From the time I started gaming until the day I decide to quit gaming there will always be one genre that I hold closer to my heart then any other, that being the fighting game. Ever since I first gripped the arcade stick and began busting out moves with the fighter of my choice in the arcades I have been addicted. I remember spending countless hours and quarters mastering all the newest moves in MK2, and learning the strings of combos in games like Killer Instinct and Virtua Fighter. Those days bring the fondest of memories and will always remain in my heart as long as my gaming days allow me to continue. With that out of the way the one fighting franchise that has never really captured me is the Tekken series. I was not a huge fan of the original, although I thought it had good ideas, part 2 was excellent in every form which surprised me, then part 3 came out and I felt so disappointed. Hoping that Tekken Tag would revive my faith I sat down on PS2 launch day in Japan and busted out a few combos, needless to say I went away disappointed once again. Now with the fourth installment knocking at my door, I was expecting the same let down as with Tag, thankfully I was dead wrong!
When the copy of Tekken 4 reared it’s ugly head in my mailbox that morning I tossed it on the couch and proceeded off to my normal day of work not thinking anything about it laying there begging to be played. Finally when I got home I decided to fire up the PS2 and go a few rounds before popping in the newest games I had been anticipating playing for some time. When the intro blared onto the TV of course I was in awe as Namco never ceases to amaze me, their CGI is always top notch and this intro was no different. I continued on into the game modes and started looking at the options, nice selection of modes and options were available including the Tekken Force mode which is a 3D brawler similar to Streets of Rage. Finally after ooohhhhing and ahhhhing over the massive amount of extras I delved into the actual story mode of the game to get a taste of the game play, which is the one thing I always felt held the series back.
Within two rounds I had realized that this game was finely tuned and much more playable than the previous installments. Moving in 3D was awesome that the fighting style no longer felt limited to me. I had found my niche and Tekken had finally grasped me, I was hooked. I continued to play this game for hours and hours trying to find a reason to hate it and I just could not bring myself to hate this finely crafted game known as Tekken. The grapple system is now much nicer and easier to execute as well as not being solely relied on to win the matches. The fighting is also character specific as well, for instance each character has a strength and a weakness and it shows up very well in this version of the game. The only fighting games more finely tuned than this are Virtua Fighter, DOA and Street Fighter, this game is deep baby!
Now I have to talk about how good this game looks, Namco took the extra development time and actually programmed the anti-aliasing into the game giving it a smooth look and the jaggies are all but non-existent. The environments are finally truly 3D meaning you can go anywhere as long as there isn’t a wall, in which if there is you can slam your opponent into it for even more damage as well as juggling them against the wall. The water is almost XBox quality it looks that damn good, the only major graphical gripe is that the PS2 is not able to pull off real-time reflections which would make the water look even better as well as the rest of the game itself!
I could go on for hours about how much this game has impressed me but I will leave that up to the game to speak for itself. When it hits stores this fall be sure to reserve your copy because this game is one of the best games I have played in a long time, 2002 is definitely the year of the fighting game, just think DOA3, Virtua Fighter 4, Tekken 4, and the soon to come MK Deadly Alliance. Now if only 2D would make a blasting appearance this year would be dominated by the genre that I have always loved and will always cherish, the overlooked genre known as the fighting game!