Review: Tekken Hybrid

These are exciting times for fighting game fans. After 10 lean years, the genre reignited with the release of Street Fighter 4, and has continued to burn brightly in the 3 years since. Business doesn’t appear to be slowing down in the near future either, with several new and high-profile releases confirmed or heavily rumoured for 2012 and beyond. Which begs the question, is there room in market for a release like Tekken Hybrid? Tekken director, Katushiro Harada, recently stated that he wasn’t concerned about market over-saturation, but it’s difficult to imagine many people dashing out to pick up this collection. It’s not that this is a poor quality release, far from it, but with so many other options available at this point, it’s highly unlikely that this will be near the top of many people’s to-buy lists.

To begin with, what exactly IS Tekken Hybrid? Well, Tekken Hybrid is made up of three parts, which all have to be installed on to your hard drive if you want to run them, which I have to assume you will. Firstly, we have a new Tekken animated film.  Its ok, but even fans of the series are going to struggle to get particularly excited about it. It is, after all, a fighting game story, and storytelling has never really been this genre’s strong point. But the animation is good, it includes a nice range of the franchises cast, and is certainly better than the recent live-action Tekken movie.

Secondly we have Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Prologue. Or a demo, as they’re more commonly referred to.  Again, it’s ok. The full game isn’t due out for at least 6 months, so it’s difficult to get a grip on where it will be by that point, especially as we only get to try four characters. It’s definitely going to look pretty, with some really nice looking stages, and it was fun getting back to grips with the tag mechanic and the double team moves, which give the gameplay an added depth, but there just isn’t that much here to get your teeth into. Of the 4 characters, two of them are the Jin and Kazuya “Devil” characters and aren’t really the most aesthetically pleasing or representative members of the series.   From a purely selfish viewpoint, none of the characters I usually gravitate towards feature here, and I do think a more varied and high profile roster would have made a world of difference. I didn’t expect a 30 character select screen, but a Law, Paul, Bob or King might have been more enticing, particularly as we are paying for the privilege. This was the part of the “Hybrid” I was most eager to try, and I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with how little there was on offer. Don’t get me wrong, it looks, sounds and plays great, and I can’t image myself not putting this on my Christmas list this time next year, but I don’t really feel this sneak peek fanned the flames of my excitement as much as I hoped it would.

That job was left to the final part of the disk, and quite clearly the main event of this release, an HD remastering of the original Tekken Tag Tournament.  TTT (I’m a slow typer) was a launch game for the PS2 and interestingly (for me anyway) the first game I owned for that beloved system. It was effectively an up-levelled expansion of Tekken 3 from the PS1, and was, to put it bluntly, bloody brilliant. A large and varied roster (after some unlocking),  plenty of different game modes, and a fresh and new gameplay style all contributed to a title that I played solidly until the release of Tekken 4 sometime later. I traded in one for the other, and to be honest, regretted it. Tekken 4 was fine, but TTT always offered more to do and experiment with and I’m constantly amazed that its taken them a decade to sort out a sequel.  There has never been a bad Tekken game on any system, but I’ve never felt that any successfully improved on the gameplay of TTT.

So, with misty-eyed nostalgia, I started up TTT HD and let the memories roll. The music, the title and character select screens, the character animations, and the end-credit sequences all remain unchanged, but polished, and took me back to a time when the cats would chew the wires on my controllers and the only chance of a multiplayer was to persuade my wife that this WAS a good use of her time and no, I’m NOT letting her win to try and keep her interested. The characters and backgrounds have benefited hugely from the HD upgrade, although they still retain that last-gen look that means that you’re not going to think you’re playing Tekken 6 by any stretch of the imagination. The sound is as beefy and epic as ever, the end-boss is still crap, and yes, you can still play Tekken Bowl. I felt a strange twang of pride as my 10 year old daughter, who was a baby last time I played this, joyfully mocked and questioned my worth as a human being, after crushing another strike to put herself well out in front with only one frame to play. There really was no need for the Wii after all it seems.  The only real down side of TTT HD is the lack of any online options. It would have been nice to see if I was as good as this game as I thought I was by unleashing myself online, but it seems like its back to nagging friends and family members.

So Tekken Hybrid is very much a mixed bag. The original Tekken Tag Tournament is great, and the prospect of playing the sequel with the new roster members and online play is very exciting. But it’s a shame that it was released on a disc for £25 with an enticing, but small, demo and a film you probably won’t really bother with. I can’t help but feel if they’d released the HD remaster separately as a download for half the price with some online features, I’d be recommending this wholeheartedly. But, as it stands, this really feels like a release for Tekken obsessives only.  Street Fighter X Tekken is only 3 months away, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will apparently be here for next Christmas. If I were you, I’d have a little patience.

Reviewed on PS3

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