06 Nov, 2009

Series Link #1: Tekken

PALGN Feature | Tekken a trip through time.
Confucius said "Study the past if you would define the future," and we at PALGN have taken that on board to bring you Series Link, where we'll be examining the history of some of gaming's most compelling sagas in order to better understand where gaming has been, where it is now and where it's headed next.

The first series we'll be taking a look at is Namco's hugely successful 3D fighting game series, Tekken. With Tekken 6 just released, let's wind the clock back fifteen years to 1994, and see where one of gaming's most important and prestigious 3D fighters began.

If your family photo looks like this, consult your therapist.

If your family photo looks like this, consult your therapist.

Platform: Arcade (1994), Playstation (1995)

The original Tekken, developed by Namco, first appeared in Japanese arcades in December 1994 before making its way to the Playstation in 1995. Tekken was only the second 3D fighting game to come into existence, with Sega's Virtua Fighter beating it to the punch with its arcade debut in late 1993. Though Virtua Fighter is rightfully credited as being the first, if not for Tekken following suit 3D fighters may have been left high and dry as a novelty. With 2D fighters maintaining their popularity and vitality even up until now, who knows what the course of 3D fighters would have been had Tekken been a 2D fighter.

Tekken's roster has been colourfully diverse from the beginning. The original eight as pictured above were King, Nina, Yoshimitsu, Kazuya, Paul, Law, Jack and Michelle. Though Michelle and Law have been replaced by their offspring, King by his protégé and Jack by his own updated versions, the original core cast are still on the roster in one form or another as of Tekken 6. Also appearing in the very first Tekken were the enigmatic bear Kuma, Nina's sister Anna, sumo Ganryu and the elderly-but-tough Wang, among others. There was also Heihachi Mishima, perpetual antagonist of the series and father of Kazuya.

The Mishima family has been the cornerstone of Tekken's increasingly complicated story. Each game has invariably been about the King of Iron Fist Tournament, a fighting tournament held by the Mishima Zaibatsu, an all-powerful corporation. The two kanji characters that make up the Tekken logo actually mean 'Iron' and 'Fist'. In the first Tekken, Kazuya entered the tournament to get revenge on his father, after Heihachi had hurled him from a cliff as a child and left him for dead. Kazuya was saved by the Devil gene, a supernatural story element that has carried through every game. If you unlocked Heihachi and played through Arcade mode, Devil Kazuya would be waiting for you as a secret final opponent.

Tekken has changed since, but kicking a guy in the face hasn't.

Tekken has changed since, but kicking a guy in the face hasn't.

Though Tekken followed Virtua Fighter's steps as a 3D fighter, it employed a control scheme entirely its own that it has continued to utilise. The elegant simplicity of Virtua Fighter's three commands (punch, kick and block) was challenged by Tekken's equally elegant limb-per-button system, where both fists and both legs would each have button dedicated to their use. Using the buttons in combination and tandem yielded a wide variety of moves.

As you will see as we progress through the timeline, a lot of elements from the original Tekken have consistently carried through the entire series: from the control scheme, to the overarching and mostly cohesive story, to the elaborate cast. The gradual evolution of Tekken would seem to be one of the reasons Tekken has had such longevity and success over its now fifteen year history. Of course, Tekken's greatest strength is its deep fighting system, which really began to blossom with its first sequel.

Tekken 2
Platform: Arcade (1995), Playstation (1996)

Tekken 2 was the title that really solidified Tekken's reputation as an excellent fighting series. Tekken 2 looked smoother, ran faster and played better than its predecessor, improving in every way possible. As would become the trend with each Tekken title, not only did the graphics improve, but so too did the animation of the maneuvers at your disposal. Tekken 2 shed the strangely proportioned characters of the first game for much more realistic looking fighters that moved and interacted in a way that was believable. That is, putting aside the fact you could play as a bear.

Tekken 2's roster held onto all of its original cast (aside from changing Jack to Jack-2) and added several other faces that would go on to become favourites, such as Kazuya's love interest Jun, Jackie Chan understudy Lei Wulong, Roger the kangaroo, tae kwon do master Baek Doo San and kickboxer Bruce Irvin.

Paul getting beaten up by a girl. Again.

Paul getting beaten up by a girl. Again.

