Sunday, March 19, 2017

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Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 Review - The 360° power movement still goes on

Release(s):
    October 5, 2006 (Japan)
    November 3, 2006 (Europe)
    November 7, 2006 (North America)
    November 9, 2006 (Australia)
Platform(s): Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Spike
Publisher(s):
          Bandai (Japan/Europe)
          Atari (North America)
Player(s): 1-2






Overview

Despite the extreme innovations, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi was a step back from Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 in just about every way and even though it did quite well on it's own, it didn't do nearly as well commercially as any of the Budokai games so I was (and probably many others were) genuinely shocked to hear that the game was getting a sequel over Budokai 3. That wasn't a total loss as from the detail that were revealed through the year of 2006, Dragon Ball Z: Budoaki Tenkaichi 2 (Dragon Ball Z: Sparking Neo) was definitely shaping up to be an improvement over it's predecessor... but just how far does it take the relatively new formula?


Gameplay


Budokai Tenkaichi 2 returns the unique fighting system from the first game but here, Spike actually addresses complaints fans had of the rather bare-bones combat. For one, the combo system has been revamped as you can now charge smash attacks freely regardless if you're at Full Power or if you land consecutive rush attacks successfully (though doing so would make them charge faster) and the combo chains for rush attacks are all done by pressing the ki blast button but what chain will come out varies between characters. Sure it's still basically the same combo chains shared throughout the roster added with some new ones but the way it's handled in this game gives melee combat the much needed variety that the first game lacked (even though it still could use more). Most of the combo chains can now be charged like the smash attacks and the silk-like smoothness of controls from Budokai 3 has also been brought whatnot with combos actually connecting like they should. The Wii version of this game has super moves execute through specified movements via the Wii Motion but no Nintendo controller is supported aside from the Wii Motion.

Budokai Tenkaichi 2 not only adds in a bunch of new stuff for greater offensive play but it gives you more defensive options as well. You can now steer your movement while doing a Dragon Dash and there's a new technique called Sway will allow you to "dive-in" while at close range. This move would allow you to follow up with any of the combo chain moves and if you time it right, it can used to dodge most physical attacks. Another new technique is been added called Super Guard which is a guard impenetrable to pretty much all attacks but it comes at a cost of gradually losing ki and it starts up somewhat slow so use with caution.

A bunch of character-specifics have been added into the mix like how certain characters can't stay airborne as long as they want and will eventually fall from the sky (which is honestly annoying to deal with). You can now transform during combat and the customization you have set for the characters' base form will be carry over to the transformation but the transformations still fight as though they are their own character. Some characters can transform to any state or revert back to base form if they want while others have permanent transformations that are done in linear order (like Frieza or Cell) and a certain number of blast stocks filled are required in order to transform. Speaking of blast stocks...  each character now have their own maximum amount of blast stocks that can be filled instead of all of them having 3 and the amount of special moves recycled throughout the roster isn't nearly as blatant here (though they're still definitely present).

Probably the biggest inclusion Budokai Tenkaichi 2 makes to gameplay is the Tag Team feature. You can assemble up to 5 members for a team and tag out to play as any other character when the Switch Gauge is full. For the most parts, the Tag Team feature is just a fun little gimmick but it can come in handy with the yellow ability-enhancing z-items made specially for this mechanic and certain characters can do the Fusion Dance or Potara together to combine their stats into one.

With all that said, the one complaint I have gameplay-wise over the first game is that the computer, even on the highest difficulty, is a piece of cake once you know how to play the game... that and some characters feel utterly useless, but for what Budokai Tenkaichi 2 does better this can easily be overlooked.



