Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation
As I've said in my review of Tekken 2, that game turned out to be an even bigger critical and commercial success than it's predecessor. Not only did the Playstation port sell over twice the amount that the first game did, Tekken 2 was given several accolades from major video game journalists as among the best video game ever and was the #1 most-played arcade game for several months straight (considering how big arcades were at the time, this was saying a lot). This officially established Tekken as a household name among other big-name fighters such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. The most logical step for Namco to take would be another sequel leaving players waiting as they shit their pants in anticipation for how far Namco can take their new hit series.
Once again Tekken 3 returns with the award-winning 3D combat system from the first games and just when people thought Namco couldn't take things even further, they did. One thing is that the sidestepping mechanic has been fully implemented for every character and they also have several moves that are tied to it including a powerful, inescapable throw from either the opponent's left or right just you can do from their backs. Characters now jump at realistic heights rather than 30 feet like they do in the first two games making aerial more easily controllable. Recovery time when down is now instantaneous keeping the flow of combat constant. The controls are even more tight and fluid, there's more ways counter, and there's even more diverse fighting styles.
Speaking of styles.... most characters from the first two games have been removed so defamiliarization of those games is a must for this game especially since while several characters may share likeness to the one they've replaced notably Jin Kazama (the bastard son of Kazuya Mishima and Jun Kazama), who is like mixed pot between the Advanced Mishima Style Karate and Kazama Style Traditional Martial Arts, they have enough of their own moves to set them apart.
The AI has been toned down considerably from the first two games now providing a reasonable challenge for newcomers and there is no instances of cheap difficulty
spikes... well, it actually does get harder as you go along but it never feels overwhelming. One could argue Namco may have made it too easy but in any case, it's at least much more adjustable.
All of the game modes from Tekken 2 have returned but the Arcade Mode has a different method for unlocking characters. Instead of playing through it with a specific starting character to unlock a specific hidden character, it's now determined by how many characters you've completed Arcade Mode with and the last character you will unlock is the of course, the final boss... Ogre and then it's transformed state True Ogre. The options for Practice Mode was been extending massively from the last game.
Everything you can do in Practice Mode from Tekken 2 is here but you can make the computer dummy perform various actions such as crouch, guard in standing and/or crouching positions, perform a quick roll while laying on the floor, or even have another player take control. You can also have the computer act as a fighting opponent of varying difficulty () and all these are sectioned to three modes called "1P Freestyle" where you can basically do whatever (evident from the title), "VS CPU" where you fight the dummy as if it were an opponent, and "Combo Training" where the game helps you perform more complicated combos. There's a few options encompass the whole Practice Mode such as the "Hit Analysis" which makes the characters green but blinks red whenever they are completely vulnerable and the "Attack Data" like in Tekken 2 only in 3 you can see the total amount of damage both characters have dealt to each other throughout the whole session. Unfortunately, the replay feature is just as unreliable as in Tekken 2 but at least now the game doesn't boot you back to the main menu for keeping it idle.
Tekken 3 introduces a mini-game called Tekken Force Mode of which you select a character and fight your way through a bunch of generic mooks beat 'em up style but with Tekken controls. There's a total of four stages each one ending with a boss depending on the character till the last stage where you fight Heihachi Mishima (except Mokujin). This mode is hella fun and if you manage to beat it three times you will get a chance to fight Doctor Bosconovitch then unlocking him if you win but be careful, because if you lose then it's gameover. You can also gain points based on well you do but they're completely inconsequential.
There's also another a mini-game called Tekken Ball Mode only this is unlocked through completing Arcade Mode with all the starting characters. In this mode you select a character then play against another player or the computer in a game of volleyball but with Tekken controls as well and your goal is to dwindle down your opponent's health by either sending the ball to their side of the court or hitting them with the ball directly. You have the choice of three beach balls (two of which are unlockable)... a beginner ball which can do up to 40% damage, an expert ball which can do up to 60% damage, and a grand master ball which can do maximum damage... the amount of damage that the ball can do is represent through a parameter that builds up from landing successive hits. This only works for certain attacks, however... surprisingly this mode works as well.
For the first time in non-Japanese versions, a mode called Theater Mode will also appear after you've completed Arcade Mode with all the starting characters. Here you watch opening sequences for the game and the endings for the characters you've completed Arcade mode with. If you get all of them, you gain the option to listen to the game's soundtrack (both arcade and remixed) in the music section or load the endings/music of the first two games in the disc section.
The graphics just keep getting better and better. The character models and animation are significantly detailed than they were in the first two games plus the backgrounds don't clash so much with them along with the environments like they used to. Unfortunately, there isn't nearly as many unique stages for each character as there are in Tekken 2. With the exception of Heihachi, Ogre, Bosconovitch, and Gon (who is unlocked through Tekken Ball Mode after beating him) all the hidden characters have stages shared with the starting characters.
The voice work has been given a major overhaul from the first two games with several familiar voices thrown into the mix notably the late Daisuke Gōri as Heihachi Mishima (who voices him from the anime adaptation to Tekken 6 before his passing, rest in peace... champ). They still only make battle grunts (with a few exceptions) but at least now they doesn't awkward as they did previously. The soundtrack however doesn't hold a candle to the one in Tekken 2 but it's still got the great classic arcade synthesized feel to it.... though personally I prefer the arcade tracks over the rearranged tracks here for the most parts.
The lore behind Tekken 3 isn't as strong as the one in Tekken 2 either but there's still plenty of interest within it. 19 years have past since the 2nd Iron Fist Tournament and Heihachi had reclaimed his throne from his (literally) demonic son Kazuya, who he threw into an erupting volcano (no way that sucker's making it out ali... shit), but something strange has happened. Many of the world's greatest fighters are gone with most of the absences being linked to the ancient being from Mexico named Ogre, who robs fighters of their abilities by attacking them, and Heihachi announces the 3rd Iron Fist Iron Fist Tournament to lore him out (best expect there'd be an ulterior motive behind it). Some of the fighters from the previous tournament have returned (like Nina Willaims who was cryogenically frozen for 19 years and is in search for her lost memories) but a bunch of new faces like the young and innocent Ling Xiaoyu who wants to build the perfect amusement park in China, the loner Jin Kazama who takes over as the main protagonist and wants to get revenge against Ogre for presumably killing his mother, the street punk Hwoarang who wants to settle the score with Jin, and the capoeira fighter Eddy Gordo who wants to piece together the murder of his father and seek retribution.
Just like the first two games the fighting styles for each character in Tekken 3 is based off real-life fighting styles so real-life martial artists would certainly appreciate the attention to detail. For authenticity sake, Eddy Gordo's animation is notably done using motion capture from a real-life capoeira fighter.
While Tekken 3 may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Tekken 2 it's still a substantial improvement where it comes over an already amazing game. Many say this is the pinnacle of the series (it even did the best both commercial and critically) and I can definitely why. The combat is done to near-perfection but even if you're not a huge fighting game nut there's still plenty of other shit to do and it gets just about every single aspect.
Overall, I gave this game a 9.8/10.