Hands-onTekken 4

We go hands-on with Tekken 4 in its home turf.

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The arcade version of Tekken 4 has spread quickly throughout Japan's bustling arcade scene, and while in town to cover Nintendo Space World 2001, we figured we'd stop by a couple of arcades and check it out.

Most of the game's current lineup consists of old favorites, such as Kazuya, Paul, Hwoarang, Xiaoyu, Law, King, and Yoshimitsu. Jin Kazama has also recently surfaced as the first time-release character, currently only selectable via a lucky stab at the random-select feature. The new characters currently playable are Christie Monteiro, Craig Marduk, and Steve Fox.

Christie is the granddaughter of the person that taught Eddy Gordo the fighting art of capoeira and, as a result, plays a whole lot like Eddy. Craig fights using a vale tudo style and has a few nice pop-up moves and a lunging jumpkick that covers a little less than half the screen when executed. Steve Fox is a boxer, who fights mostly with his fists. He also has quite a few sway moves that can be used to dodge incoming attacks.

At first glance, the gameplay doesn't appear to have changed much, but after spending some time with the game, the differences become more and more apparent. For starters, most of the stages have walls in them. Certain moves will slam people up against the walls, and when characters hit walls they generally fall down a little slower than normal, so it's easy to get in an extra hit or two via a wall juggle. In previous games, hitting both left attacks or both right attacks would do different throws. Here, the right throw hasn't changed, but the left throw has changed to be a positional attack. Hitting back and both left attacks will grab your opponent and spin him around behind you, making it useful for getting into and out of corners. Forward and both left attacks will push your opponent away (preferably into a wall for easy comboing), and up or down with both left attacks results in sideway shoves. The game also has Soul Calibur-style sidestepping in it. When given the game's increased focus on positioning, the sidestepping and position-changing moves become more and more important, as getting caught up against a wall usually results in a quick, sloppy death. Finally, combo timing seems a lot more strict than previous Tekken games--the window you'll use to execute various button commands in combo strings is much, much smaller.

Powered by the System 246 hardware that makes for easy PlayStation 2 ports, the game features very active backgrounds, filled with cheering bystanders, breakable glass, and some nice-looking water. The characters have a smooth look to them, but they also don't look terribly detailed. Paul's hair in his second costume is a particularly sore spot. It's nice to finally see what he'd look like if he didn't put a whole bottle of gel in his hair, but the hair looks so stringy and unrealistic that it just looks a bit silly. It certainly doesn't help that Sega's absolutely gorgeous Virtua Fighter 4 is running right alongside Tekken 4 machines here in Japanese arcades.

Tekken 4 is currently rolling out to arcades across the US and is expected to appear on home consoles next year.

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