The PSP was the first Sony system that didn't receive a version of Namco's King of Iron Fist Tournament within its launch window and has so far been the only one that has had serious competition from a rival console. Coincidence? Probably, but there's no denying that the Tekken series has been up there with Wipeout and Ridge Racer in its association with Sony. With those two already very well represented on the handheld it's only right that Tekken should get equal treatment.
Dark Resurrection is a port of the arcade game, which is itself an expanded version of Tekken 5. It's basically to Tekken 5 as Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution is to Virtua Fighter 4. The arcade version brought a host of new stages and tweaks to the table, customisable characters, and, most notably, new characters Dragunov - a pallid Spetsnaz member who fights with sambo-based grabs and counters - and Lili - the daughter of an oil tycoon with a style that fuses martial arts and dance - along with the return of fan favourite Armor King. While the PSP version isn't a completely accurate port due to obvious hardware differences, it's a remarkably close one that has received Namco's usual bevy of home exclusives.
By far the most striking feature of DR is the graphics. The PSP is a very capable piece of hardware and this game makes possibly the best use of it yet, with large and detailed character models and a game engine that manages to stick to a smooth 60fps. The backgrounds are also full of activity, ranging from military helicopters to penguins, and Namco has even implemented plenty of interactive touches like windows that break when fighters are thrown into them and floor tiles that smash under the force.
Even with all the graphical bells and whistles load times are minimal, coming in at around five seconds between fights. Corners have been cut from the original in order to make the game run this well (the occasional dodgy texture is evident and character models aren't quite as detailed) but when you see it running these minor downgrades are easily forgivable. Small flaws aside, it really is an achievement that they got it looking so good without dropping the frame rate.
The fundamentals of Tekken are unchanged since the original: the four face buttons represent the four limbs of your character for attacks, and combinations of them allow for throws and special moves. It's in the controls that the game's only real downside becomes apparent, and PSP fighting fans will probably be able to guess what the problem is: the D-pad. It was the bane of Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max and while it's not as annoying or damaging here due to the fact that Tekken isn't as reliant on quarter-circle motions, diagonals still remain awkward without one of the various D-pad mods out there.
As expected, Namco has done a stellar job in providing home players with plenty of extra modes and content beyond the basic arcade mode, which approximates the winner-stays-on multiplayer arcade experience with AI ghosts (more on those later). Quick battle is there with portable gamers in mind, allowing an opponent to be chosen for a single fight with no frills, perfect for a quick bash on the bus. Story mode is the key to unlocking several hidden modes and excellent FMV endings for the entire roster of characters. Your character's story will be played out in pre-fight exchanges with rivals, before you ultimately get killed many times by a final boss that is only slightly less frustrating than those in the last two Dead or Alive games. Unlike other games in the series every character is available from the start, which might be a hit for the longevity but makes sense in the context of a portable game. What fun would it be for Heihachi fans if they had to finish the game nine times on their commute just to unlock him?
Practice mode is extremely comprehensive, and time attack and survival modes are there for players looking to test their abilities. Finally Tekken Dojo mode lets you take a character and fight them against AI ghosts of other players, all the while unlocking bonus items to customise characters. There are even extra modes to uncover by moving up through the ranks of the dojo, including that old classic, Tekken Bowling.
While the game features no online play, it does contain an impressive range of network modes that go beyond the expected options. Ad-hoc multiplayer only requires one copy of the game and is generally very lag-free. More interestingly, you can venture online and download AI ghosts of other players to fight against and take part in worldwide leaderboards where you can feel humbled by the people who can devote their lives to the game.
The ghost profiles have been seen in other games but are well-implemented here, with the game 'recording' your fighting style so that the AI can replicate it for other players. It's not exactly like the person is there playing against you, but it's generally more unpredictable than the basic AI. The Tekken Dojo and arcade modes come with a lot of preinstalled ghosts to fight against, but you can also share ghosts with friends over ad-hoc so that you can practice against their ghost and kick the crap out of them next time you play in real life. That's the plan, anyway.
I'll be the first to admit that I fell off the Tekken wagon some time ago, preferring some of the more ambitious fighting games that came out in the last few years. Since this is essentially Tekken 5.5, it doesn't add much to the game you may have already played on the PlayStation 2, but it's nonetheless an excellent title. The quick and relatively uncomplicated fighting fix that Tekken provides is ideal for a handheld format, and if that's what you're looking for this may be the best example yet.