A superb handheld port of Namco’s premier fighting franchise that delivers gorgeous visuals and addictive gameplay in a brilliant overall package.
World-building & Story
In the world of Tekken 6, things have escalate to a worrying head. The new leader of the Mishima Zaibatsu, Jin Kazama, has declared war with anyone who opposes him which has led to conflicts across the globe and his father, Kazuya Mishima, is leading the G Corporation to oppose him. In order to bring this to a conclusion, Jin declares the sixth King of Iron Fist Tournament in order to defeat Kazuya once and for all, and fighters from around the world re-surface in order to join in the battle.
Tekken has always had a convoluted and nonsensical story centred around family drama mixed in with supernatural elements but things are dialled up to 11 here in a way I wasn’t really expecting – giving Tekken 6 a unique feel that is slightly darker than its predecessors. Still, you can expect to see plenty of Egyptian Gods, warring Mishima family members and the infamous Devil gene here – although admittedly I wasn’t quite as engaged as I had been during previous entries, it’s all interesting enough.
The central storyline is focused around a handful of characters (including newcomers Alisha and Lars) but each cast member has their own plot, told through a comic book-style scene at the beginning of their story mode and a CGI scene at the end. Many of these harken back to the things established years ago – Nina and Anna are still fighting, Xiaoyu still wants to help Jin but only has her Panda to rely on etc. In a way it’s a little disappointing to see things haven’t evolved much in the 10 years since Tekken 3, but on the flip side it provides some comfort that these characters are the same ones you’ll remember.
Overall then you’ve got another decent enough Tekken plot here, but one that possibly doesn’t take quite as many steps forward as I’d like – it’s still a fascinating world filled with likeable characters though, so I certainly can’t complain too much.
Presentation & Sound
If I had to pick one PSP title to show off what the machine is capable of, it would probably be Tekken 6 – an absolute graphical powerhouse that looks just as good on Vita (and honestly, could pass for a Vita-native game at points).
For starters, the character models are just sublime – fully-featured with things like lip syncing and hand movements that just set it worlds apart from nearly every other PSP fighter. The fact they all have unique animations (I’ll never not be amused by Nina’s backhand slap, although Alisha’s ridiculous moveset including spawning chainsaws from her arms give Nina a run for her money) is brilliant, but the fact you can fully customise each character’s outfit is just the icing on the cake.
If you thought the models were good, then the arenas are something else entirely – fantastical places full of impressive graphical effects. Whether it be the glowing orange of the inside of a furnace or the looping planes and gorgeous blue skies of a mountain top stage, everything is gorgeous – my favourite of all is a fountain in the middle of a city that shoots coloured water in patterns that is honestly just a sight to behold.
Interestingly, many of them are interactive too – you can expect things like pigs and sheep in fields which will move away when you get near them and walls can be smashed too, revealing new parts of each arena. Combined with the range of effects that go flying when an attack connects, you’d expect this to cause framerate wobbles but Tekken 6 holds stable no matter what – it’s a pretty incredible technical feat.
Each character has voice acting which is used as taunts during the start of fights as well as during their CG scenes and this is generally pretty impressive, giving them all a distinct tone. Music is solid as usual and while there’s no stand-out track in the vein of Stadium from Tekken or King’s theme from Tekken 2, I generally enjoyed everything on offer here.
Gameplay & Content
Tekken 6 continues to refine the back-to-basics gameplay design introduced in Tekken 5 and produces – in my opinion – the best fighting game experience available on Vita, accessible to newcomers yet incredibly deep and nuanced too.
The fundamentals are the same as ever – each character’s limbs are mapped to a face button meaning if you want to kick you have to use x and circle, while punching is square and triangle. These combined with directions will produce moves which can then be combo’d – one thing that had always impressed me about Tekken is the lack of quarter-circles (which have always hurt my thumbs) meaning it’s very easy to get to grips with inputs.
Higher-level strategies are available – air juggling is important against a tough opponent and you can also combo off walls and even the ground (thanks to the bound system) to keep the damage flowing. Yet even for casual players like me you’ll find there’s a really great rhythm to the combat that makes it easy to pull off impressive-looking manoeuvres – you’ll have a lot of fun playing and that makes it easy to lose hours just trying out new characters.
The roster here is probably the most impressive the series has ever been and it’s worth pointing out that every member is different in unique ways – while Baek and Hwoarang both use kicks, they play extremely differently in practice, as do Anna and Nina despite their focus on upper-body attacks and slaps. Unique players like Alisha (a bonkers android), Christie (who dances more than she attacks) and Yoshimitsu (a sword-wielding assassin) mean you’ll never get bored trying things out, which means there’s a tonne of replayability here.
The main modes are story and arcade – story offers short scenes before starting and after finishing which are nice and worth seeing, but arcade has more fights including a (frustrating) mini-boss before the final two battles (meaning it plays a lot more like a traditional Tekken mode). With that said, both suffer from a final boss that is infuriatingly cheap and tedious thanks to his ability to block while attacking – while it’s nice to beat him, I could have done with a more balanced last encounter.
Elsewhere, you can do time attack and survival – both of which are fun, but by far the most engaging mode here is ghost battle. In this, you fight other player’s ghosts and rise the ranks of a virtual dojo by beating them – it’s incredibly addictive and also amusing, since many of your opponents will be wearing whacky custom outfits and have unique ways of fighting. You’ll unfortunately need ad-hoc to fight real-world ghosts, but the computer-generated opponents provided a worthy enough substitute for me.
Speaking of customisation, there’s a tonne of it here and I had a brilliant time fiddling with the outfits of each of the characters. You earn coins from battles (there’s even a dedicated mode for it, gold rush) and use these to buy new clothes and accessories – meaning you can turn Nina into a slutty nurse or Bryan into a grizzled street fighter. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested there’s a tonne to customise here.
Just a quick note on stages – since Tekken 4 they have been getting progressively more interactive (likely inspired by rival series Dead or Alive) and they’re better than ever here. You can smash enemies into walls, slam them through floors to reveal new areas and dodge past things like fences and walls which form hazards – all of it adds a new dimension to the combat which is greatly appreciated yet never veers into being too complicated.
If there’s one thing that’s missing here, it’s extras. Tekken 3 had volleyball and Tekken Force mode to break up the action while Tekken Tag had the brilliant Tekken Bowl – but there’s nothing in the way of little distractions here. It’s hardly a fatal mark against the game, but just could have turned Tekken 6 from something brilliant into something unrivalled.
Still, this is the most enjoyable Tekken has ever been for me in the gameplay department and thanks to the massive roster of characters and addictive game modes, there’s plenty of reasons for me to keep coming back. This is one that’s going to stay on my memory card for many years to come as I chip away at ghost battles and unlock new character story mode endings.
A technical tour-de-force that continues to shine bright on Vita, Tekken 6 contains some of the most refined and enjoyable fighting mechanics I’ve ever seen on a handheld. Combined with the fantastic roster and bevy of game modes you’ve got a real classic here that should be a mainstay for any fighting game fan.