Content


  
With another Dragon Ball Z game, yet again a whole new single-player campaign is introduced and it's called Dragon Adventure. Much like Budokai Tenkaichi's Z Battle Gates, it mainly retells of Dragon Ball Z once again... all the way from the Saiyan Saga to the Majin Buu Saga (with some of Dragon Ball GT and various movies/TV specials thrown into the mix) which are categorized as "Scenarios" and battles are to be fought under specific conditions (though Dragon Adventure is more lenient with these) which is either defeating the enemy/enemies, surviving throughout the match, or a special battle that will unlock a What-if Scenario if you win (and if you lose... you lose), but unlike Z Battle Gates which is more of a retreat to a traditional Story Mode ala the first Budokai, Dragon Adventure takes a page out of Budokai 3's Dragon Universe by allowing to fly across the world of Dragon Ball going from one point to another with one or more customizable characters. The only difference here is you don't get to choose a character's perspective to play through and it doesn't take nearly as many liberties with the concept. Sure you can still engage in Battle Points for grinding and bonus battles for unlockables or other goodies but there's no reward for reenacting the story of Dragon Ball Z or playing the mode on the highest difficulty, alternating story paths, or fun little bells n' whistles to the series that gave Budokai 3's Dragon Universe so much replay value. You can also still collect dragonballs in this mode but it's done in the same pain-in-the-ass way as in Z Battle Games though if you gather all 7 dragonballs while in Namek, you can make 3 wishes. Like the previous single-player campaigns, Dragon Adventure is also where you unlock most of the characters and there's a lot of characters in this game (a whooping total of over 120 characters including transformations compared to the first game's already large character count of 90) so expect that you'll spend a long time playing through this mode.

Ultimate Battle has been upgraded to Ultimate Battle Z and instead of playing through a 100 fighter ranking challenge or a survival challenge, you play through multiple courses which will earn you points for completing each one for a record-breaking high-score. You can actually adjust the difficulty here and the courses may vary from fighting one at a time, soloing up to 5 opponents at once, or a 2-fighter tag team.   

Dueling and especially World Tournament has been changed significantly. Dueling still allows you to either play against the computer, another player, or watch the computer fight itself but you can now change up multiple settings within the Dueling menu right from changing the announcer to enabling/disabling enhancement orbs that are found the same way as dragonballs (unfortunately). World Tournament has the World Martial Arts Tournament (Tenkaichi Budokai for any purist out there) and Cell Games as separate tournaments with different levels of classes plus a tournament is hosted by Hercule (Mr. Satan in the Japanese and uncut versions) called the World Martial Arts Big Tournament, which is like the regular tournament except it takes place on random stages across the Earth that's not the World Tournament arena. You can also earn zeni like you can in the Budokai games this time.

The Practice section of Ultimate Training is just as barebones as the first game (only you can adjust the difficulty of the computer making it fight back and reset to the starting position) but the Training section is at least improved as it allows you to reenact the moves taught to you in each tutorial.

The Evolution Z customization system makes a return but the way it works here is a little more like Budokai 3's Level Up system from Dragon Universe and Dragon Arena in that you level up with the blue stats-boosting Z-items through gaining experience points and you can increase each stat up to 20 points. Collecting Z-Items is also been made much easier as you now have an Item Shop that is available either through the main menu or on any map during Dragon Adventure. In the Item Shop, you can buy most Z-Items at any time (including Z-Item Fusion) or sell your own Z-Items using zeni but one thing wrong with this shop is there's no indication to if you're buying a new Z-Item.

Character Encyclopedia (or Character Reference as it's called in this game) has been greatly expanded. Not only do you get to look at character biographies but you can also read synopsis of each saga from the series and listen to the game's soundtrack.

A new mode called Data Center which allows you to enter a password to unlock custom characters and if you have a saved data of the first game, you will earn 100000 zeni.



Graphics



The graphics from the first game have been refined here doing away with the drab color scheme and somewhat blocky character models so now everything is very colorful and vibrant like it should be. The beams, aura, and particle effects also look even better than before although some real nice effects such as the dirt leveling up as you power up on the ground are missing, but at least the stiffness of the animation has been addressed... somewhat.



Sound


Once again, most of the voice clips for characters and SFX have been recycled from the last game only here the audio issues from the first game have been fixed. Not only that but international versions of the game get an entirely new soundtrack instead of stock music from the Budokai games. The new tracks are actually very fitting to the game and are probably up there the Budokai soundtrack in terms of greatness. You can choose what track you have to play during battle as BGM in Dueling and Practice.


Aesthetics


There is much more effort put into telling the story of Dragon Ball with Dragon Adventure than with Z Battle Gates though it kinda suffers due to how limited most of the cutscenes are (even though they allow more than 2 characters on-screen this time) and it could also do with less battles. Aside from that, everything regarding aesthetics has been improved. Special moves have a lot more flair and a lot of them truly feel devastating when the hit lands... you can even destroy certain stages with them like you could in the first and third Budokai games.

The anime-inspired menus still continue to get better and more importantly, the character select screen has thankfully been improved. The characters are all aligned multiple rows making it much easier navigate though it has this weird up is down and down is up thing that certain games have going on. Anyways, the anime cutouts for the characters within the menus now change expression to represent how they feel breathing more life into these menus and if you stay idle long enough they might say something interesting.



