Tekken 5 Hands-On

We go one-on-one with Namco's newest fighting game.


Tekken 5

TOKYO--The latest entry in Namco's Tekken series isn't yet complete, but a version of the game with 20 playable characters is on display at the 2004 Tokyo Game Show. As you might expect, this installment in the series seems to stick pretty close to the same blueprint that the Tekken series has been following since the beginning, so the game is pretty easy to pick up if you're familiar with previous games in the series.

Though it seems likely that the final version will have more characters, the 20 characters already in the game, three of whom are new, are a pretty great start. Returning to the lineup so far are Marduk, Lee, Jin, Kazuya, Lei, Paul, Law, Julia, Christie, Jack-5, Nina, Hwoarang, King, Steve, Bryan, Xiaoyu, and Yoshimitsu. The three new characters are Raven, Feng, and Asuka. The returning characters all look roughly like you'd expect. Paul Phoenix can still manage to get his hair to stand straight up. Kazuya's looking a bit older, but can still throw down. Jin still rocks a hooded sweatshirt, and, yes, you can knock his hood off if you knock him around a bit. Yoshimitsu has some nice-looking new armor, and the latest model of the robot known as Jack looks nice as well.

As for the new characters, Feng is an evil-looking fighter with what appear to be small devil-like horns protruding from his hairline. Raven has a huge X-shaped scar on his face, making him look like the world's most devoted Xbox fan. Raven has some pretty wild attacks, including a teleport move that causes him to warp up into the air and come lunging down at the ground, fist-first. Asuka, the game's new female character, appears to be a very fast-moving fighter, with lots of little swipes and strikes that make for fast, interesting-looking combos.

Aside from showing off the game itself, Namco is also giving showgoers a brief look at how the game's card system will work. It appears to be a lot like Virtua Fighter 4's card system, in which you unlock more and more items as you play. You can use these items to change up the look of your character, including outfit colors as well as all-new outfit options. King, for example, will be able to earn at least one new mask--the one shown at the end of the video turns King's face into a big, goofy-looking cartoonlike expression.

The card system will also be used to keep track of rankings, though the video suggests that this is a Japan-only feature. A list of the top Tekken 5 players in the country will be available. Players are rated by points, so it seems likely that you'll earn more points for defeating a high-ranked player than you will for taking on an unranked opponent. Also, the online nature of the Tekken 5 cabinet will allow for new abilities, such as watching live replays, which could be useful for arcades that want to keep track of tournaments happening in other parts of Japan. Of course, given the fact that most US arcades aren't really set up for this sort of action, it seems possible that most of these features would remain specific to the Japanese version of the game, much like Virtua Fighter 4's similar card-based ranking system.

Tekken 5 seems to take a back-to-basics approach to fighting. It seems like most of the position-change moves introduced in Tekken 4 aren't here, though the game's arenas will offer some tactical differences. Some will be wide-open spaces, though others will have walls, allowing you to get players up against a wall and work them over, if you're lucky. In short, if you're already familiar with the Tekken series, you'll feel right at home.

Tekken 5 is sporting some pretty sharp graphics. The fighters look good, though you'll probably notice that much of the same animation is used throughout. The backgrounds are pretty lively. A fire-filled arena stood out pretty well from the pack, as it's so hot that it causes the whole screen to move back and forth, mimicking heat waves. This effect is pretty cool, but it doesn't interfere with the action.

All in all, this work-in-progress version of Tekken 5 appears to be coming together nicely and should offer some exciting fighting for fans of the series. The arcade version of the game is expected to see general release later this year. There is still no official word on a home release. For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of Tokyo Game Show 2004.

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