After Kazuya was successful in getting revenge as the winner of the first King of Iron Fist Tournament, he inherits the Mishima Zaibatsu and takes it to new heights of evil, backed by the sinister Devil now lurking in his psyche. Upon learning that his father is somehow still alive, Kazuya holds a second King of Iron Fist Tournament to draw him out. He also attracts the attention of Jun, who enters the tournament with the aim of arresting Kazuya but ends up pregnant instead. The result of this coupling will go on to become the main character of the Tekken series for games to come. In the meantime however, Kazuya takes on Heihachi and loses. Heihachi turns the tables, dumping Kazuya into a volcano, and ultimately regains control of the Mishima Zaibatsu.

Tekken 3
Platform: Arcade (1997), Playstation (1998)

Tekken 3 implemented several big changes to the series, both in terms of core gameplay and the content outside of it. It holds a Metacritic score of 96 out of 100, which gives you some indication of its very high place in the fighting game pantheon. The mechanics of the previous two games had been tweaked almost to perfection, making Tekken 3 one of the most well-rounded fighting games ever released at the time. While playing the first two games now feels quite sluggish, Tekken 3's gameplay holds up beautifully.

The biggest change was undoubtedly the introduction of a sidestep. Though Kazuya sported a sidestep in Tekken 2, every character in Tekken 3 was able to move into the background or foreground of the screen in order to avoid attacks and strike their opponents from the side or behind. This was a huge tweak to gameplay that meant Tekken 3's status as a 3D fighter had a lot more weight. Jumping was toned down significantly, and you could also perform 'ukemi' rolls when hitting the ground to quickly get up again, making fights a more frantic affair. Tekken 3 also introduced what would be the first in several attempts at a Streets Of Rage-esque side-scrolling fighter called Tekken Force. It was an amusing distraction but not a great deal of fun. There was also the rather bizarre Tekken Ball, Tekken's fun take on beach volleyball.

King is a chiropractor part-time.

King is a chiropractor part-time.

Set 19 years after Tekken 2, Tekken 3 featured a drastically tweaked roster in which several old favourites underwent a hiatus. The much loved Jun was gone, seemingly killed by the malevolent monster Ogre. King was another victim of Ogre, replaced by a new King. Marshall Law was replaced by his son Forest, and Michelle Chang by her daughter Julia. Characters like Baek, Ganryu, Wang, Armor King and Kunimitsu were gone and replaced by the likes of Xiaoyu (with a similar style to Wang) Hwoarang (with a similar style to Baek), and Eddy Gordo, the controversially mash-friendly Capoeira fighter. There was also the ambigiously android-like Bryan Fury. Panda made its first appearance as a palette-swap for a Kuma, while Jack-2 was upgraded to Gun Jack. There were also a couple of amusing gimmick characters in the form of Gon, an orange turtle/dinosaur hybrid, and Dr Boskonovitch, a virtually unplayable character whose moveset involved creepily sliding around on the ground and burping. Sadly Tekken 3 proved to be the sole outing for both characters. Most significantly, Kazuya was gone, replaced by his son Jin, now all grown up.

The story saw Heihachi attempting to harness the power of the mysterious Ogre for himself. He holds a King of Iron Fist Tournament in order to lure out Ogre, with his own grandson the prime piece of bait. Jin eventually defeats Ogre. Having exhausted his usefulness, Heihachi has Jin executed. However, the Devil gene activates within Jin, who not only keeps Jin alive but assists him in throwing Heihachi through a brick wall before flying off into the night. Mishima dinner parties must be a blast.

Tekken Tag Tournament
Platform: Arcade (1999), Playstation 2 (2000)

Tekken Tag Tournament was more or less Tekken 3.5, shined up to become a launch title for the Playstation 2. As the title suggests, Tekken Tag's focus was on tag team bouts, which lent itself surprisingly well to Tekken's gameplay. Characters could be switched in and out at will, with the inactive character able to regenerate health. You could even start a combo, tag out, and have your partner finish it off. Cool pairings like Armor King and King, Nina and Anna, Jin & Kazuya and Paul and Law all became possible. If you used the team of Kazuya with Devil Kazuya, he would simply transform into his demon self instead of tagging. There was also a neat mini-game in the form of Tekken Bowl.

