Japanese Tekken fans haven’t been looking forward to this. Well, we’re sure that some of them have, but certainly not as many as you would expect. It’s all down to the host format – they believe that Tekken should either be played in an arcade with a sturdy joystick and a large screen perfect for gathering a crowd around, or at home, again on a large screen and with a comfy joypad. We can see their point, even if we don’t recall a similar fuss being made when Tekken Advance was released for Game Boy Advance.
They’re right though – the controls are an issue. The d-pad is adequate and the shoulder buttons aren’t used by default, leaving the problem with the actual shape of the PSP – without a prong to grasp it’s not long until your hand starts smarting under the strain of the fast reflexes required. Placing the PSP on a flat surface improves things, but pulling off a complex combo is more than a little awkward.
At least the PSP’s other well-documented downfall – loading time – doesn’t give cause for concern. There’s a mere five to ten second wait between bouts, which is quite an achievement considering how slick it looks. There are a few pixellated textures – notably on tattoos and clothing – but it’s still easily the best looking PSP game since Burnout Legends. Further, the 3D backdrops are numerous – after two hours of play we were still coming across environments that we hadn’t seen before.
But the real beauty, as with any Tekken game, is the sheer variety of characters. You’ve got cop Law with his play-dead moves, boxer Steve who ducks and weaves instead of kicking, Hwoarang and his crazy kicking combos, sword-wielding Yoshimitsu, break dancing Eddy, and a couple of wrestlers chucked in for good measure.
It’s not a new game by any means, rather an update of Tekken 5 – albeit one built from scratch for the PSP – with two new faces – Lili and Dragunov – and the return of Armour King. You can’t argue with the likes of Kuma/Panda, kangaroo Roger and a good twenty others available from the off either.
And we’re onto the modes. In arcade mode you can pick who you face next, which is a nice touch – especially because Law can be a tricky customer. Quick battle includes a team battle mode, while under practice you’ll find the options to take defensive training, tutorials and command training. If you’re into all things wi-fi there’s a spot of game sharing, and also lobbies and ghost downloading. There’s no online play, as the developers said that battles would be noticeably slower paced.
As a game to play on the move it works surprisingly well, with each character’s story taking around 15 minutes to work through. Upon competition of these you’re rewarded with a CGI clip – these range from the epitome of cool to nonsensically amusing – and after every fight gold is earned to unlock goodies. You can’t pick what you unlock though – after gaining a set amount the next reward becomes available. One of the first unlockables is the chance to fight in a hidden pirate treasure cove where every blow landed earns you cash, while later a bowling game – Tekken Bowl – can be played. It’s a pretty simple affair, but it complements the package nicely. Can we have Soul Calibur on PSP next please, Namco?