Overall

This game went above and beyond by turning a game that was, in retrospect, little more than a fun little experiment to an actually worthwhile game thus making the Tenkaichi series a fan favorite so there was not much complaint with it replacing the Budokai series as the major game releases... but could Spike keep up the momentum they had gained? 

Overall, this game gets an 8.3 out of 10.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi Review - 360° of movement is a power move for the franchise

Release(s):
    October 6, 2005 (Japan)
    October 18, 2005 (North America)
    October 21, 2005 (Europe)
Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Spike
Publisher(s):

    Bandai (Japan/Europe)
    Atari (North America)
Player(s): 1-2




Overview

While the Budokai games were generally seen as clunky and stiff fighters by critics, that didn't stop them from selling like hotcakes. Actually... Budokai 3 was a different story- not only was it a good Dragon Ball Z game but it was simply a quality game regardless of it's license. The fact Dimps actually went and addressed the issues people had with the games shows they really do care for the fans, and when Budokai Tenkaichi was first announced... you bet your ass fans were hyped. However despite carrying the 'Budokai' name there is next to no relation between this game and Dimps' highly popular game series... in fact they aren't even by the same developers. But more important... does it hold up? Let's find out.


Gameplay   


Let me reiterate Budokai Tenkachi is NOT the beginner-friendly traditional 3D fighting game like Budokai. In fact I don't think there's any fighting game that plays quite like this one. First thing about this game is instead of dedicate it's camera to the side of the characters it has more of an "over-the-shoulder" camera angle and as the title of this review indicates this game boasts of allowing players to have 360° control over movement across the battlefield making it a more authentic combat system to the show than previous attempts. One complaint off the bat I have with the camera is that it's too close up to your character's back which isn't so bad when you're actually fighting (since it's designed with that angle in mind), but when you're not directly facing your opponent especially if you're in a corner, your whole perspective is fucked up and you can't do anything about it. Another thing about this unique system is that you can use the huge environments to your advantage either it be hiding behind mountains, slamming your opponents through or into obstacles, or destroying parts of them entirely.

Now for the controls... well one button does basic melee attacks, one button does ki blasts, one button is for guarding, and another for dashing. The right shoulder buttons allow you to jump/ascend into and descend from the air while the left shoulder buttons allow you to lock-on into your opponent (which only works if their within eyesight minus a few exceptions) and to build up ki. For more advance moves is where things become real tricky. You can teleport like you can in Budokai 3 (only it's not a counter and requires no special gauge consumption) but the timing is extremely strict as you have to tap the guard button just before the attack lands and it only works against specific attacks... you can also escape grabs by tapping the guard button at the right time. Speaking of grabs.. they are done by pressing forward and the dash button at the same time but only if you're close to your opponent. The melee attack button can be held to do a smash attack and the longer you charge it the stronger the smash attack is but how long it can be charged depends on how many hits you land (good luck with that). You also have a stun hit move (which has to be pressed at the right time or it's easily blockable even if you already hit your opponent with a basic melee attack) by pressing the dash button, a kiai (which breaks guard on impact) by pressing the ki blast button, and a counter by pressing the guard button as combo chains. There's also a more powerful dash move which makes you dash at greater speed (at the cost of some ki) by pressing the building ki button and the dash, jump/ascend, or descend buttons at the same time but you can't steer your dash once you start it so it's better to just avoid it. You can still do special moves by pressing the building ki button and guard button at the same time for ones that boost states and are more defensive called Favorite Techniques or pressing the building ki button and ki blast button at the same time for ones that more offensive called Finishing Moves... but you can no longer transform while in-game as transformations themselves are treated as different with their own movesets instead of mere power-ups like in Budokai. There are two of each super move type for every character. Ultimate moves are done by pressing the building ki button, the ki blast button, and down at the same time while in Max Power mode (which makes your other moves stronger and even allows you to do an unblockable smash attack) called Super Finishing Moves only the ultimate moves in this game aren't necessarily sequence-based like in Budokai.

