The first of a two-parter, where two games of the Tekken series will be talked of in detail this month.
It began in July of 1997, where a Playstation arrived into the household. With every box included a demo disk. Back in the days of the Internet slowly taking off, the idea of a console being connected to a worldwide network at all times seemed implausible.
You’d have a selection of playable demos or a running video, and in order to fit all of these on one 800MB disc, some features would have to have been cut.
This is when one of these playable demos was a 3D fighter called ‘Tekken 2’.
The demo seen above is the same as I remember, except for the menus in selecting it.
You could choose between two characters; Jun and Lei. Both had very different styles, but you could have hours of fun with just two characters. The major downside of this demo was that it didn’t have any music, most likely due to fit all of the playable demos on this single disk.
Jun and Lei had their own distinct style, and you would face off against the boss from the previous game, Heihachi. But with only one fight of two rounds, it was incredibly addictive, and by pressing Start, you could select a move list and improve the techniques.
The music is reminiscent of the time of the nineties in many ways. The electronic background music to some, or the drums that would beat alongside a stage set in a dojo. Themes to each character to fit it well, it all clicked well. You could imagine it playing in some high end bar in London in the mid-nineties. But some, such as the final bosses, had a dark undertone, which heightened the stage and even added to the heightened difficulty of these characters to face against.
I’d just come from the Mega Drive as I’ve previously said in ‘Sonic 3’, and so to play a fully 3D fighter was an eye opener. You would be thrown in different directions, and you could perform special moves that didn’t require you to press a long combination of buttons in under a second as in Mortal Kombat.
After playing the demo of Tekken 2 for many months, I finally received the full version, and I remember a whole weekend being spent to see what could be unlocked.
There were usually three characters I’d select, which were ‘Yoshimitsu’, the sword handler, ‘Kazuya’, the boss, and ‘Armour King’, the wrestler. You could press two of the Playstation button symbols together, and you’d almost be guaranteed that one combination would work and you would see them perform a move that would take the opponents health away quickly.
No one character was similar to another. Each one had their own distinct move set, and anyone who played this would have a character they’d select straight away. The only method similar was to randomly mash the buttons on your Dual Shock and hoped for the best.
Tekken also has this knack for learning how you play against itself. If you do the same move repeatedly in one round, you’ll be sure you won’t be able to use that successfully for the remainder of the stages, thereby forcing you to come up with better ideas. You’d be facing the ‘Continue?’ screen many times until you reach to the ‘Command List’ and see what would surprise them. It was fun in this regard, and ultimately made you a better player.
As the character select showed 10, the back of the game case showed more than 20, which hinted towards a way of having them unlocked.
Once ‘Kazuya’ was unlocked after playing as all of the main characters, you could unlock the end boss; Devil, and then, randomly, a Kangaroo called Roger and a Raptor called Alex. A surreal but main part of Tekken’s charm, where it only adds to the fun of the game.
There were other modes than just the standard ‘Arcade’ and ‘Versus’, with ‘Team Battle’, choosing a number of fighters, and seeing how many stages you can go until they would all be defeated. Others would be making it to the end of the ten stages in the fastest time, while the other would be similar to ‘Team Battle’, but with just one character instead.
There were also hidden cheats when selecting a character. You could do a first or second person viewpoint, similar to Nintendo’s ‘Punch Out!’ series, or an uppercut punch will see the opponent soaring to the sky, while another simply gives them all big heads. Lots of fun, and only adds to the longevity.
For a fighting game there’s a significant amount of depth, with many modes to try out the characters, while also using it for the inevitable two player matches that you and a friend could play against.
I remember coming across the first Tekken, and even though its flawed with its even slower gameplay and much higher difficulty, it would be unfair to criticise it, as this was a time when a 3D video game was only coming into the mainstream with the Playstation and Sega Saturn. But the traits of what makes Tekken great today with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 can still be traced to the original game nearly 20 years ago.
I would be playing this for years to come, and even though the modes were lacklustre, for their time they were enough, and the characters’ own individuality kept you coming back to see how the CPU came up with a particular move you didn’t know existed before.
The next couple of years, other fighters would appear such as ‘Battle Arena Toshinden’ and ‘Mortal Kombat 4’, but it would still be Tekken I’d come back to, and then eventually, the third entry would solidify its place as a classic series.