Tekken Tag was a non-canon title that had little story other than fighting a character called Unknown, a creepy woman shadowed by a spectral wolf. Many speculated that Unknown was a resurrected Jun in some form, but this was never proven one way or another. Tekken Tag Tournament also marked the final appearance for a few characters, such as Prototype Jack, Kunimitsu and Michelle, appearing alongside her daughter. Tekken Tag Tournament was a giant melting pot, incorporating nearly every character to have featured in the series. It was a giddily fun celebration of Tekken that made for an excellent launch title.

Tekken Tag Tournament was a significant graphical update, allowing Jin to wear cooler pants than ever before.

Tekken Tag Tournament was a significant graphical update, allowing Jin to wear cooler pants than ever before.

The ability to have tag team fights sadly hasn't been incorporated as a feature of the numbered games, and we're yet to hear any whisper of a Tekken Tag Tournament 2, despite strong fan support for the idea.

Tekken 4
Platform: Arcade (2001), Playstation 2 (2002)

Regarded by some as the weakest Tekken in the series, it seemed to represent a change in direction. Gameplay tweaks included the ability to move around the stage prior to the commencement of the fight, allowing for some strategic posturing and mind games, though this idea had disappeared by Tekken 5. Another idea trialed in Tekken 4 that hasn't returned was that of sloping stages, though environmental damage has remained. A sore point for some Tekken fans was the newly incorporated ability juggle players against walls, which could be exploited to perform infinite combos.

The all-inclusive roster of Tekken Tag Tournament was virtually halved. Tekken 4 featured the canon return of Kazuya and Lee alongside some new faces, like Australian 'roid freak/wrestler Craig Marduk, Eddy Gordo costume swap Christie Monteiro and British boxer Steve Fox, whose unique style of play focused on punching, with the kick buttons used to duck and weave. Classic characters Anna and Jack were absent for the first time ever in the Tekken series, and much beloved wooden doppelganger Mokujin was replaced by the less appealing Combot. Tekken 4 just seemed to be lacking some of the Tekken spirit. The camera was pulled in closer, the characters were more bright and colourful, and it felt as if it had traded some of its grittiness for Dead Or Alive sheen. It was still a strong title in its own right, but in a series of games that generally improved one to the next, Tekken 4 was more of a step to the side than a step forward.

Heihachi's man-nappy will never be forgotten. *shudder*

Heihachi's man-nappy will never be forgotten. *shudder*

Tekken 4's story featured a rival to the Mishima Zaibatsu called G Corporation, who had gotten hold of Kazuya's body and revived him. Meanwhile Jin was training and hiding, in Brisbane of all places. Heihachi needed the Devil gene to assist his quest for Ultimate Power, and so he announced a fourth King of Iron Fist Tournament in the hope of luring both Kazuya and Jin so he can get his hands on the Devil gene. A whole bunch of stuff goes down, but the end result is that Jin winds up kicking both Heihachi and Kazuya around and flies off into the moonlight.

Tekken 5
Platform: Arcade (2004), Playstation 2 (2005)

If Tekken 4 was the series' low point, Tekken 5 was the highest, a huge return to form. The roster was the biggest yet, and saw the return of several long-neglected characters such as Wang, Ganryu, Baek, Roger (Jr.) and Bruce. There was also a fresh batch of new fighters including the Jun-esque Asuka, Wesley Snipes aka Blade aka Raven and powerhouse Feng Wei. Kazuya's Devil was also replaced by Devil Jin. The gameplay seemed more in tune with Tekken 3 than Tekken 4, and overall seemed to be the manifestation of years of tweaks and adjustments, resulting in the smoothest, fastest and best Tekken yet. Tekken 4's wall-juggles returned but were toned down and balanced to remove the potential exploits that had surfaced. It had another crack at a Tekken Force styled mode with the Jin-focused Devil Within. It even included an awesome Arcade History mode in which you could play arcade versions of the first three Tekken games! Tekken 5 was also the first game to bring in character customisation. In previous games, like most fighters, you would be limited to two or three costumes at best, but in this title you select from dozens of different customizable parts. You could put a jetpack on Jack, sunglasses on Roger or give Jin a different hairstyle. The changes were merely aesthetic but it added a whole new level of character to the series in which you could personalize each character to your own liking.

