Fighting game fans already know the score. Tekken 6, finally console bound after living it up in arcades (beginning in Japan in 2007) for a while now, has also made its leap from seminal Sony exclusivity with a foray onto the Xbox 360. This is likely due to the profile of the game, among non fighting game fan types, not being as prominent as it once was. There was a time when Tekken was the king of the fighters, and while it's still the most played arcade fighting game in Japan, the reality is in the West, Street Fighter IV has derailed the 3D fighting game steam rain with its stellar art-style, host of new characters and tried and tested 2D fighting mechanics - still almost flawless today.
So it's up to Tekken 6 to pave its own way, and while the waters have definitely been tread in the arcade space, it doesn't mean Namco Bandai are simply porting the game to console without any love. And love here actually comes in the form of six new characters, a slightly updated engine, some new gloss features, online multiplayer and a revamped fighting system for a handful of familiar faces and the inclusion of a new environmental dynamic.
If you're a die-hard fan but have somehow managed to avoid the game so far, don't fret too much over the above, while some characters (such as Yoshimitsu) have had their fighting style revamped, it hasn't detracted from the game, instead crafting a more varied experience with elements of familiarity alongside the exciting option of learning anew. This also comes in the form of diving headlong into any one of the new six characters, though I test anyone to look past newcomer Bob as their favourite, specifically on an aesthetic level.
What's great though is unlike previous iterations where some new characters have come to the fray with less of a focus on lasting ability and more on fleshing out the roster, the six newcomers here offer just as much depth as the likes of Jin, Heihachi or Paul. It's such a staple point to realise the team have their core foundation down to a fine art, and can whip up new faces with new moves and styles, yet present it all in familiar Tekken fashion.
From a visual level, the game is looking a bit tired (especially compared to some other games out there), but it's more than palatable. You can play through with a motion-blur effect that softens some of the game's harsh edges, while animations are top-notch all round. Bob's largeness is such a great juxtaposition to his flexibility, speed and style and as you'd expect, all the right jiggle physics have come back to utterly distract you from the fighting task at-hand.
Fighting mechanics have seen the inclusion of a new "Rage" meter that comes into effect when you're health is low and you're about to bite the bullet. It's a bit like a lifeline, in that you can come back off it (as you inflict more damage), and even turn the tide, but as is the style with Tekken fighting, chances are you're locked into some juggle combo unable to break out. You also can't practice using Rage from practise mode, which could be seen as a good thing, though I, as a non-hardcore fighting gamer, would have preferred the ability to learn to use Rage to my advantage.
Another new feature comes in the way of bounding. This is a new way to kick up a juggle combo, or keep one flowing. It's basically just a case of bouncing your opponent like a basketball off the ground - skilled players can throw this into any combo to keep the juggles flying, which can also make for frustrating play for any button-mashers out there. But it also means there are now two ways of launching into juggle combos, allowing for a more varied style of play and approach, which should keep things fresh when fighting your mates on the couch.
Unfortunately the couch is about the only place I recommend you keep your multiplayer gaming with Tekken 6 due largely to the amount of lag (and subsequent cheating) that hits the game when connecting peer to peer. You can find a handful of games after a lengthy search, with green bars, but being in Australia still means you're going to suffer, and in a game where some hardcore players know the difference in frames between certain punches and kicks, facing off against any one of these people will give you one of the worst multiplayer experiences ever. If you've been playing SFIV online, that game's online component is stronger than Tekken 6, and my experience there is it equally suffers due to our location, which should give you an indication of what to expect here.
Game modes come in the form of the aforementioned Practice Mode and Online multiplayer along with Arcade, Team Battle, Time Attack and Survival. It's all a pretty standard affair and fairly self-explanatory with the exception being a new mode called Scenario Campaign, which allows players to play through the game's story. Unlocking characters in this mode then allows you to play as them in the "Arena" which is where you can view each of their individual story arcs and cinematic sequences - if you're so inclined.
Beyond all of that is the usual affair of unlockables, offering a virtual Barbie-doll set-up replete with costumes and other arbitrary interchangeable items for character customisation. I get the feeling this is something that likely goes over better in Eastern markets (having spent enough time in Japan to see features like this are actually important to consumers), but it's cool it's available here for Westerners unabated as well.
With 40 characters (six new), solid fighting mechanics, just enough progression to keep it mildly fresh yet familiar along with a leap to the Xbox 360, the Tekken series has leapt from the shadows with its sixth instalment in successful fashion. It may not be as flashy as Street Fighter IV, but among the 3D fighting games, Tekken 6 proves which series is king with a solid showing, made all the better with the inclusion of the Bob character. Seriously, he's rad.