This game does sound quite like a handful and to be frank, I had never felt so overwhelmed by the controls of a fighting game before this one but once you do get the hang of the mechanics... there really isn't much to the game beyond that. Every character in this game plays pretty much the same aside from their special moves (and even those are shared plentifully throughout the roster). Sure their playstyles may differ and their attributes may vary like some characters aren't as easy to knock down as others (or in the case of Hercule, you can't knock anyone down easily not even himself... well shit), but you won't find yourself switching between characters with much trouble and there really isn't a whole lot of variety offensively or defensively to keep things interesting for long. You just wind up using the same moves over and over again hoping they land. The computer even realizes this and tries to win battles by being a cheap bastard in the higher difficulty settings.

It may seem like I'm hating on the game but hear me out the game can be quite fun with it's authentic and fast-paced combat. It's just after how good Budokai 3 was, you'd expect a little more polish with this game especially when it prides itself as being the "Ultimate Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT Fighting Game".


        Content


The staple game modes Dueling, World Tournament, and Practice have made a return but there's yet another single-player campaign introduced for this game called Z Battle Gates where you play through various key battles from each saga of Dragon Ball Z and some of Dragon Ball GT plus a few alternate storylines and a couple Dragon Ball Z movies. Each battle varies in terms of objective either having you simply win the battle, defeat the opponent under a time limit, survive till time runs out, or defeat the opponent with a specific (Super) Finishing Move. Generally you're required to clear battles in linear order but completing a whole saga with the extra battles is all up to you. These battles mostly provide a reasonable challenge but some are ridiculously hard for the wrong reasons like the one in the Saiyan Saga where you have to defeat Nappa using the Ki Blast Cannon Finishing Move with Tien and since Tien is supposed to drop like a fly in the actual fight your attacks do barely any damage to Nappa while he can take a HUGE chunk of your health with just regular physical attacks. Another thing is the dragonballs.. since there's no RPG exploration aspect like Budokai 2 or 3 they are achieved through battle and I'm sure some game designers' laughing their asses off when they decided you have to collect them by finding one ball per match as it's hidden within stages... WHILE IN THE MIDDLE OF A GODDAMN BATTLEFIELD!!!

Another game mode Budokai Tenkaichi introduces is Ultimate Battle where you choose a character (both normal or customized) to engage in two courses: Super Warrior 100 Ranking or Warrior Training.  Super Warrior 100 Ranking is a 100-man challenge fighting characters from weakest to strongest which earns you one point after winning a battle plus extra for either getting a perfect, a near-death win, and/or winning with a Super Finishing Move with a chance of earning five points from defeating a sudden intruder, but if you lose two points would be subtracted and losing all points would get you booted from the course (if losing all points is even possible). Warrior Training is a survival challenge course that earns you points depending on how many wins you get and you don't lose any points for losing so you can participate anytime. It's no Dragon Arena but it works well for what it is.

The Dueling and World Tournament modes are largely unchanged from the Budokai games. Dueling is the standard versus mode that either allows you fight against the computer, the second player, or watch the computer fight itself. World Tournament is where you select a character and compete against other characters to put your skills to the test where elimination is either determined by K.O.! or by ring-out (which is very easy in this game btw... much easier than Budokai). There are four classes in total (Notive, Adept, Advanced, Cell Games) and each class is harder than the last with more contestants... the difference here is Adept, Advance, and then Cell Games are unlocked immediately after winning each the classes respectively. There's also no prize money earned if you win so there's not much point to World Tournament unless you just wanna mess around with your friends (up to seven of them).

The Practice modes has been changed and it's not for the better. The practice section has been stripped down to the point where the only setting option you have is to either have the computer do nothing or fight back and the tutorial isn't interactive like in Budokai, instead it's all text-based with a short demonstration clip which doesn't do much to engage newcomers to learn the ropes of the game's core mechanics.

With the Evolution Z mode, Budokai Tenkaichi introduces a brand new customization system called Z-items which functions similar to Budokai's Exciting Skill System (still a lame name) in terms of boosting stats, enhancing abilities, and crippling your opponents but unlike the E.S.S, Z-items doesn't allow you to customize your characters' special movesets to your liking (all moves are integral to the characters). The way Z-items are found is also completely different as instead of buying them from an Item Shop or finding them specific spots within certain modes, they are pretty much given pretty much entirely at random (kinda putting the RNG of the Skill Shop from the first Budokai in a totally new light) and each item is determined by one quantity anytime you earn it instead of being practically infinite like the E.S.S. The most notable difference is you can mix-and-match two Z-items to take a new item with a Z-item called Z-item Fusion (another lame name) including some characters aren't readily unlocked from playing through Z Battle Gates. Rather unnecessary if you ask me.

