With a simultaneous PS3 and Xbox 360 release, Tekken 6 marks the first time the hardcore fighting series has migrated from arcades to living rooms via a non-Sony console. But that’s the only true fanboy heresy of this adaptation, which is otherwise a hard-hitting continuation of the brief, brutal fisticuffs that have propelled Tekken for years.
Core gameplay is focused on beatdowns between any pair of the 42 playable characters. The action encompasses realistic and highly fantastic martial arts and fight techniques. The stratospheric leaps and elephantine bouncing breasts of some fighting games are kept to a minimum; Tekken instead prioritizes very direct combat and slightly less sexualized combatants.
Part of the series’ appeal is simplicity; Tekken doesn’t feature the multiple layers of special attacks and esoteric power meters seen in a series like Street Fighter. You’ll win not by memorizing seemingly infinite lists of moves, but through timing and a bit of perception. Yet button-mashing will get new users fairly far, and the action always feels accessible and uncluttered.
The character roster is deep and varied, encompassing straightforward martial artists, a bear, a kangaroo, and a new android girl with chainsaw arms. Those who need still more variety can purchase an absurdly extensive collection of items to customize each character.
There’s a catch, however: To earn many items, you’ll have to play through the single-player campaign. There, Namco shoehorns the series’ trademark gameplay into a brawler, backed by a story that makes the Metal Gear series seem coherent. We’ve seen this “feature” before, originally in Tekken 3. Since the mode isn’t new to the series, why is the solo gameplay so lousy? The two-on-two fighting is consummately polished, but the brawling mode features janky hit detection, blocky visuals, and madly uninspired level design. It’s a bit like Capcom’s God Hand stripped of fun and inspiration.
If the mode were mandatory, the inclusion would shoot down Tekken 6 like a surface-to-air missile. But the mano a mano battles stand well on their own, with enough content to satisfy the most particular fight fetishist.