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Back in September 1998, issue 36 of the Official UK PlayStation Magazine carried what was easily the most exciting thing to happen in my 13-year-old life at the time: a playable demo of Tekken 3. The accompanying magazine featured an exclusive Tekken 3 review (10/10) alongside a 14-page analysis of the Tekken series. If that wasn’t enough, there was an 8-page look at the history of Final Fantasy. It was a brilliant issue.
Still, I remember discarding the glossy collated pages almost immediately in favour of playing the Tekken 3 demo. It had that amazing introduction, and you could play as either Xiaoyu or Eddy Gordo – both making their series debuts – in either Arcade or Versus modes. My friends and I played it for weeks, and it’s definitely one of my Top 5 favourite demo disc demos of all time (If you’re wondering: WipEout 2097, Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy VIII, Tekken 3 and Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey).
Fast-forward to 2011. I’ve got the occasional grey hair and Tekken Hybrid, a £30 retail release that contains a demo of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 as its headline act, in my PlayStation 3. I wish I could go back to 1998.
Tekken Hybrid is an odd package, consisting of a HD version of the original Tekken Tag Tournament as well as animated movie Tekken: Blood Vengeance – both alongside the aforementioned demo – on a single Blu-ray. There’s obviously no reason why Namco can‘t do this, but just because it can doesn’t mean it should.
While it’s undoubtedly the thinnest slice of the triumvirate, most eyes will be focused on the Tag Tournament 2 demo. Four characters are selectable, giving you a choice of any two from a roster of Xiayou, Alisa Bosconovitch, Devil Kazuya and Devil Jin. This quartet is, coincidentally, the central cast of characters in Tekken: Blood Vengeance.
Many of Tekken 6’s core mechanics are incorporated to some degree. Take the gravity-defying Bound system, for instance, which lets you bounce players against the ground like rubber balls to extend combos. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 now lets you mix-up your combo between both players with the Tag Assault system, which enables both players to fight simultaneously side-by-side, alongside the returning options of Tag Combos and Throws.
The original Tekken Tag’s Netsu Power system carries over, too, giving your off-screen partner a damage boost when the on-screen character’s vitality drops below a certain level. Tag out at this point and your character will have a damage boost, with audio and visual cues borrowed straight from Tekken 6’s similar Rage mechanic, which this replaces.
Even from this taster, there’s clear indication the final build of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 should be able to realise some of the intricate combo mechanics the 1999 original tried but never truly succeeded at. Where it really needs to prove itself is with its modes and online functionality.
As a demo, then, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is an effective tease for next year’s game, yet it’s much too thin on content to possibly justify any part of Tekken Hybrid’s price tag.
But wait, there’s more! You’ve also got an upscaled version of the original Tekken Tag Tournament, which should manage to effectively hold your interest for a couple of hours. While there’s a place in my heart for the game, it was released as a launch title for the PlayStation 2 and is based largely off code written for the original PlayStation – and it shows. Bunging out a 720p version only serves to make the game look even older, like when they try and make Patrick Stewart look young in the X-Men movies, and your nostalgia will dissipate completely after about an hour.
And, finally, there’s Tekken: Blood Vengeance. I’m not normally in the business of appraising movies, but when it comes to passing judgement I will say this: I absolutely can’t stand it. It is a dry, tedious film with multiple misplaced attempts at humour that cannot be excused by the comparatively well-produced fight scenes. Steer clear.
Tekken Hybrid is an interesting experiment in marketing, but it’s also an overpriced, vestigial product released in a digital age, and its confusing trinity of titles simply cannot justify its existence as anything more than a shallow, gluttonous attempt at cashing-in on the series’ most devout fans.