Hall of Fame: Tekken Series

Hall of Fame: Tekken SeriesIt’s that time again people, it’s time for us to celebrate another entry into the GodisaGeek.com Hall of Fame. We all know that video games are knocking at the door to be entered into our prestigious Hall of Fame but only a single game per month can actually make it. This month, the honour goes to…

Tekken!

Tekken, as a complete series, has a special place in the hearts of most gamers. It’s been a staple in the fighting genre almost since the first title and has maintained its position ever since. There have been a few less than stellar entries into the franchise but, for the most part, each game has added something to the formula that keeps people coming back for more and more each time. With the recent release of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, what better way to celebrate the life of the Tekken series than by inducting the whole thing into the coveted GodisaGeek.com Hall of Fame.

Robin talks about Tekken’s long-lasting impression on the Beat-’Em-Up genre…

Robin Parker: Whilst it might be a game that came fairly late to the party, when compared to titles such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters, Tekken has more than carved out its own niche in the fighting game market. Being more akin to the combo-based button presses of Killer Instinct than the special moves you would see in its aforementioned predecessors, Namco’s Beat-’Em-Up offers a different experience than most of the other “big name” fighting games that are currently on the market. The stringing together of smaller moves into long combos opens the game up more for players of all skills, and unlike Street Fighter for example, players needn’t learn reams of special moves for each character before they can enter a fight.

Tekken - Screenshot 1

It is also one of the few fully 3D fighting games that has managed to sustain its popularity past the initial wonder of three-dimensional space. Whereas other game series’ such as Battle Arena Toshinden and Fighting
Vipers made a big splash on the Playstation One and SEGA Saturn respectively when 3D gaming was in its infancy, neither managed an extended series. Tekken has now lasted across three console generations, even making the jump to hand-held and the Nintendo 3DS.

The other big draw of the series is probably the huge cast of strange and unique characters that has been built up and added to over the years, and now the cast boasts more fighters than you can shake a stick at. Almost every style of martial arts imaginable is covered by at least one competitor, with several different sub-styles of some being incorporated. It may not feature flaming fireballs and massive Ultra Combos, but the slightly more grounded martial arts manoeuvres do lend a certain sense of realism and believability to proceedings; even when the bout may feature a Kangaroo facing off against a Panda. The game takes itself and its extended story arcs quite seriously, with demon possession and family feuds, but also manages to poke fun at itself, never illustrated better than the insanely enjoyable Tekken Bowling.

Some gamers write it off as a button-masher, lacking the finesse of the Capcom and SNK Beat-’Em-Up offerings, but Tekken is the every-man fighting game. You won’t need to spend hours training with each character before you can even win a match, like you might have to in Virtua Fighter, here anyone can play, and win, and have a giggle whilst doing so. It is a game that a wide range of players could enjoy, regardless of skill; which remains a rare thing in gaming.

Mark talks about the era of the 32 bit fighters with great fondness…

Mark Bridle: Every dog has its day.

Ask Hoover. Ask the Roman Empire. Ask Great Britain, if you like.

It doesn’t matter how big you get, eventually someone gets bigger. Or you mess it up, your power lessens, and you lose your grip on the top. Once that happens, you’re history.

The Tekken series knows this all to well because, after a decade as the king of fighters, it’s Street Fighter’s world again now. In this world of EVO, the 2D boom and Capcom’s resurgence, this might be hard to believe. Believe it.

At the turn of the century, it was Tekken that was keeping the home fires burning for the entire Beat-‘Em-Up genre.

In the late 90′s 2D fighters were niche games, at best, that were declining in popularity outside the hardcore community. 3D fighters were the big names, taking advantage of the 32 bit era’s ability to push polygons. Tekken was the leader of the new world. It had rivals, with Virtua Fighter being the most obvious, but Tekken’s characters, deep fighting and surprising sense of humour allowed it to go toe-to-toe with anything else the genre had to offer. It was also vital to Sony’s first console, providing PlayStation with hardcore credibility and high-powered arcade graphics that came to define the PSone.

Tekken - Screenshot 2

So while other fighters toiled, and Street Fighter sunk into a miasma of marginally different iterations and failed attempts at 3D, Tekken became Fighting Games. The pinnacle of series’ power was the release of Tekken 3. A true sequel, the game was ported from Namco’s System 12 arcade board, making Tekken 3 a tighter squeeze on PlayStation than a Nina William’s catsuit. However, it sits proudly with Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy VII as one of the most startling gorgeous games on Sony’s first console with its visual style still instantly recognisable in current Tekken games. Smoother animations and the introduction of a side step are credited with making Tekken 3 the fluid fighting game that it was. However, an exhaustive move list and bravely updated character design, eschewing the more staccato characters like Jun and Baek for flowing exponents like Eddy Gordo and Ling Xiaoyu, really defined the game (and, again, the series) for years to come.

Tekken 3 courted mainstream appeal whilst it grabbed hardcore players by the tender parts. It had technological mastery and an art style which is still relevant in its latest incarnation over a decade later. Every subsequent game has been built off of the base that Tekken 3 cemented in 1998, when Street Fighter was largely out to pasture.

We might live in a Street Fighter world today, but that doesn’t mean that we should forget the contributions of the Tekken series to fighting games. The world always moves onto something new.

But greatness is timeless.

Sean talks about his first experiences with the Tekken series…

Sean Smith: I have two very vivid early memories of Tekken. The first was the Tekken arcade cabinet that was cruelly placed in the games room of the holiday camp I stayed at during a 1995 family holiday in Dol De Bretagne, Brittany, which effectively ate a large portion of my holiday money which could have been better spent on strong continental lager that was served to me without hesitation by the brilliant, and age-unaware, Gallic bar staff and shopkeepers . Don’t worry, I still managed to get drunk most evenings, but I spent an inordinate amount of that holiday stood in front of that Tekken cab, smoking Gauloise tabs, and learning all about this wonderful new 3D fighter; which somehow seemed more accessible than Virtua Fighter.

Tekken - Screenshot 3

I next came across Tekken during the launch period for the first PlayStation. Our local Currys had a number of demo units, some of which were running Ridge Racer and inferior fighter Battle Arena Toshinden, but the most popular by far was the one housing Tekken, which was absolutely hammered by the kids on the estate, much to the dismay of the shopkeepers. It wasn’t long before I managed to get my hands on my own PlayStation, where I hammered Tekken to within an inch of its life, making sure I could juggle with each and every character, and that I knew every wrestling hold in King’s impressive arsenal.

Time went on and although 2D fighters have always been my first love, I have been guilty of owning every Tekken to have been released, even low points like Tekken Advance and turdy spin-off Death By Degrees. The highlight for me will always be the exceptional Tekken 3, which still stands up incredibly well today, and of course the amazing volleyball and bowling minigames, which have had as much play as some of the main games themselves. I was lucky enough to get to review Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which is a true return to form for the series, and a real triumph for Namco.


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