The first MUST-OWN PS2 game of 2005. And it's a fighting game!
I feel like I have to preface this review with my time spent with the game. I haven't completed the Devil Within mode just yet, but I have unlocked all the characters I know of, including Devil Jin. I have my Law character to a Champion, and Jack-5 up to a 4th Dan and Bruce up to 2nd Dan. I would say that I've logged on enough time with this game to give gametz-ers a fair review to go by.
Tekken 5 is the first must-own PS2 game of 2005, and it is one of the rare games that I consider to be well worth the $53.49 it cost me to get it brand new.
First, the game sets the Tekken series back on track by totally bypassing the fact that Tekken 4 even existed. I understood what that game tried to do. It was a competent fighter in its own right, but by all means, a disappointment and setback to the Tekken series.
And as sure as Tekken 4 was a disappointment and made me not look forward to a sequel, sure enough, Tekken 5 has rekindled my love for this great series.
For those not familiar with the series, it's a 3D fighting series that has been all about devastating-looking moves and white-knuckle martial arts action. The fighting is not centered around timing of moves like the Virtua Fighter series, nor is it the counter-happy system that is Dead or Alive. It's about back and forth showmanship, showing up your opponent by kicking the total snot out of them with your fighter's best, most devastating moves. It is fast and furious.
I'm a Tekken fan, and always have been, so it's really a given that I consider it the best fighting games series (yes, 3D and 2D) for myself. With Tekken 5, it gives us Tekken players back our ability to run and gun and show off offensively, or hunker down and defend and counter our opponents' moves. None of the crap that hampered and slowed down Tekken 4 and really made it a disappointment. The gameplay in Tekken 5 simply gives you the freedom to be an offensive force or a tactician whenever you want, on the fly.
Ok, enough with the preface. I'll start by describing the game's graphics: Simply gorgeous
Much like Tekken 3 was released to utter disbelief that it was playing on a PSOne; so much is the same with Tekken 5. The game is smooth and is really impressive to look at.
The stages are all filled with nice details, and the fighters are animated incredibly well. The stage designs run the gamut, from the cathedral stage that looks like it was taken straight out of Devil May Cry or Castlevania to the iceberg stage with the frolicking penguins. The games' stages are all unique and filled with detail and personality. There's also this nice crumble effect when the fighters hit the ground or when they run into the edges of the stages. Nice touch Namco. And as for the fighters, their moves flow into each other without that noticeable "stiff" look as they prepare for their next move. They each have their distinct looks and sets of motions and moves. Most everyone who plays Tekken 5 will find at least 2 or 3 characters they like.
The character redesigns work very, very well in this game too. Devil Jin is simply one of the most badass game characters EVER. He has one of the best looks ever, with horns sticking out of his head, studded gauntlets on his forearms, feathered wings on his shoulders, and a wicked tribal tattoo on his exposed chest. Yoshimitsu looks like the friggin' Predator, and Nina is just straight up BAD. Jack-5 is a great character too.
Almost every Namco game has featured a great soundtrack and in-game sounds. Soul Calibur's is the gold standard in Namco's lineup, but Tekken 5's meets it, if not exceeds it.
This game's soundtrack is simply a joy to listen to. I could write at least 10 paragraphs on this game's sound alone, but I won't go that in-depth. I'll just say that each track is enjoyable, distinct, and suits the stage it goes with.
There are 23 tracks in all, and my favorite ones are the tracks from the Cathedral, Iceberg, Poolside, Acid Rain, and "Swinging Van" stages. Cathedral's is rocked out gothic music, and really should be in the next Castlevania game. But lo and behold, it's in Tekken 5, and it kicks ass. Iceberg's is as playful as can be, with the penguins just chillin', sliding on the iceberg. It sounds like winter time. Poolside's track is the best one to listen to, just to listen to. It doesn't suit the fighting entirely well, but it's a joy just to listen to in the theatre mode. Think DJ Sami's "In Heaven," and you're 9/10th's of the way there. By FAR my favorite song to fight with is Urban Jungle's. It's thumping bass and the crowd's noise just does it. Someone is about to get their ass handed to them. That's the impression it gives.
The sound is possibly the single best aspect of this game, besides the value. I use XA3021 Lansing speakers, and it sounds like I have an arcade in my living room. I can pop it on theatre mode and just listen to the tracks as I'm doing the dishes, or laundry, or whatever. The only excuse you could have for NOT listening to the music while playing the game is the one you give yourself. It's that good.
This will give me my chance to harp on why Tekken 4 was such a disappointment.
Again, I understood what Namco was trying with T4. It's just that it worked to the game, and the series', disadvantage. Tekken has always been about fast gameplay, and Tekken 4's more methodical approach hurt the game's appeal. Tekken has a distinct feel, and copying elements of Virtua Fighter was detrimental. It slowed down the game and really, really turned me off. But Tekken 5 is a whole different story.
