A few weeks ago, while browsing my favorite gaming forum, one of the posters reported an unconfirmed clearance sale at Gamestop/EB. The item? The Tekken 5 anniversary box. The price? $30, down from its previous $60 price, which was down from the original $100 MSRP. The package of course includes Tekken 5, as well as a very nice DVD box for storing all 6 Tekken games. The crown jewel of the set however is a limited edition arcade stick.
Normally this isn’t a big deal; you can buy arcades sticks everywhere some for as low as ten dollars. Not to mention that other game-branded sticks have shown to be of rather horrid quality (such as the Street Fighter Anniversary stick from Nubytech). What makes this Tekken stick so special is that it is made with real Hori parts, the same Hori that makes the best arcade sticks for Japanese home consoles. More forumites reported finding the box for the supposed sale price during the week, and it was then that I knew I had to find one for myself.
The reason I brought up the Nubytech Street Fighter stick is that I bought one on clearance earlier this year, and alas, one of the buttons became sporadically unresponsive after only a few hours of play. I still enjoy it as a collector’s piece, but thanks to crummy craftsmanship, I was left with a stick that was only useful for playing 4-button fighters. Paying only ten dollars more than a new copy of Tekken 5 and getting an incredibly reliable piece of Hori equipment is an opportunity a serious fighting game fan doesn’t let pass by.
Still, I had a bad feeling about it. After all, the box was being marked down so much for a reason. It was released a year or more ago, thus Gamestop and EB want to get rid of any lingering SKUs in order to clear some much needed floor space. That meant it would be hard to find. Then there was the fact that during my summer in Colorado, the local store had three of the suckers stacked on top of each other (and sold for the old price). That meant that upon returning to the east coast I would be jinxed, surplus turning into Out of Stock.
I went to four different stores near my college, and every time I turned up empty handed. The premonition was coming true. There were only two stores I hadn’t visited; the Gamestop at the Inner Harbor, and the one ten minutes from my dorm. The former was a large, well stocked store, but was so heavily frequented that I had no faith in finding such a rare goodie unpurchased. The latter, on the other hand, was still an option. After all, this was the same place where I found a Greatest Hits copy of Symphony of the Night for $25 (should have bought that one…), and had the only copy of Guitar Hero I could find last Spring. If any place could beat the jinx, this was the one. I walked into the store expecting one final disappointment. I walked out with a $30 Tekken box, their last one, as usual.
I haven’t had much time to play around with it, but the Hori stick looks great. The buttons seem a little looser than on the Nubytech, but in a good way. They seem to be able to shift around a bit horizontally, so pressing them at an angle won’t cause any problems. The joystick itself is in the Japanese style, meaning that rather than a long, large handle, it consists of a ball and a very short shaft. They say it takes a while to get used to it if you’re familiar with American sticks, but the shorter footprint allows for more precision and even speed, which is useless to me, but crucial to competitive players.
The special Tekken DVD box is quite nice as well. Rather than use it for its original purpose, I’ve filled it with other PS2 fighting games for quick access and portability. I still may not walk the walk when it comes to fighters, but at least I can pretend to.
Now for some commentary on Tekken 5 itself. I’ve never liked Tekken at all, even though I’ve barely played any of the games. They always seemed to be rife with the kind of awkwardness that 3d fighters have had for years (and are only just starting to grow out of). Animations and hit detection seemed clunky, attacks were slow, jumping was pointless, and the “realism” of the Playstation Generation meant that fireballs and dragon punches were a no-no. Oh, and Dial-A-Combos were never something I could get used to. I’ll admit that watching two good players was often exciting, but in my own hands the magic disappeared. I found Soul Calibur and never looked back.
I thought that being older, wiser, and now in the possession of Tekken 5 (which also has games 1-3 on the disc), it was time to give the series another shot. And so I did, for twenty, thirty minutes tops. I don’t think I can give it much more than that. To all the countless reviewers that have given glowing scores to this series over the years, I ask a simple question?
Are you fucking serious? No really, is this what you call a premiere 3d fighting game? Tekken has to be one of the slowest fighters I’ve touched. I don’t think I’ve ever waited so long for a punch to land. And how is it that you can go ahead and rip on other games, say King of Fighters 2006, for having rehashed characters and story? Tekken has been using the same faces for years now, most of them horrible rip-offs of other characters from better games. And the story is as repetitive as Street Fighter, KOF, Dead or Alive, or just about any other fighting game. How is it that KOF 2006 is accused of not being deep enough, but when Tekken simplifies things it’s going “back to basics”? Every negative that other 3d fighters are accused of having are either ignored or praised in Tekken. And it drives me nuts.
Of course, the reason why is simple. Namco has always made sure that the series gets high quality presentation and a whole lot of polish. I hate to sound so pretentious, but dangling a shiny cut scene in front of a reviewer is probably enough to make them forget about the actual quality of the story. And it doesn’t quite matter how deep or balanced a game is as long as people can pull of “kickass” moves.
Somewhere along the line the Tekken series managed to avoid the fate of competitors like Toshinden, and ever since it has been a golden child among the gaming community. Once that happens, we start to see what I like to call “Kingdom Hearts Syndrome” – the newest game in the series will always get glowing reviews at first, and then those same reviewers will talk about how poor/misguided it was twelve months later when no one cares and they’ve gotten their advertising money.
Looks like Soul Calibur is staying on top of the heap for a little while longer. And as little as I’ll be playing Tekken, I can at least thank Namco for bringing about this great arcade stick, which will be used to practice many, many other fighters. No more amateur hour here; its time to get serious.