There is no extra game mode to be unlocked like in the Budokai games but you do unlock the Character Encyclopedia, which gives you a biography on all the characters including their voice actors/actresses (both in English and Japanese), after winning a battle in Z Battle Gates.


Graphics



Budokai Tenkaichi uses a very similar cel-shaded style to Budokai 3 though the color scheme is more muted in comparison, but it's still quite a pretty game regardless. The character models along with the beams, power auras, particle effects etc. capture the look of their anime counterparts almost perfectly and the stages are highly detailed even though there's not a whole lot going on within them. The effects characters have on the stages are also really nice like when you power up on the ground with the dirt piling up and rocks are leveled or when characters are flying across the ocean with the speed skidding across the water... though getting knocked down doesn't damage the ground like Budokai 3. 

The animation isn't nearly as impressive as in the Budokai games especially since it runs at 30 fps instead of a silky smooth 60 fps but it works well enough on it's own... at least during gameplay. The animation is otherwise limited and often robotic which is especially noticeable during cutscenes. One thing I would give it is the basic fighting animation is completely unique between each character and really compliments their fighting styles from the actual series.


Sound 

A couple voice clips are recycled straight from Budokai with the new voices are made courtesy of the new OkraTron 5000 sound production company founded by the voice actor of Vegeta in the FUNimation Dubs, Christopher Sabat, and it really shows. The new voice clips notably more quiet plus they downright goofs at times like some characters would mistakenly have their Japanese voices instead and speaking of Japanese... you can change the language to the original Japanese voices for fans who prefer the original dub for Dragon Ball.

The soundtrack for Budokai Tenkaichi is also made entirely of Kenji Yamamto's tracks for Budokai only here it's not really done to enhance the experience as so much as a cost-cutting alternative to getting the remixed tracks of the anime's soundtrack (which the Japanese version of the game has... lucky). It's all stock especially during gameplay which is randomized with some of the less memorable tracks.


Aesthetics


The Z Battle Gates tells the story of Dragon Ball through in-game cutscenes like Budokai's Story Mode minus the episode prologues and next episode previews, but the storytelling is just plain lazy. Sure you can look up basic info for the characters in the Character Encyclopedia mode but that only serves to hinder the (poorly-told) story rather than help explain it. Aside from that the aesthetics for this game is spot on.

A ton of moves from the series are recreated in this game including the iconic Kamehameha Wave and they're represent very nicely even if they look plain in comparison to Budokai 3. The menu screen also continue to get better and better with the anime/manga-inspired layout... the only complaint I do have is the character select has all the characters lined up in a single, narrow row with no fixed order which isn't really a big deal but it sure is annoying considering the game has like 60 or so characters and there's no way to shortcut this. They at least fixed the loading time while adding a new fun and interactive loading screen where Gotenks makes his Kamikaze Ghosts before they explode.


Overall

What can be said about Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi? Well... it's a nice little experiment but that's pretty much all I can say. It was fun while it lasted even though all it really left me wanting is a sequel (something I was surprised was even being made at all) that improved the formula.

Overall, this game gets a 6.2 out of 10. 
      

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tekken 5 Review - Heihachi went out like a Jack and a bomb

Release(s):                  
                 February 24, 2005 (North America)                 
                 March 31, 2005 (Japan)                 
                 June 24, 2005 (Europe)
Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation 2
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Namco
Publisher(s):                     
                  Namco (Worldwide)                     
                  Sony Computer Entertainment (Europe)
Player(s): 1-2 





Overview

Though the glory days of Tekken 2 and 3 are well behinds us by this point that hasn't stopped the franchise from still going strong. After the non-canonical fun of Tekken Tag Tournament and the innovative (yet controversial) Tekken 4, fans were hungry for more especially with the franchise's 10th anniversary on the way and that's where Tekken 5 comes in being released on arcades of late 2004. Does it make for a sufficient anniversary gift? Let's find out.. 



Gameplay


Most of the mechanics introduced from Tekken 4 have made a return for this title but Tekken 5 brings the 3D combat system a bit closer to it's roots so the control scheme is back to what it once was. Position Change has been removed pretty much entirely from the game meaning the secondary grab attack move is back to it's original command input and the stages are no longer have uneven terrains like in Tekken 4, but at least there's no pesky obstacles to get in the way of combat. You can still use the walls to your advantage and there are even some "infinite" stages like the ones in pre-Tekken 4 games.

