Namco's premier fighting game franchise is back and looking better than ever. This could be the best fighter on the PS2.
Tekken has always been one of the premier fighting games in arcades and on various PlayStation consoles. However, Tekken 4 was considered by many to be a huge low point for the series, especially with impressive competition from Sega's Virtua Fighter 4. Thankfully, Namco took a step back and looked at what made the series one of the best fighters out there. They took their time and created a fighting game that contains the best aspects of the Tekken series, and a few new twists borrowed from Sega.
For those looking for something completely new from the Tekken series, you'll need to look elsewhere. Tekken 5 still plays like the Tekken titles we all know and love. In fact, many of the 30 playable characters are returning from previous Tekken games. Tekken 5 is a game created for people who love Tekken. Even if you loathed Tekken 4, Namco has done its part to take the few good portions of that game and include them in Tekken 5 as well.
The first noticeable change is the addition of a customization mode similar to Virtua Fighter 4. Players will be able to earn money through various modes of play, then use that money to change the color of their character's outfits, or add custom items to their head, face, upper body and lower body. Each item can now be viewed before you purchase it, which is a welcome change from the arcade version.
While there aren't as many items as what Sega included with Virtua Fighter 4, and virtually no new items added for the PS2 version, it's still nice to be able to get a moderately unique look for you fighter. Unfortunately, this feature may not entertain you for long. It takes very little time to earn enough money to buy every item for every character. We'd even go as far as to say you could easily earn enough money for everything in two or three days.
Players will also be able to create a unique name for their custom characters, and your ranking will also be saved on the PS2 memory card (one profile per card), another nod to VF4. In the arcade version of Tekken 5, this ability allowed for heated competition between players to move themselves up in rank, and prevent demotions. However, on the home version, it doesn't quite have the same impact. It's still nice to see it ported over though.
Speaking of the arcade to PS2 port, the two are nearly identical. Comparing the PS2 version, running in 480p progressive scan, to the arcade version, running off a high resolution RGB input (the best possible picture for both versions), there are very minimal differences. In fact, if you aren't looking for the differences, you likely won't notice any at all.
New to the PS2 version of the game is a Story mode that details a story board prologue (similar to Tekken 4), as well as one or two matches with dialogue before and after the fights, plus a CG or animated ending. The stories themselves are a bit lacking, but if you're playing a fighting game for the story, you're looking in the wrong genre. The mixture of CG and anime-style endings is a nice addition, and many of the endings are sure to please long-time fans of the series.
Another new addition to the PS2 version of Tekken 5 is the Devil Within mode. If you've played Tekken 3 or Tekken 4, you already have an idea of what to expect here. Devil Within is basically a slightly altered version of Tekken Force. The only difference is that you can only play as Jin Kazama, and you have the ability to transform into Devil Jin for a limited amount of time. The story follows Jin between Tekken 4 and Tekken 5 as he was consumed by the devil within. As Jin, you'll have a few choice combos available, but this isn't any deeper than the Tekken Force mode from previous Tekken titles.
For the hardcore fans out there, you'll be happy to know that the practice mode has seen minimal changes since Tekken 4. Defensive training, one of the best additions to the Tekken 4 practice mode, makes a return to test and improve your skills. It's easy to see that Namco has the high level fighting game fans in mind here, unlike the shallow practice modes in Dead or Alive and Mortal Kombat.
Namco's love for its fans has also limited Tekken exclusively to offline play. While some may complain that Tekken needs to go online, and I for one would be the first one online to play, Namco knows that Tekken would not play correctly with the current hardware limitations for broadband gaming. MK: Deception doesn't have noticeable slowdown because of the way the game engine is designed, but latency is still there. DOA Ultimate has plenty of slowdown, but it doesn't have a game-breaking effect on the title. Tekken on the other hand requires exact inputs that must be entered within 1/6 of a second or sometimes even less. These would be impossible with the current online structure for the PS2, and while many Tekken fans would still play online, you would end up having to play a dumbed down version of the game.
A lack of online play aside, there a few other minor gripes to be found in Tekken 5. The game supports widescreen format, but it seems to cut off the top and bottom of the screen in order to do it. This isn't a huge issue, but for those who own widescreen TVs it may be a slight annoyance. The auto-save function is back, but it takes considerably longer to save than in previous Tekken titles. Granted, it has to save all of your customization data, but when you've become accustomed to the unnoticeable auto-save in previous Tekken titles, the longer auto-save in Tekken 5 feels like an eternity.
After everything is said and done, Tekken 5 is arguably the best Tekken title to date, and significantly deeper than just about any other fighting game out there. Had Namco included a tag option, there would be no dispute about it at all. Online play is lacking, but hopefully Namco will include it in the next installment in the series. Fans of the arcade version of Tekken 5 will be happy to see a near flawless port of the game, complete with all of the customization aspects of the arcade game. In addition, you'll find your standard fighting game modes of play, plus an in-depth practice mode, and all three original Tekken arcade titles. Hands down, this is one of the best fighting games available for the PlayStation 2.
Tekken 5 is the best Tekken for the money right now. You get arcade ports of the first three Tekken titles, a revamped version of Tekken Force mode, and a solid fighting game, all in one package. However, it's not perfect. There's no online play, and Namco hasn't added much to the character customization found in the arcade version. There's also no tag mode to be found, but Namco likely has plans for a separate tag title down the road. Tekken 5 takes all of the best features from each game in the series, and compounds it all into one stellar fighting game. There are a few small gripes, but this is definitely one solid fighter.
by Bryan Dawson