debuting with a strong sense of fluidity and technique in all it's fight mechanics, this was the game that defined the brand and has been present in all four sequels to follow, including in the heavily reworked T6.

Much maligned for his easily utilized evasive Capoeira style; Eddy Gordo embodied both the spirit of diversity in the characters, and their defining fighting techniques. His swirling dance-style capitalized on the 3D concept like never before, finally proving that polygons, once utilized to their fullest potential, would have much more to offer than jagged breasts and bums. Finally the gameplay was living up to the excitement of those classic intro clips!


By overcoming the difficulty of transitioning from fast 2D fighters to controlling 3D characters in polygons, Tekken also unlocked one of it's great secret weapons -- those FMV cutscenes!

Sure, it seems like today the average gamer is content to shoot aimlessly and babble incoherently on YouTubey, but back in the nineties, an engrossing and well conceived FMV clip was a selling point for a dream realised! This was games and cinema coming together like they were always supposed to, meaning it was more than just me who was content to rest his thumbs for a tiny piece of story.

Sure. Tekken hasn't always packed the winding complexities of a stage classic, but at it's best, it's endings were able to convey thirty seconds of character-driven drama to rival any Greek classic. Come Tekken 3, that even included memorable scenes like the cinematic looping journey of manga icon, Gon, or the domestic comedy of a live-action/CG hybrid starring Mokujin. It was a great period of imagination with the tools to match.

The significance of threes in franchises has been both bad and good.
The radical conceptual deviations of Street Fighter III left the door wide open for Tekken to replace the classic as my source for world warriors. While opinions vary on the course of the Tekken sequels, few can disagree about the importance of the third in the course of the franchise. It's an impressive pedigree that number 6 may struggle to match, but will hopefully try, endearing to audiences wider than ever before through it's deviation onto the 360.

Having already spent 2008 in arcades alongside some heavy competition, Tekken's wait to release on consoles in October 2009 has given it a look at the key competition. Soul Calibur, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter all launched their respective releases in a rapidfire succession that created a small fighting renaissance. Now Tekken has the opportunity to surpass them all, packing impressive guest collaborators, feature modes, and apparently, even a live-action movie! That, however, is a topic for another blog...

Tekken 6 is currently slated for an October 29 release on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and for the first time ever, Xbox 360! Directed by Dwight Little, the Tekken motion picture is expected to hit cinemas in August.

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