Another thing about Tekken 5 is that it goes through all the stops to make characters as balanced and unique as possible (thus removing any hyper-similarities they once had). In fact, the only characters that can be seen as OP are Nina Williams and Steve Fox but not nearly as OP as Jin Kazama in Tekken 4 (where he's just broken). Speaking of Jin, players now actually have to play their cards right as he lost his overpowered moves. The new characters are a nice addition like the Canadian Ninja Raven who probably could give Yoshimitsu a run for his money, the tomboyish Asuka Kazama (Jin's younger cousin) who uses the Kazama Style Traditional Martial Arts but with her own little twist to things, and the psychotic Chinese Kempo master Feng Wei. Old-school characters who haven't been in any Tekken since after Tekken Tag like Ganryu, Bruce Irvin, and Baek Doo Son have made a return with revamped movesets     



Content


The game modes you expect to return are back in this game. Story Battle is mostly the same as it was in Tekken 4 only there's 9 stages in total and the final boss is... Jinpachi Mishima (the father of Heihachi Mishima), who's arguably the cheapest character in Tekken history but good thing he's not playable. The hidden characters are also unlocked through here once again entirely on how many characters you complete it with and all of them are unlocked this way except Devil Jin (who unlocked after fighting 200 times in Arcade Battle or completing Tekken: Devil Within). 

It also seems Tekken has taken a page out of Virtua Fighter's book by having you play through Arcade Battle as long as you want and choose whoever to fight next just like VF4: Evolution's Quest mode. There's also a new ranking system just like the Quest mode where you can go from Beginner to 5th Dan to Tekken Lord. This ranking system determines how tough your opponents are and the amount of G (multiplied by the occasional bonus) you earn after winning each match as well as your chances of being promoted while fighting against tougher opponents. Be careful not to lose too many matches or you may get demoted as well.

Now, you're probably wondering what purpose does G (an obvious abbreviation for Gold) serve in this game? Well they can be used within the Customize mode to modify a character's appearance with different color schemes, additional gear or different clothing, and even a new super expensive costume... but these accessories are purely cosmetic so they don't have any real purpose unless you want your character look cool. You can also earn G from Story Battle (which gives you 100,000 after completing it with a character), Time Attack, Survival, and Devil Within (which gives you 2,000,000 after completing it) but Arcade Battle provides faster and more consistent results.

One thing I've neglected to mention in my Tekken 4 Review (since that game was the first to make that change) is that you can now pause during gameplay in Time Attack and Survival. Another thing I've neglected to mention is within the Attack Replay option of Practice is you can make the computer repeat any move from their Command List with varying input speed instead of just replaying their 10-hit combo moves (which is a good thing because not every character had a 10-hit combo move... they do now, though)... but the Training mode has been removed.

As celebration of the series' 10th anniversary to gracing Playstation with it's ports, Tekken 5 comes with the arcade versions of the first three Tekken games plus another arcade classic by Namco called Starblade (which is unlocked after completing Story Battle with every character or completing Devil Within) in Arcade History. Despite including four extra games into one disc the transition are done to perfection with no signs of slow-down or graphical errors (like distorted character models or misplaced colors).

Lastly, we come to Tekken: Devil Within which is the action-platformer spiritual successor to the Tekken Force mini-game only it uses it's own mechanics instead of using the game's core gameplay as a base. In Devil Within you take control of Jin Kazama as you go around various corridors and fight off generic monks to discover a way to rid himself of the Devil gene and find his missing mother with a boss waiting at the end of each stage. This most likely takes place shortly after (or during... I dunno) Tekken 3 as Jin fights using his old mix-pot style with a very simplified combo system and you can even turn into the devil form (at the cost of gradually losing health) with the lasers and whatnot... if your red gauge is high enough. Admittedly, this sounds great on paper but the whole experience is bogged down by repetition and a bogus difficulty curve which saps out much of the fun had rather quickly.


Graphics


With 3 years of development under it's belt there is definitely a graphical improved and this game is easily the best-looking Tekken has ever gotten on PS2. No matter how you slice it, Tekken 5 is a gorgeous game- everything is just so crisp and detailed. This game may be one of the best-looking to ever be released on PS2. The animation on both the characters and especially stages have been improved as well making the whole thing very lively. You can even cause damage to the floors and walls of most stages.


