Reviewed: August 4, 2006
Released: July 25, 2006
Namco has consistently been refining and improving on their Tekken franchise for more than a decade now. Their crowning achievement was undoubtedly the PS2 release of Tekken 5 back in 2005, which attained levels of perfection that most fighters only aspire to. So how do you possibly follow-up a mega-hit like that? Well, you wait a year then re-release that game on the PSP.
Actually, Tekken: Dark Resurrection is a bit more than a simple port of the PS2 original. They have put so much time and care into this game, and added new features, new moves, new ranks, new music, tweaked the interface, and even thrown in a few classic mini-games when your fingers just canít take anymore punishment.
The first thing veterans of the PS2 game will notice is that the entire cast of fighters is unlocked and available right out of the box. This is both good and bad Ė good for those who want to dive right in and play as anybody, and bad for those, like myself, who use the unlocking structure as motivation for playing the game. At least we still have to unlock the final movies for each character, and that is motivation enough for this gamer.
The first time you boot up this game you are given a chance to take a quick tutorial. This is a great touch that will appeal to newcomers to the franchise as well as give old-school Tekken players a refresher course. Control on the PSP takes some getting used to. You can either learn to fight with the more responsive D-pad or learn to finesse your moves with the unpredictably analog pad. Both take practice and both are rewarding in their own way, but when it comes time to pull off those perfectly timed and executed 10-move combos youíll probably head to the D-pad.
From the main menu we can choose a Quick Battle, Story Battle, Arcade Battle or jump into some mini-games like Tekken Bowling, which is not a bad little bowling game. Iíve spent more than a few lunch hours bowling rather than fighting. The game modes and even the basic gameplay are pretty much ported straight from the console.
Tekken: Dark Resurrection doesnít really force you to evolve beyond being a button-masher, but your learning of the moves and combos will certainly make things easier, especially when you start fighting as weaker characters in the battles closer to the final stage. Considering there are now 30+ characters, each with anywhere from 40-100 moves, you wonít be mastering this game anytime soon. In fact, you could pick your favorite character and spend a month mastering all their moves and combos.
And what great moves they are. You have all sorts of punches and kicks that are tweaked based on the direction of the D-pad or enhanced if you are running toward the opponent. You have reversals, grabs, flips, and special unblockable attacks that vary for each character. Pulling up the move list for any character can be quite overwhelming, especially those ten-move combos.
With so many characters it was most impressive to find a great story that tied them all together. Everyone has their own motivation for being in the King of Iron Fists Tournament whether it be financial, revenge, or something else. Everyone also seems to have at least one personal grudge or foe that they will face near the end of the tournament.
Each character is introduced with a visually stunning still-frame, comic book style cutscene. There are one or two intermediate movies, usually exchanges between characters using the game engine prior to key fights, and each character has their own jaw-dropping pre-rendered closing movie. Some are funny, some are sad, and some are quite dramatic, but they are all worth the effort to finish the Story Mode for each character.
Tekken packs in the content with unique stories for each of the 32 characters in Story mode, the Arcade mode that flawlessly recreates the coin-op experience including ranked CPU opponents. You can earn fight money, 100K for each story completion and smaller amounts for arcade play, that you can use to unlock costumes and more clothing and accessories for each character. The money goes fast when you are dropping 100K for a pair of cool shades for Christie or the obligatory schoolgirl uniform for Ling.
Then you have Practice mode where you can learn all those complex moves and combos before putting the smack down on your friends in Versus mode. Time Attack sees how fast you can beat your way through the stages while Survival mode tests your endurance with a single life against multiple opponents.
Some gamers and critics will likely complain about the lack of accessibly two-player support or online multiplayer but frankly, Dark Resurrection navigates these pitfalls admirably. First, you have two-player via Ad Hoc, assuming you know somebody with a PSP and a copy of the game. And even if they donít have the game there is GameSharing so you can send them just enough of the game so you can kick their butt and convince them to get their own copy.
While there is no true online multiplayer there is a new and PSP-exclusive Ghost mode where you can record yourself fighting then upload those moves and let anybody from around the world use you for a sparring partner. Naturally, you can download other peoplesí moves and do the same. Itís a pretty cool concept and it works surprisingly well considering that no two fighters are playing together in real-time.
Tekken on the PSP will make your eyes tear up, or possibly even bleed. The visuals are simply astonishing and something youíd expect on an HDTV rather than a 4Ē LCD. Everything from the PS2 has been brought over in immaculate detail right down to the gorgeous interactive arenas and fluid character animations. In fact, the characters are what really sell this game, with their flowing robes and hair and detailed clothing textures and lifelike movement.
Dark Resurrection maintains a mind-blowing 60fps and drops to half that for the CG cutscenes Ė not that youíll notice. Everything about this game just screams sheer artistry. The only minor annoyances are some instances of ghosting when characters are moving so fast even 60fps arenít enough. There are some jaggies around the edges of some angular lines that youíll have to tolerate, but then again, the action is so fast and furious I challenge you to even notice unless you are looking for them.
Dark Resurrection kicks off with a melodramatic theme that accelerates into a rampaging montage of the various character introductions. Itís an eclectic mix of hard rock, techno, and even some subtle orchestrations and whimsical tunes that perfectly fit the characters and the scenes. Each character intro shares the same pulsating serious tune before transitioning into the fight music, and each closing movie has its own custom theme that fits the mood of the scene perfectly.
Every character talks in this game, a first in the Tekken franchise, and while the subtitled Japanese dialogue is excellent, the characters who speak English, especially the Japanese characters who speak English fall just short of excellent. Only one or two characters could possibly be considered as ďbadĒ voice acting.
The rest of the sound package is a mix of combat sounds, shattering rock, cracking floors, and environmental sounds, and the standard stereo mix does an excellent job considering the 2D nature of the fights and the arenas. Just make sure you are wearing some really good headphones so you can hear all the subtle details.
On the default skill level I finished off the entire cast of characters and unlocked all their movies in about 4-5 hours. Of course the longevity lies in mastering those higher skill levels and pulling off the more impressive combos for each character. Dark Resurrection also tests your durability in other ways.
In addition to the previously mentioned Tekken Bowling you also have Gold Rush and an awesome DoJo mode where you can not only fight characters of various skills and abilities, but also unlock a sizeable portion of the gameís hidden secrets.
If there was a way to make the Tekken series better I certainly don't know what it is. Itís like somebody took all the previous Tekken games and put them in a blender then filtered out the bad stuff and out pops Tekken: Dark Resurrection.
Namco has achieved perfection on all fronts; gameplay, graphics, sound, and longevity. Whether this is your first fighting game or just your next, Dark Resurrection deserves a permanent home in your PSP library.