The thing that amazes me most is how Tekken 5 manages the game's six characters that have been added since Tekken 3, 3 of which are new for T5. You have Asuka (pronounced As-ka) who plays similar to Jun, but definitely in her own way. Then you have the powerhouse Kenpo fighter, Feng. He's probably the most devastating out of the 3 new in T5, but Raven's a badass too. He looks like Blade in his initial costume, but then he's a dead-ringer for Ryu Hayabusa in his other one. He's one of the more slow-paced, methodical characters in the game, and keen gamers will notice one of his kick moves is straight out of DoA. But still, all of three of T5's newbies fit well with the existing cast of characters, and can dish out their own punishment with capable players.
As for T4's characters, Christie is simply a sexed-up, female Eddy Gordo, Craig Marduk is a BEAST, and Steve Fox would be the most hated bastard in the world had he been in Tekken 2 or 3. Still, again, it's amazing that the game incorporates these Tekken 4 characters so well with the existing cast, and with the resurrected gameplay. It truly drives the nails in T4's coffin.
Jinpachi Mishima is one of the biggest bastards of a boss character this side of Goro from the original MK. He has his stun move that incapacitates your character for what seems like forever, has an energy draining move, and a dastardly fireball it seems he can unleash indefinitely. Still, even though it took me 30 frickin' minutes to beat the story mode with Yoshimitsu, I still went back for more. I'm the kind of Tekken player who is good enough to know how they lost when they lose. The game is fair, with the GRAVE EXCEPTION of Jinpachi, and it allows for growth as you get better and learn from your mistakes.
The one thing that Namco kept from Tekken 4 is the stage barriers, and they bring a different flavor to the proceedings. They're not clumsily implemented like in Tekken 4, but instead are just a natural extension. They're not obtrusive, and just add one more facet to the gameplay to enrich it that much more.
Promise, I'm almost done.
Tekken 5 is best viewed as a whole than by viewing each individual part on its own.
Naturally, no one in this day and age is going to shell out $50 for an arcade game with no extras. Cutting straight to the case, this game has the arcade versions of Tekken, Tekken 2, and Tekken 3 available right out of the case. No unlocking required. That in and of itself makes it one of the best fighting game values available, on top of its rock-solid gameplay. I think there's someway to unlock the arcade version of Starblade as well, but I haven't gotten it yet. The opening to the game gives a taste of it, and it's actually cool.
As for the fighting, the story mode lets you take each character through 9 stages. Each character has their own story to complete and CG movie to unlock. The "Arcade" mode is an indefinite, ranking based endeavor where beating opponents of equal or higher rank to up your status is the goal. It is clearly influenced by VF 4 and VF 4: Evo's system. You earn money from story and arcade to purchase items to equip your character with, but sadly, this is one of the game's most obvious shortcomings. It doesn't have anything to do with the gameplay, it's just that there isn't the item selection found in VF 4: Evo, and the items available are awfully expensive and don't really do much to enhance the fighter's looks. I must admit though, putting rocket boosters on Jack-5 is damn fun.
This game has its own "Force" mode from Tekkens past, called Devil Within, where you play as Jin, trying to find out more about your family's past. Personally, I thought Tekken 3's force mode was entertaining, Tekken 4's not so much, and Devil Within as passable. They shoulda just brought back Tekken Bowling. I haven't completed it yet, but that's mainly because I can't save after every section. You have to complete each level set before you can save, but as you die in Devil Within, you begin to ask yourself, "Why play this instead of the actual game?" Yeah, it's a bonus, but it's no big deal. Just something extra.
What really makes this game special though, is its sense of humor. Yes, this game has a sense of humor, and it plumbs the depths of the Tekken franchise to give it. Jack-5 is back with his signature "chest thumping, laughing ass off on the ground" winning pose, and watching Panda's, Law's, Paul's, and Roger Jr.'s endings are simply icing on top of this wonderful, 5-layered cake. The characters are actually endearing, and that's something that's usually only said about RPG characters. Slapstick comedy is here too, when Yoshimitsu runs into his opponent, and then makes like R2-D2 and thuds down on the ground backwards. Watching Panda or Kuma roll into the stage ends are great too.
My biggest suggestion when going through the story mode is to unlock Wang's movie last. He was Jinpachi's friend, and I'll be damned if you won't feel sorry for the boss after you beat Wang's story mode.
I've tortured you enough with this long-ass review, but this game is worth the lengthy description. It has so much going for it.
Basically, it's a return to form for one of the greatest fighting franchises ever. It's packed with tons of value with Tekken, T2, and T3 available right from the start. It's rewarding to level up your character, and the gameplay itself is accessible enough for your posse, or whatever, to come over and have a blast. Even if some of the extras are a little disappointing, they're still not enough to bring down this game's greatest assets. It's fun, fast, and damn irresistible once you play it. I'm not one to play a game at least once a day from the day I bought it, but that's what it feels like I've done with this game. It's fantastic. It's the best fighting game value available.
Tekken fans, REJOICE! The King of Iron Fist Tournament is back!