Once regarded as the premiere fighting franchise, Tekken made no qualms about being a fighter's fighter. But after a few poor showings on the PS2 and other franchises stepping up the flash, the fan service, the over-the-top brutality, the additional modes of play and the speed of fighting games, many fans of the 10-hit combo were left wondering if Tekken and Namco could mount a suitable comeback. The answer (which was yes by the way) was Tekken 5. No longer worried about tag modes, adventure modes and shallow character additions (cough Christie cough), Tekken 5 brought the series back into the spotlight with renewed vigor and creativity. An unqualified success, Tekken 5 was the return to greatness that the series needed and was the best entry since Tekken 3 on the PSOne. Now, Tekken 5 gets ported to the PSP with new modes and a handful of new features. Luckily for handheld owners, Namco Bandai proves that it once again understands consoles as much as it does games and makes Tekken Dark Resurrection not only the best game the series has ever seen, but hands down the best title on the PSP.
Taking place moments after the conclusion of the King of Iron Fist Tournament 4, Tekken 5 again follows the soap-opera saga of the Mishima/Kazama conflict as yet another King of Iron Fist Tournament is about to take place to settle things. Practically all the characters the series has ever seen are back and are unlocked from the beginning. Each has his or her own Prologue (usually written text over static images) and Conclusion (Tekken's typically gorgeous CG movies). Since characters no longer have to be unlocked, the focus has moved to opening up new modes of play, beefing up your ghost data and raking up as much gold as possible to buy all the costumes and accessories available for each character.
Upon loading the game you will be asked to create a profile which will keep track of absolutely everything you do in Tekken Dark Resurrection and then you will be treated to a small tutorial of sorts for those mostly new to the series or those who've been away for too long. What is immediately recognizable about TDR is that this is a much deeper fighter than it lets on initially (more concerned with technical, strategic fighting than most are willing to admit to) and that TDR really doesn't feel like a handheld game. The screens, levels and matches load quickly and the saving happens in the background so you are never annoyed with pesky "where would you like to save this" screens. Other PSP games as of late, namely Daxter, have also tried to do away with long loading phases, but where some games mask them with animated screens or text, Tekken just loads fast. And while it is quick, it doesn't skip out on the expected; you still get intro movies for all the characters (which can be skipped and run at thirty FPS) and you get the match right away afterwards (which runs at a steady sixty FPS even with all the background animations). Oddly, TDR doesn't seem to make a big deal out of its technical prowess at all, as if saying, yeah, of course it loads fast and looks pretty, isn't that what every game is suppose to do? We wish.
With five difficulty levels (easy to ultra hard), TDR does everything to gently ease players of any caliber into the fray of things. With a good introductory tutorial, a deep practice mode and even a Command Attack bonus game (which makes you input a series of commands as quickly as possible), TDR has all its bases covered. And this is really what TDR is all about; loads of options, choices and modes for anyone and any taste.
The modes of play are as follows. Quick Battle mode which lets you simply jump into the action against a CPU opponent or form teams (with up to 8 total participants) and fight in a quasi-elimination battle royal of sorts. Story Battle lets you play through the story of each of the 30 characters the game has. Each character will begin with a Prologue and finish with a Conclusion, both of which can simply be purchased to save time.
Arcade Battle which lets you fight against various downloaded/preset ghosts as well as train your own to properly represent you. This is a nice mode which feels unique in the sense that characters are dressed up in various costumes and feature odd accessories but also the fighting styles seem more varied than in other modes. You simply keep fighting until your thumbs get sore all the while raking in the gold to purchase costumes of your own. It should also be noted that every action in TDR features an amount of gold tied to it, so even the most inane of matches feels important since it gets you that much closer to a new pair of glasses for Asuka or a new bad-ass suit for Dragunov.
Tekken Dojo feels a little like Virtua Fighter 4's Kumite mode but with better defined levels/stages and a leaner learning curve. In this mode you'll more from Dojo to Dojo fighting various opponents of varying difficulty in tournaments, all the while making money and raising your rank in the game. TDR keeps track of every character's rank separately, which is nice, and lets you see the ranks of the character select screen of almost any mode. You also see win/loss records as well as percentages. This info is also displayed for your opponents which usually gives you a good idea as to the challenge ahead. Tekken Dojo also allows you to record ghost data and is one of the easiest ways to make gold.
Network mode allows you to play against other PSP owners (it features game sharing for versus play) in Ad Hoc mode. While it would have been nice to play gamers across the network, there are still quite a few options to determine who's best. Rankings in all modes are updated, ghosts can be uploaded and downloaded as well as official ghost packs for varying raking levels, and your ghosts can even be included in these official packs. TDR also offers download content in the form of wallpaper for your PSP (available as of this writing are Jin, Armor King and the newly released Christie). While true online play would have been nice, TDR has enough content to create a real sense of community and various events and tournaments (for gold) available online are fun as well.
