Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation 2
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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 dead 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.
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.