Sound

Most of the voice clips are recycled from Tekken 4 but some returning characters have reprise their roles so now all the voice actors/actresses sound perfectly good. The SFX now sound crunchier and are overall much more viscerally satisfying than before. As expected the music is quite good... in fact, I'd say this game has the best soundtrack in the series aside from Tekken 2. It's very diverse with each stage having music that's atmospheric/region-specific.


Aesthetics


Much like Tekken 4 most of the story in Tekken 5 is told through text-based prologues and epilogues (though there aren't as many epilogues in this game) on top of an ending movie for each character to set things off. We also now get a few interludes for each character.

The main story of Tekken 5 is shortly after Jin had defeated his father and grandfather respectively, Homaru is under attack by a bunch of JACK models but suddenly during fighting off the JACKs, Kazuya had left Heihachi for dead and one of the JACKs went kamikaze thus killing Heihachi... or does it? This explosion destroyed the Homaru building which allowed Jinpachi, who was trapped under the building and starved to death, to break free and take back the Mishima Zaibatsu (which was founded by him) from his crocked son. 2 months later... Jinpachi had started the 5th Iron Fist Tournament so he can find an opponent strong enough to beat before the demon possessing him (which awoken from the very presence of Jin's devil form in Homaru) takes full control and destroys all of mankind. Now this point in Tekken is where I believe is where the story started to become wack whatnot from the needless retcons of Tekken 2 and 3's great storylines to turning once respectable characters into just comic relief (including my fave Paul Phoenix).

On the other hand, the look and feel of the menus continue to get better and better but this also seems to imply to characters' intro and winning sequences during battles including more dynamic camera angles and subtitles so you can understand the foreign characters. 


Overall

Despite the increasing niche of the fighting game genre and the dying arcade scene outside Japan, Namco still managed to pull out yet another great game for this franchise... but how long can Tekken keep up this momentum before it hits the wall like the Virtua Fighter series? Only time will tell...

Overall, I give this game a 9.5 out of 10.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tekken 4 Review - Step into the next millenium

Release(s):
    March 28, 2002 (Japan)
    September 13, 2002 (Europe)
    September 23, 2002 (North America)
Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation 2
Genre(s): Fighting
Developer(s): Namco
Publisher(s): 

    Namco (Worldwide)
    Sony Computer Entertainment (Europe)

Player(s): 1-2




Overview

With three games and one non-canonical title under it's belt, Tekken has proven time and time again it can hang with the big boys of the fighting game genre. The true fourth installment was also in the makings and was set to be released in 2001 for arcades... to make way for a new era of fighting in the 21st century. Just how far does it take this re-revolutionary movement with 3D fighters? Let's find out...


Gameplay



Once again the award-winning 3D fighting from previous Tekken games have return so that's good but there are a couple fundamental changes that makes this game stand out. For one you can't jump backwards or vertically... you can only jump forward which isn't a big loss but it's something you'll notice when it's gone. A new grab move which allows you to shift your opponent to a more favorable position and it's done by pressing LP + LK of which the secondary attack grab is supposed to be. A couple other control schemes have been made but the biggest change Tekken 4 makes of the combat system is that for the first time ever, Tekken takes full advantage of the 3D fighting concept by actually having you fight on a 3D plane instead of an illusion of one. You can use the environments to your advantage by slamming your opponents to walls or trapping them into stage obstacles on uneven terrain stages forcing a slower and more strategic approach to combat. Now, I understand why Namco would make such changes and a couple of these concepts are quite good but at the same time they are alienating to long-time fans.

The new fighting styles are also a mixed bag. For example, Jin Kazama no longer fights with a mix of the Kazama Style Traditional Martial Arts and Mishima-ryu in favor of traditional karate which makes him his own character now but he is really OP in the game notably due to his Laser Scraper move. Tekken 4 brings in new characters with completely unique movesets like the Vale Tudo fighter Craig Marduk who uses a grappler style not quite like no other (especially with his tackle) but his moveset just feels... incomplete. Though on the positive there's also the british boxer Steve Fox who, instead of using his additional punch attacks for his kick buttons like most fighting games would for boxing character, uses he left and right sway dodges for the LK and RK buttons which makes him an especially fun character to master. Lastely there's Combot... an ever-so-pointless replacement for Mokujin who instead of switching to a different character's fighting style each round he does it after an entire match. 