Attack mode features Time Attack matches, Survival and Gold Rush in which you try to inflict as much damage (worth lots of gold) to your opponent before the clock runs out (or your health is completely depleted). Practice mode lets you use any character and perform all of their moves until you've memorized their combos - or until you feel your button mashing style has truly evolved into an art.
Bonus Games mode is a nice area which will get lots of play time since it features the addictive Tekken Bowl. Again, always played with gold in mind, Tekken Bowl is one of the best modes in the game simply because its addictive and doesn't feel tact on. Each character plays (bowls) differently, from Bryan Fury's robotic power launch to Nina's more refined (and finessed) delivery. Tekken is the perfect mode to play with friends and girlfriends who aren't really into the whole fighting side of, well, fighting games. Featuring a simple meter for direction and power, it's as easy to pick up and play as Hot Shots Golf and just as fun. In this section you will also find the Command Attack mode mentioned earlier in which you simply try to clear a series of moves in the least amount of time. The beauty of this mode, as well as some of the Attack Mode games are that they seem to unlock magically as you play other games. While you're busy (and quite entertained) doing other things, TDR seems to reward you on a constant basis for simply playing it.
Profile mode lets you, as the title suggests, manage your various profiles as well as see your records (and compare against the world), manage your ghosts (ghosts are simply "characters" that have been trained by real players to mimic them in battle much like the 2K series' VIP or Virtua Fighter 4's AI System). Profile is also where you'll buy new costumes for your characters and play dress up to your heart's content. While this could have easily turned into a DOAX-type of exercise, the costumes are fun, playful and never feel like they cheapen the game or its characters. Yes, some are a bit provocative, but then again, Christie doesn't wear much to begin with. Finally, theatre is simply a place where you can listen to all the music of TDR as well as view all unlocked prologues/conslusions (which can also be purchased) for each characters as well as other Tekken content like intro movies and such.
Anyone who has ever played Tekken before will soon forget that they are playing a handheld game and simply get wrapped up in the beauty of TDR. The 10-hit combos are still there (though newcomers need not worry since they aren't always necessary and can be countered), the level of depth remains unscathed and the characters are each different enough to make each new one a learning experience in and of itself. The only set of characters which truly feel shallow are still the Eddy Gordo/Christie Monteiro combo since they still feel like the same character.
If all the extra modes and features weren't enough, TDR's new characters are also reason enough to look into upgrading from the PS2 version of Tekken 5. Lili is a fast (and hot) addition which will keep newcomers happy and Sergei Dragunov is quite possibly one of the best characters the series has ever seen with great throw moves and powerful combo attacks. And unlike previous character additions these two feel well thought-out and part of the Tekken universe as if they'd always existed in it. For anyone worried, the staples of the series also return, more fluid than ever. Asuka, the Williams sisters, Jin (in all his forms), Paul, Heihachi, Kazuya and the various hanger's on: Kuma, Panda, Jack, and tree boy, Mokujin. The only sour spot in the character department is still the fact that when facing Devil Jin the game feels unbalanced a bit and while facing final boss Jinpachi it feels downright cheap, but that seems the case with all fighting franchises as of late.
If there is but one sour note in the whole Tekken Dark Resurrection presentation it is surely control. While not the game's fault, the PSP proves that it wasn't built with fighting games in mind. While the D-pad is more than adequate to take on any character in the game, the analog stick (nub really) needs to be used a few times to clear some of the more complex Command Attack moves quickly. Having never been a fan of analog sticks for fighter games on consoles, I tried to simply use the D-pad but it proves a little tricky from time to time and requires a lot of practice to get the motions down. Still, everyone playing (regardless of add-on devices) suffers from the same impediments which levels the playing field.
Graphically, TDR is the best looking game on the PSP and almost rivals its console cousin. With sixty FPS matches running without a hitch while displaying a silly amount of polygons, its simply mind-boggling to see TDR in action. The characters are wonderfully animated and intricately detailed and the costumes and accessories only add to the absurd beauty of the game. It's a testament to the designers, programmers, coders and testers to have a game look this good, run this smooth and load this fast. TDR sets the bar incredibly high for all other developers on the handheld. It should also be noted that while most of the CG endings are the same as in Tekken 5, there are a few additions and in all cases, they are wonderful to look at; whether funny, serious or simply absurd, they are made to be watched over and over.
In the audio department, TDR is a solid performer with great voice clips, amazing music and a good mix that, even on the PSP's speakers, sounds a lot fuller than it should. With a good set of headphones, the game simply blows you away and pumps you right up for another sweaty match against Jinpachi!
In the end, the highest compliment that can be said about Tekken Dark Resurrection is that it never feels like a PSP game. Regardless of the size of the screen, the sometimes awkward combo controls or the shape of the console in your hands, Dark Resurrection simply transcends its medium and creates a magical experience where action, depth and skill supersede everything else. Gone are the loading screens, the save screens, the slowdowns, the sub-par graphics, the technical hiccups, the feel of something "less" and here is Tekken Dark Resurrection; fast, loud and without a doubt the reigning king of the PSP. A must-own for all handheld gamers.