For me though, the series of theirs that had the most impact was Tekken.
When I received my Christmas-present PS1 in a bundle from Index (I believe) it came with 2 controllers, a memory card, 2 games and a demo disk. The demo disk was certainly excellent, and has many memories attached to it.
One game was Porsche Challenge, a smart choice for retailers to put in a bundle since it looked great for the time, but was otherwise uninspiring. The other game was Tekken 2.
This is the USA box, but it had the same art. Close enough.
Bear in mind that coming from the SNES, I hadn’t really gotten my hands on 3D games (as in, 3D models) much. I was behind the curve I guess, but they were things you might find on holiday on arcade machines. We didn’t really have ‘arcades’ like the US had, at least none I was aware of, and the power of the Playstation was pretty great for the time. And then I saw this opening move.
Classic early FMV action for sure.
Sure, the animation and model quality is a bit ropy by today’s standards, but at the time it was incredible. The sound fidelity! 3D that didn’t look like Star Fox! Even today I think the music sets the mood perfectly, and the aesthetics of the characters hold up pretty well due to the mostly memorable designs. I didn’t know anything about any of these characters, and the manual didn’t go into great detail, but I wanted to find out more.
The game also set up various standards for me that would lead other fighting games to let me down in various ways. Tekken 2 has 23 characters (Angel/Devil and Roger/Alex count as one) which set the bar high despite a reasonable amount of overlap on the movesets. Every character had their own FMV ending which varied between cool, funny and serious meaning I wanted to beat arcade mode with all of them. The game had modes beyond Arcade and VS. in the form of Team Battles, Survival and Time Attack. I always loved doing random character 8-man team battles against my cousin for example, so any fighting game that doesn’t have extra modes just feels lazy.
Then there’s the fighting itself. I’ve never been a person that cares about combos in games. I think they are not a feature in and of themselves, in fact they are often a detriment. Any time one character is unable to move for 10 seconds while the other is messing about, that’s time that could have been spent better. I digress.
Tekken 2 does have some combos. After all, high level Tekken play is known for ‘juggling’ (hitting the opponent while in the air, causing them to defy gravity while you hit them more). I didn’t care about the fact that 10-hit combos were technically possible though, I just enjoyed the fundamental meaty combat.
The fighters don’t physically move at a hundred miles an hour, but everyone is capable of massive damage over a short time. This means rounds are quick, brutal, and landing a big punch is satisfying as you send opponents hurtling across the stage.
The star of the show: Paul’s hair.
I spent many hours on this game, both at the time and throughout the years. I even ended up getting it again for PS3 on the PS Store, (PS1 Emulation) and enjoyed it again.
It’s fair to say that overall it aged pretty well. While most early 3D games are painful to look at now, Tekken keeps it together with pre-rendered backgrounds that still look perfectly fine and fighters that for the most part aren’t outrageously blocky. Just uh… don’t look too closely at Kuma for too long, okay?
Oh, and some of the soundtrack is fantastic. I always particularly liked King’s theme, but the end boss theme has a cult following for being the opposite of most boss music.
That is a hell of a thumbnail, Youtube video person.
To be fair, listening to video game music outwith the context of the game is a bit strange. If you haven’t played it, you won’t get the same feelings associated with the excitement/dread/fun of the encounter it accompanied.
Overall Tekken 2 is still fun to me. There’s a certain weight behind every action, most of the moves are not too over-the-top unrealistic (no Fireballs in this fighter) and between two players at a similar level the brawls are fast-paced and exciting.
Then came Tekken 3
I first played Tekken 3 on holiday at Butlins. Yeah, that’s right UK friends, Butlins. If you don’t want to click the link, it was a ‘classic’ UK holiday camp. Back then in the 90’s they were great, since you could go on fairground rides as much as you wanted, tons of free shows in the evenings, and they had arcades that were pretty good value for money.
Arcade machines were still more technically advanced than consoles at that time, but even then Tekken 3 was better in nearly every way. The characters moved more smoothly, they looked… more smooth too and not made out of bricks. The fighters were also more distinctly different from one another with more diverse movesets.
I don’t remember exactly what age I was(10-11 probably), but I do remember beating some older kid that challenged me. I used my new favourite – Eddy – to defeat him in front of a small crowd. Not going to lie, Eddy’s ability to let me hammer the kick buttons and look like I knew what I was doing was a nice bonus. Fun fact: ‘gordo’ means ‘fat’ in Portuguese, which I am sure got Eddy bullied growing up in Brazil.
…yes of course I meant that. You can’t prove that I didn’t!
The home version on Playstation was very close to the arcade in quality, and even brought in more modes like the Tekken Ball and Tekken Force which were great for a laugh and set new standards for fighting games to live up to in terms of extra modes. Or fail to live up to, as most of them did. Tekken 3 also had an incredible announcer voice that I still impersonate on a regular basis to this day when talking about chicken.
The fighting in Tekken 3 is generally an upgrade to Tekken 2 primarily due to the diversified characters. The extra styles available (such as Eddy’s Capoeira and whatever the hell Dr. Bosconovitch is up to) lead to a greater variety of matches and everything still *feels* great to play.
While it will never be as nostalgic to me as Tekken 2, I concede that if you only wanted to try one game for old school PS1 Tekken experience you should choose this one.
I had never played the first Tekken until last week, where I picked it up on sale on PS3 out of curiosity. Going back on it now, immediately after playing some Tekken 2 is eye opening. The fighting for one feels fast and lose. Now I like me some fast and loose action, so Tekken 1 is actually fun in it’s own way. You get more ‘WHAT?!’ reactions as moves don’t always hit when you expect, fail when they look like they should hit. Tekken 1 aged way worse than the other entries visually, as the early CGI images are very early images and 3D models have more bizarre proportions. The slightly-too-large hands catch my eye in particular.
L-Law? What happened to your face? Are you okay?
I don’t think you would miss out on anything much if you never played Tekken 1. Tekken 2 is basically a strict upgrade to it. Tekken 3 is different enough from 2 to count them both as games I’d recommend playing if you like fighters. Of course, the best environment for playing these games is with a friend that is equally as good (or bad) at the game as you are, but that’s not so easy to set up as an adult.
Tekken 1 is interesting as all the fundamentals are there though, it’s neat to see the larval form of the series.
The fighting game genre is a weird one to recommend old games for though. If told you to play say, Eternal Blue (an RPG) there’s a certain timelessness to the game that you can appreciate due to the story and so on. With fighters, you can mostly get the same experience by playing the newest version and they probably are better overall. A bit like recommending Fifa 99 when you could play Fifa 2012 or similar, why would you play the old version?
Well, there’s nostalgia. There’s the ability to laugh at how things used to be. There’s curiosity, you know, like archaeological research. And sometimes in fighting series adding or removing systems actually makes the actual fighting less good, or they mess up the balance etc. I can’t say that’s actually the case here, since the new Tekken games are great fun and kept their sense of humour. I enjoy seeing some EVO Grand Finals for example.
Also, if there’s one thing old Tekken should be remembered for, it is this glorious moment.
“As part of a nutritious breakfast…”
That’s all this time. Ciao!