Anyone growing up in the 90s must remember those hideously-dubbed Kinder Surprise adverts of yore; excessively smiling parent asks what their brat would like from the shops, to which they chirp back “something exciting, a toy, and some chocolate” only to be told “that’s three things!”. Well, fast forward a few years, ditch the poor dubbing track, and change the trio of requests to “a HD remake of a classic, a demo of the new hotness, and a high-budget CGI film”, and you’d probably find yourself rewarded with a copy of Tekken Hybrid…or a smack, for being so demanding.
Game: Tekken Hybrid
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Receiving the HD makeover is Tekken Tag Tournament; previously a PS2 launch title, yet still one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed entries in the series, and a rare example of where a game remained fiercely contested on the competitive fighting game scene even after its sequels landed. It’s pretty easy to identify the source of these accolades, as its two-man tag battle mechanics have been kept out of the numbered entries in the series since, and even to a casual player these introduce a fun take on the standard Tekken formula, whilst still managing to remain surprisingly balanced when you scratch past the surface. Whilst the usual ‘one button per limb’ setup remains, a fifth button switches your active player, but can also be used in conjunction with throw commands and juggle launchers to great effect, allowing a character to bow out safely mid-combo, only to bring in the cavalry with all guns blazing. Those versed in more recent Tekkens may find some choice characters and moves missing due to the game’s age, but this disappointment is short-lived, as it still manages to deliver a solid fight.
Everything here is very clearly based on the original PS2 port, and there’s been a respectable job done to bring the textures up to scratch for the 1080p resolution on offer. It may not be a complete graphical reworking, but it’s certainly not bad either. Visuals aside, Tekken ports on the whole have a pretty long-standing reputation for including all manner of additional modes, ranging from the practical to the downright ludicrous. Although TTT HD features a good measure from both sides of the camp, it’s only those that featured in the original port, rather than a new array of modes. This means that Team Battle, Survival, Time Attack, and the infamous ‘Tekken Bowl’ are in, but quite critically, there’s not even a hint of online play or any kind of leaderboards. Obviously tweaking netcode, running servers, patching bugs and the like all involve hefty long-term commitment from a developer to a title, yet it’s still inexcusable to see a fighting game released in 2011 without even the most elementary attempt to get people playing the game; especially given there are already two Tekken titles on the PS3 which have this facility. As with any fighting game, battles against an AI opponent will only last you so long, and it’s a crying shame that an otherwise solid update of one of the franchise’s standout titles is crippled by such an obvious pitfall.
Taking up the majority of the Blu-Ray disc is the film Tekken: Blood Vengeance, included in all of its shiny 3D and HD splendour. A looker it may be, but whilst we at NGB are hardly budding Mark Kermodes (heck, we might not even qualify as budding Paul Ross’), it’s fairly safe to say that this is some way from being the gaming world’s Citizen Kane. As per usual, the story revolves around the Mishima inter-family rivalry, and sees Jin and Kazuya assembling their forces in the search for a mysterious pupil at an international school in Kyoto. Slotted in as spy-come-students, and with all of the subtlety of a freight train are Ling Xiaoyu and Alisa Bosconovitch, who drive the plot forwards with their own particular brand of saccharine-sweet camaraderie and plucky detective work. If you’ve ever watched one of the character-specific ending FMVs in a Tekken game and thought it was a bit silly, then you may or may not be glad to know the team have successfully re-created this feeling to a tee. Throughout the film’s run-time it goes from semi-serious to light hearted via the occasional spot of fan service, all at quite some pace. It’s not all bad though; if you do plan on watching this, be prepared to switch off your brain, and you’ll at least be able to enjoy watching a couple of Tekken favourites scrap it out in eye-melting 3D-CG detail.
The final component of the bundle is Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Prologue; a playable demo of the new arcade title that’s just reached Japanese arcades. Your choice of characters are those most prominent in the Blood Vengeance movie – namely Xiaoyu, Alisa, Devil Jin and Kazuya – and there are 4 stages for you to try them all out in. Whilst only making up a fraction of the content offered in the full release, you can still get a pretty good impression of what’s new this time around. Graphically, everything looks much better, and the character models in particular have undergone some serious work – taking it massively beyond TTT’s HD remake, and even the more recent Tekken 6. Sounds effects & music are both up to the usual high standards too, and are already hinting another broad range of influences, with one stage’s theme even sounding quite heavily dubstep-influenced. As with the Blood Vengeance movie, those with the appropriate hardware can also try out (read: show off with) a 3D mode. Whilst this does introduce some particularly nice effects – one stage in a school yard has students watching you fight from varying degrees of closeness – it does also have the rather unfortunate side-effect of severely hindering the otherwise solid frame rate, making it little more than a one-time novelty to try out. If visuals are your thing, there’s even a 3D model viewer included for you to ogle incessantly.
More importantly, a number of gameplay refinements have been made too. Bridging the gaps that the TTT HD time-warp highlighted, this sequel is brought in line with Tekken 6 to include features such as stage walls, bound hits, and the rage system. Unsurprisingly, it introduces some new systems of its own, specifically around tag mechanics. ‘Tag Assault’ allows you to start a ‘bound’ combo with one character, bring in a second, and then alternate strings between the two to truly devastating effects. On the defensive side, ‘Tag Crash’ is a new way for a downed player to tag in a partner, having them dive in from above fists first, granting a safer swap-over. Whilst it’s impossible to speak of balance with this few an array of characters, it’s good to see the tag mechanics back with all of the bells and whistles from other, newer Tekkens, along with some fresh new ideas – and it all adds up nicely to what feels like the most polished fighter Namco have ever put together. Whilst this sounds very positive, even with the best intentions of gleaning every last morsel of information from Prologue, it’s still just that – a prologue – and will only last even the most enthusiastic player a short period of time.
Whilst no doubt already on fans’ radars for the update of TTT, it’s hard to recommend it on this basis to new players who will struggle to find offline competition. Blood Vengeance is nice enough as an extra but not something you’ll want to endure more than once, and whilst TTT2 is looking in great shape, there’s really not enough of it here. If you ever were that brat getting a Kinder Surprise, just remember that sinking feeling when you realise the chocolate wasn’t that good, and that the toy wasn’t that much fun either. There’s better, fuller Tekken experiences already out there, and as this collection proves, there’s an even better one on the horizon. There’s fun to be had for sure, and at its low RRP, Hybrid may be deemed essential to some Tekken die-hards, but it’s little more than a fleeting love letter to this one minority.