Tekken 6 Preview: When Pigs Fly

The Tekken series holds a special place in my heart for its elaborate ending sequences, its NPC-fraught arenas and the inclusion of capoeira as a martial art.

Tekken also strikes a balance among fighting games between rewarding button mashing and encouraging players to learn character-specific combos. In other words, I could play through all the Tekken games by myself and get to watch the elaborate endings which fostered a sense of accomplishment – but my brother could still kick my arse and thereby maintain self-esteem. Everybody wins!

What Is It? Tekken 6 is a one-on-one fighting game that will make the jump from PlayStation exclusive to multiplatform release by including the Xbox 360 along with its PS3 and PSP releases. Series developer veteran Katsuhiro Harada said radical changes have been made to the graphics engine so that the game can better focus on portraying movement. Harada also added that each console release would have unique content. Dare we hope for Soulcalibur-style homage characters?

What We Saw I played four versus matches against Joystiq's Randy Nelson as Law, Kuma, Kazuya and new character Zafina. Randy tried out Panda, Feng and new character Bob — the fat guy who plays like a skinny guy and potentially provides a glimpse into what Japanese people think of American people. Technically, we weren't supposed to play with Kuma, Panda or Law, but the game's time-sensitive character selection screen kept dumping us into matches before the PR rep could point out where the permissible characters were on the screen.

How Far Along Is It? The game looked pretty final, but the PR rep explained that some characters and levels weren't finished yet. Tekken 6 ships this fall.

What Needs Improvement? Fine Tune Grabbing: Unbalanced grabbing systems are the bane of strategy-minded fighting game fans (think Soulcalibur IV). So it's important for any any fighting game to balance out the strength of and character sensitivity to grab attacks. Four matches isn't much time to get a complete feel for how well Tekken 6 stacked up against other fighting games, but I did feel like it was easy to break grabs and easy to make them, but even if you pulled one off, it didn't do the kind of catastrophic damage that makes you want to break grabs as soon as possible.

Insert Smack Talking: One my favourite things about fighting games is the smack talking that goes on before and after versus matches – especially if by they don't sync up in context or hostility. I'm not sure anything will top Kasumi's whiny dialog matched against Ein's death threats in Dead or Alive 3 for me, but I remember Tekken had some pretty good lines before and after battles. Sadly, I neither saw nor heard any smack talking in any of the matches I played.

What Should Stay The Same? Zafina: There are a total of 42 characters – seven of them new to the series. The only one I got to spend quality time with was Zafina, who reminds me of Voldo from Soulcalibur, only hot and not male. Her moves were fluid and spider-like, and a lot of them come out of a low combat stance that allows her to perform over-her-back attacks reminiscent of Voldo. According to the January 2009 issues of PlayStation: The Official Magazine, Zafina is from the Middle East and uses "ancient assassinations arts." Guess those ancient assassins were double jointed.

Flying Pigs: There are a total of 16 stages in the game, but so far my favourite is the pig farm level that may or may not be Bob's stage in the story mode. About half a dozen pigs are onscreen throughout the fight and if you happen to hit one, kick one or get thrown into one or more, they go flying and land a few feet away, unharmed. It's less tragic than the frog that goes to heaven in the Secret Garden level from Tekken 5, but no less hilarious.

Final Thoughts I liked Tekken 5 and saw no reason why I wouldn't like Tekken 6. There were some "new" things I didn't get to experience in only four matches that may have an impact on my feelings. For example, I didn't see the new multi-floored levels where you can crash through a floor or a wall into another area; I didn't see the rage system that increases a character's strength when they're near death. More subtle matters I couldn't get a feel for were the Bound system that extends juggles and the tweaks to death animations and fighting combo mechanics. Also, Law has gone through a major character overhaul; but since I wasn't supposed to play as him, I only got in a single match. It looked cool, but I can't say if I like it or not based on only one go.

And now for some screens:


    Do you mean, "When Swine Flew"?

    @JT: Ha ha ha. Good Call. Nice and topical.

    I really wish they would leave Devil Jin out of the series. What always appealed to me in the Tekken series was the fact that characters didn't use weapons or shoot fireballs (ala: Street Fighter, SoulCaliber). When Devil Jin came along with his stupid laser eyes and outrageous moves, it just felt like Namco tried for Tekken to be too mainstream.

    @NAMCO: Leave it how it was, just updated.

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