A Brief History of Tekken
The long running Tekken series is one of video gaming’s finest examples of the beloved “a couple of guys punch and kick the shit out of each other” genre. With the recent release of Tekken 6 we’ve decided to take a look back at history of the franchise. And since completely gratuitous eye candy is a proud tradition of the fighting game genre we’ve decided to take a look back at the history of that too.
Tekken was one of the earliest fighting games to be in 3D, which places it in the period of video game history where games were going to the third dimension but weren’t very good at it yet. Still, for the time it was pretty damn good, and it offered up some innovations to the genre, most notably more intuitive controls. For a new franchise it sold very well, probably because it avoided being a Street Fighter rip-off like pretty much every other fighting game that came out in the mid 90s.
Tekken 2 only came out a year later, but it made a few improvements to the fledgling series. The basic game was still pretty much the same, but the graphics and animation were improved significantly. It looked a lot more realistic, and this, combined with its focus on at least somewhat believable martial arts combat, started to attract fans who were sick of ripping each others spinal cords out in Mortal Kombat. Plus you could play as a kangaroo, which was awesome.
Tekken 3 was received incredibly well both critically and commercially, making it arguably the best game in the series. Again the graphics and animation got an overhaul, but the real improvements in this version came to the gameplay. Lots of little changes made things smoother and gave players many more options for approaching a fight. Oh, and continuing the animal theme, you could play as a bear. Being able to control a giant bear and maul people is, frankly, a feature that should make its way into far more video games.
It may surprise you to learn that a Tekken movie was released in the late 90s, and no, it wasn’t some early Uwe Boll atrocity. It was a Japanese animated movie that was brought over to the United States as a direct to video release where roughly three people saw it. Objectively it was absolutely awful, but the ridiculous action scenes and horrible acting have a certain dumb, Saturday morning cartoon charm to them. Plus, its only real competition at the time were the terrible Mario and Pokemon movies so it’s not like it had any sort of standard to live up too. OK, that doesn’t excuse it from being bad, but for any kid watching it at the time the action was probably enough to make it worthwhile. Plus there was swearing, which Pokemon totally lacked, and even some very brief nudity. Back in the day when kids had to work for their porn this was sort of a big deal.
Tekken 3 was a tough act to follow, and the series’ fourth installment is generally considered to be the weakest of the bunch. It’s not an awful game by any means, but it had a few flaws that prevented it from getting the reception of its predecessors. The jump from the Playstation to the Playstation 2 provides some welcomed graphical improvements, and for its time the game looked fantastic. But a few changes to how it was played upset hardcore fans, as it became easy for skilled players to use simplistic or just plain cheap tactics to win. Of course, that didn’t affect the 99% of people who play fighting games by mashing buttons at random and hoping for the best, but it did prevent Tekken 4 from getting the critical praise the series had become used to.
Tekken 5 was a return to form for the series, as it received critical success and sold well. It turned out to be one of the nicest looking games on the Playstation 2, flaws in the gameplay were addressed and some of Tekken 4’s more experimental features were toned down. In addition, the game offered a huge cast of characters and a nice variety of modes. This tenth anniversary release proved to be the game that many people had hoped Tekken 4 would be, and it performed well against the many, many other fighting games that were flooding the market around this time.
Death by Degrees is one of many examples which proves that fighting game spin-offs are always awful. Nobody is quite sure why that is, but for reasons that baffle the wisest of men any attempts to place fighting game characters out of their element results in abject failure. In this case, Tekken’s Nina Williams, one of the series most popular characters, was forced to play through a generic action game where she battled hordes of boring enemies, terrible controls, tedious load times and a deadly camera. It had a couple of interesting ideas, but for the most part this spin-off was quickly forgotten as fans went back to beating each other up in the regular series.
We’ve reached the present day, and the most recent incarnation of the franchise. It’s only a couple of months old and so we can’t say if this one will stand the test of time, but as usual the critical and commercial response has been excellent. The jump to the current generation of consoles has made for some gorgeous visuals and animations, and it offers up the largest character roster the series has seen. It also has online multiplayer, which means you’ll be able to hear some gruff drunk guy call you a faggot as he beats the crap out of you with a little girl, without having to leave the comfort of your house! Yup, Tekken 6 has it all.
Finally, a Tekken movie, one with a budget of more than 20 bucks this time, is coming to theaters. It was supposed to be out this year, but its release date is now a mystery. Odds are we’ll see it in 2010, but don’t be surprised if it vanishes into the ether. Still, enough details have been released that we suspect this one will eventually see the light of day, even if those details don’t exactly fill us with optimism. The director’s previous credits include such classics as Free Willy 2 and the second Anaconda movie, and the lead actor’s biggest role to date was an uncredited background appearance in Batman Begins. But hey, at least it’s not directed by Uwe Boll, and if nothing else it will undoubtedly stay true to the franchise’s long running tradition of revealing clothing.
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