Tekken 5 also introduced Ghost Battles, which were a kind of simulation of playing at the arcade. You would climb through a series of legitimate martial arts rankings, from the bottom rank of 9th Kyu, up through the Dan rankings and eventually into a long series of fictional rankings that culminated in Tekken Lord. Your opponents would all have their own custom names, their own rankings and their own customized characters, just as if you were playing in the arcade against other people's personalized arcade machine cards.

He's going to teach Jin how to do things the Feng Wei.

He's going to teach Jin how to do things the Feng Wei.

Tekken 5 brought in yet another generation of the Mishima bloodline: Heihachi's father Jinpachi Mishima. Jinpachi was sealed away by Heihachi, who had originally taken the Mishima Zaibatsu from him. Jinpachi was kept alive but also corrupted by the Devil gene. After an attack by the G Corporation moments after the ending of Tekken 4, Jinpachi is freed by a giant explosion. Heihachi is thought to be killed in the blast, but nonetheless somebody announces the next King of Iron Fist Tournament. It turns out to be Jinpachi at the reins, who recognizing his own evil via the Devil gene, set up the tournament in the hope that somebody would be able to destroy him. Eventually Jin is able to oblige, and as a result inherits the Mishima Zaibatsu. This is the situation heading into Tekken 6.

Tekken: Dark Resurrection
Platform: Arcade (2005), Playstation Portable (2006), Playstation Network (2007)

Tekken 5 was later given an update called Dark Resurrection. Dark Resurrection brought even more new characters to the fray: rich girl Lili Rochefort appeared alongside very Russian psychopath Dragunov. Jinpachi was made playable, and Armor King also made his return. Movesets were tweaked and balanced ever so slightly, and several of the Tekken 5 stages appeared in alternate forms. The new stages were particularly interesting too, with Lili's bright pink bedroom a stark contrast to Dragunov's moody wolf-infested forest.

The pinker the stage, the better.

The pinker the stage, the better.

This brings us nearly up to date. Despite Tekken 6 being released some time ago now in arcades (late 2007), it's taken until now to get a home version console of the title, though the title we are receiving is the arcade update Bloodline Rebellion rather than the original arcade Tekken 6. Adding a further six brand new characters to amount to the biggest Tekken roster yet, we'll find out soon exactly what this title contributes to the Tekken legacy in our upcoming review.

We hope you've enjoyed the debut of Series Link. If you've got your own fond memories of the Tekken series why not share them in the forum comments below? Stay tuned for the next edition of Series Link, in which we'll be taking a look at the Call of Duty series to whet your appetites for Modern Warfare 2.

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4 years ago
Wow, it's weird how much Tekken has evolved from the old days on the Playstation... But, for me, the game is still as fun as it was when I played with Yoshimitsu in Tekken when I was 6...
4 years ago
Excellent article. C

One thing... shouldn't it be placed under PS3 instead of Xbox 360 seeing as Tekken used to be a Playstation exclusive?
4 years ago
So much Tekken love.

I pretty sure I still own each original release... except Tekken 4 ewwww.
4 years ago
The only Tekken game I ever played extensively was Tekken 2. I always played as Kuma.

4 years ago
whats with all the Tekken 4 hate? icon_confused.gif icon_sad.gif i mean come on! it was such an ambitous step towards a Tekken game that actually felt like a true 3D game!
4 years ago
Good article. I still have fond memories of Tekken 3, and that game had the only Yoshimitsu design I could take seriously.
4 years ago
Very nice article. Tekken 2 was one of the first games I played on the psone and loved it. Tekken 3 kicked ass too.
4 years ago
Nice article- only thing it's missing is a bit about how the Tekken series and the Soul Edge/Calibre series are linked.
4 years ago
I love Tekken! My firt was T2 and I played it for months and months and months and months, maxing out every character, every 10-hit combo, every throw-chain, awesome!
4 years ago
And Jun was my favorite.. she was missed icon_sad.gif
4 years ago
No Tekken GBA?
4 years ago
My first was Tekken 3 and I wasn't a fighting fan before it, only ever liking Killer Instinct before it.

My fondest memory of getting my PS1 was playing the Tekken 3 demo with friends.

I noticed a mistake in the article.Forest Law did not replace Marshall as Foerest was only in Tekken 3.

The artbook that came with Tekken 6 mentions that Unknown was originally intended to be Juns younger sister in the story but the idea was scrapped.
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