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Tekken 6 review

With a veritable army of characters, has the flashy fighter become too big?

Hammering the attack buttons like a woodpecker on Red Bull still allows noobs to pull off some flashy moves, but the real fun begins when you try to learn to play it properly, and the roster overkill is a barrier to that.

That’s not really a flaw, but a fact that needs to be drawn to your attention. However, the game is far more culpable in how it might cheese off the long-term Tekken fan. The ability to juggle your opponent in mid-air with a combo has been cranked up a notch, and while the player on the receiving end can always counter, it can make for a frustrating experience, particularly if a skilled player takes you all the way to the wall, taking off as much as half of your energy in a matter of seconds.

Luckily, struggling players will always have a chance. The all-new Rage Meter significantly increases the player’s attacking prowess once their lifebar dips below 5%, making for some frantic finales and tremendous turnarounds. It originally proved a controversial addition in the arcades, but after being toned down in the Bloodline Rebellion revision is an intriguing tactical addition, and even if you disagree, you can always fiddle around in the customization mode.

The balance between the characters is variable, as it is in all fighting games, but the difference between best and worst is smaller and more surmountable than in Street Fighter IV. You can’t just fall back on old favorites, either; the fighters who have survived the cut from Tekken 5 have, in some cases, changed dramatically. Take perennial fan favorite Yoshimitsu. In storyline terms, Yosh comes to realize that his famed energy sword is losing power and seals it away. Stripped of his iconic blade, he becomes trickier to master – certainly not for beginners.

The new additions to the series are a fairly likeable bunch. Bob is an American karate artist of some renown who went into hiding after a succession of defeats to larger opponents. He re-emerges now, proudly displaying his new, morbidly obese physique – all that blubber, you see, will allow him to go toe-to-toe with the bulkiest. (Or at least, that’s his story.) He’s Tekken’s equivalent to SFIV’s Rufus – not much to look at, but deceptively agile.

Although Tekken’s true appeal is in multiplayer, there are plenty of single-player options to keep you going. The arcade mode is brief and is once again blighted with a final boss as cheap as Seth from SF IV, but is redeemed by a clever ranking system that allows you to earn promotion, ensuring that you always have an achievable goal. Throughout the single-player modes, Tekken 6 remembers your win/loss record for each character and displays it underneath your lifebar. Hardly unique amongst fighting games, but its prominent placing on the screen does help spur you on.

Not so successful, however, is the dire ‘Scenario’ mode, which whisks the crew from their one-vs-one comfort zone into the unfamiliar territory of a scrolling beat-‘em-up. It’s disastrous, riddled with rigid controls, uninspired enemies and boring bosses. Trying to squeeze some fun out of it is like trying to squeeze an egg out of a badger. Just ignore it. It might go away.

? Uh, no. Not by a long shot, we’re afraid. While Tekken keeps going for the “more is more” approach, Street Fighter wisely went for less in many ways, and came out with a leaner fighter that reinvigorated the franchise. In fact, Tekken could take some lessons from Ryu and crew when it comes to developing the next installment.

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger? Again, no, but it’s not really worse either. Both are similar in that they aren’t shy of incorporating ridiculous elements into their action, although BlazBlue definitely wins the arms race through pure, eye-exploding craziness. Still Tekken 6 wins out in the roster department, and has the benefit of established characters that a huge fanbase has loved for years.

SoulCalibur IV? Sorry, but nope. SoulCalibur has always been Namco’s favorite scrappy child, with its gorgeous visuals and nifty weapon-based combat. It’s managed to remain relatively lean in the characters and moves department, and so benefits for a greater array of truly unique-feeling fighters. Plus its core combat mechanics are just tighter and better balanced.

Finally, as a bonus, here's our Tekken fashion video, showcasing one of the game's unnecessary, yet time-wastingly fun additions, the costume editor:

Oct 27, 2009

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Tekken 6 isn’t trying to masquerade behind a mask. This is Tekken, and it’s for the Tekken fans. Namco Bandai has put a console fighting game on a handheld, and it’s every bit as good. If only the devs could have snuck in an online infrastructure fighting mode. If only.

PlatformPSP, PS3, Xbox 360
US censor ratingTeen
UK censor rating16+
Release date24 November 2009 (US), 11 December 2009 (UK)
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