Content



All the game modes from Tekken 3 have returned for Tekken 4 but one in new game mode this game introduces which also becomes a staple in the Tekken series from then on is Story Battle. Story Battle is just like Arcade (Arcade Battle) only it actually goes out of it's way to tell the story of Tekken (which honestly makes Arcade rather redundant). You will fight 6 randomized characters then a possibly character-specific sub-boss and Heihachi Mishima as the final boss... though some character's stories may play out differently and will unlock a specific character (if they aren't already). Another player can't attempt to challenge you so they can take over like Arcade Battle.

The Tekken Force mode in Tekken 4 has received something of an upgrade from Tekken 3 as it takes full advantage of the whole interactive environment mechanics within the game's combat. You can also lock-on manually to an enemy instead of automatically locking onto the closest enemy and losing no longer means a game over (though you lose your total score from previous stages... not that it means much in the end) but the actual difficulty has increase with enemies potentially attacking you at every corner even during his boss fights. Speaking of boss fights... they are no longer character-specific... every character in the end of each stage will face Combot, Kuma/Panda, Kazuya, then Heihachi. 

Aside from that stuff there's a mode called Training which determines how fast you can input each character's bread-and-butter moves, and you can record a battle by pressing the select button at the end of the match and it can be viewed within the Theater mode. You can now pause in Time Attack mode and Survival mode.


Graphics



At a glance there's not much of a difference graphically between the Playstation 2 port of Tekken Tag Tournament and Tekken 4 but Tekken Tag was already a great-looking so it's not really to be taken as an insult. I suppose Tekken 4 looks sharper is especially evident with the stages naturally as they're now part of the gameplay experience and there's no sign of slowdown like what happens with Tekken Tag sometimes. There are no longer any character-specific stages however...




Sound

Almost all of the voice actors/actress have once again reprise their roles for Tekken 4 and they sound better than ever before. What's even cooler is that for the first time ever in a Tekken game the characters finally have actual dialogue instead of just making battle grunts and occasional laughs. Some voices are questionable like Marduk's battle grunts which are like weird animal growls but overall they do a good job. The soundtrack for this game also shows quite a drastic change in style to reflect with the changing with the times. The synthesized music is now largely downplayed in favor of a techno/rock mix and there are no character-specific themes for the stages. The soundtrack also isn't remixed for the console port like previous games but that aside... the soundtrack is still head-bobbingly good nonetheless. 


Aesthetics 





Like I said earlier Tekken 4 actually goes out of it's way to tell the story through the Story Battle mode including text-based prologues and epilogues so you aren't just left guessing what happens. Each character still has their ideal endings after completing Story Battle but also like I said earlier this game features dialogue and the endings themselves have much more relevance to the main story so most of them actually feel like they're telling a legit story instead of basically being slideshows. As for the story itself... Kazuya Mishima has mysteriously came back from the deadwhich is bullshit thanks to G Corporation and is out for revenge against Heihachi for foiling his plans while Jin Kazama, who now has a deep hatred for anything related to the Mishima bloodline after Heihachi's betrayal (including his lineage, his fighting style, and the Devil Gene within him), is out for the same thing so Heihachi had announced the 4th Iron Fist Tournament to lure both of them out so he can claim the Devil Gene for himself. There are some other cool twists to the story as well like the once respected and feared Vale Tudo fighter Craig Marduk being responsible for the death of Armor King (King's mentor) which lead to him getting an invitation to the Iron Fist Tournament despite being charged with manslaughter, Steve Fox trying to discover his real parents while ducking the Mafia (whom may not be quite what they seem), and Ling Xiayou getting involved in the complicated history of the Mishamas to reunited with her schoolmate Jin and discover the truth to Heihachi's intentions.


The game's interface is significantly improved from previous games like each game mode in the main menu given a description and a mini screenshot to give you an idea of what it's about, and the screen transitions have actual flare to them rather than them simply going to the next screen. This is also a clear move to the next millennium.


Another thing I must add is that the character also speak their native language (like the Mishimas and Jin speaking Japanese, Hwoarang speaking Korean, etc.)... though some characters (like the replacement Capoeira fighter Christie Monteiro and Nina Williams) who are foreign don't even have a discernible accent when they should... but that's no big deal.



Overall

What can I say about Tekken 4? It's a black sheep alright and it's a damn good one at that! It may not be the best in terms of gameplay (even though it has some REALLY good and even revolutionary ideas) but you can't deny it's done a lot of good in terms of aesthetics and content.



Overall I give this game an 8.6 out of 10.