Tekken It Outside
Tekken: Dark Resurrection (PSP)
Ever since the PSP launch, gamers have been waiting for Namco's flagship fighting series, Tekken, to appear on the platform. While Tekken has in fact gone handheld once before, in the form of Tekken Advance on GBA, it was a rather disappointing affair, being a cut-down 2D sprite-based version of Tekken 3 with only two control buttons. Tekken has always been synonymous with Playstation, so it's only natural that the Playstation Portable should offer us the true Tekken portable experience.
Having spent the last week playing the Japanese version of Tekken: Dark Resurrection, let me tell you, it's an absolute knockout. It's a better rendition of Tekken than I ever imagined possible on the PSP. It's virtually flawless.
The last Tekken seen on Playstation2 was Tekken 5 (see my review here), which was a much better game than Tekken 4, and a triumphant return to the series' strengths. Since then, Namco have released two upgrades to Tekken 5 into arcades: Tekken 5.1 and Tekken: Dark Resurrection. Dark Resurrection is the ultimate version of Tekken 5 - it's been fine tuned and better balanced, and features three additional characters, as well as a whole swathe of extra content. It's this version that has been given the handheld treatment, making Tekken: DR on PSP the deepest and most complete version of Tekken available.
The most striking thing about playing Tekken on PSP is just how beautiful it is in motion. Screenshots cannot do it justice. It's simply gorgeous and the bouts spill out at a solid 60fps. Admittedly it isn't pushing quite as many polygons as T5 on PS2, but the difference is hardly significant. The characters look great and their clothes, hair and facial expressions animate fluidly as they duke it out in 19 lush detailed arenas. There are 34 playable characters (the largest roster yet), all selectable from the beginning. Armour King returns to the tournament, as well as newcomers Lili and Dragunov. Every character has at least four outfits and there are hundreds of individual customizations available for each; literally twice as many as there were in Tekken 5. Most of the arenas are variants of the original Tekken 5 stages, at different times of the day, and with new music tracks. Even Tekken 5 veterans will find Dark Resurrection a fresh experience, due to the new characters, new looks for old characters, new arenas and the new soundtrack.
On the PSP's screen, the opening intro FMV looks great (being an extended version of the arcade DR intro) and the original T5 intro movie is unlockable too. Every character has their own FMV ending unlockable by completing Story mode as usual. There are extra modes galore in Tekken: DR, including Gold Rush, Command Attack and Tekken Dojo in addition to the usual modes like Arcade, Survival and Time Attack. All the modes earn you cash to buy extra character customizations. In case you need a break from fighting, the ever popular Tekken Bowling mode makes a welcome return too. The Dojo mode allows you to face off against "ghosts" of human players, providing a change from the usual CPU AI. Extra ghost packs are available to download through the game's Network menu, which also allows you to see how you fare in the global rankings and even download Tekken wallpapers for your PSP.
Ad Hoc multiplayer is supported of course, though true online play isn't, which is probably just as well, as the inevitable lag when playing a game as fast as this online would drive people crazy. Fortunately Namco have made up for it by implementing Game Share multiplayer instead, meaning you can play local multiplayer with only one copy of the game. Your Tekken-less friends can wirelessly download the game from your PSP and join in the action. Better still, the Game Share function will utilize whatever free space they have on their memory sticks as cache to improve loadtimes.
Enough gushing then, time for the gripes. Whoa, didn't I say it was virtually flawless? Well, yes, but only within the limitations of the system, and with Tekken: Dark Resurrection those limitations become glaringly apparent.
Darkness isn't something the PSP handles terribly well. The nature of it's LCD screen means that shifting blacks in particular are accompanied by noticeable blurring. When a game as dynamic as Tekken is pushing out 60fps, blurring becomes an issue. It doesn't detract from the gameplay at all, but it does mean that in the heat of battle some of the meticulous detail is lost in a blur of flailing limbs. Far more disturbing is the PSP's d-pad which is frankly not up to the task. For basic four-way directional input, it's functional enough, but it fails to register reliably for the precise diagonal and quarter circle command input that fighting games require. You can still bust out the ten-hit combos if you try hard enough, but you'll probably find yourself avoiding using certain moves because the PSP's d-pad prevents you from executing them consistently. This control issue is immensely frustrating given the near perfection of Namco's conversion. Wisely, Namco have allowed the analog nub to be used for directional input too, but in practice, it's less than ideal. Some retailers are giving away a stick-on rubber attachment with Tekken: DR to improve the d-pad's responsiveness. If you can get one, I'd highly recommend it.
Putting aside the PSP's shortcomings, Tekken: Dark Resurrection is a stunning achievement that raises the bar for how good PSP titles can be. The King of Iron Fist has won the title as the king of handheld fighters.
Tekken: Dark Resurrection is due out in Australia on September 15.