Tekken Advance Preview

We get down and dirty with a 60-percent-complete build of Tekken's famous fighter for the Game Boy Advance. Details inside.

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The characters in Tekken Advance are pre-rendered sprites rather than polygonal models.
The characters in Tekken Advance are pre-rendered sprites rather than polygonal models.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Game Boy Advance is its ability to translate the action from popular preexisting games to its tiny but capable form. Games such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and Final Fight One faithfully re-create the control, the visual detail, and the fun found in their predecessors. Tekken Advance, a version of Namco's 3D fighting game from 1997 that's being developed exclusively for the Game Boy Advance, may well continue this trend, with its variety of complex characters and its deep fighting system, all straight from the original. Nevertheless, unlike some other ports for the Game Boy Advance, Tekken Advance likely won't turn out identical to its namesake. Though the version of the game we played is only 60 percent complete, it's already clear that this portable fighting game is making some departures.

The game uses a three-button setup for punches, kicks, and throws.
The game uses a three-button setup for punches, kicks, and throws.

The last time we played Tekken for the Game Boy Advance was at the Space World trade show in August, when the game was considered 50 percent complete. Now officially titled Tekken Advance, the game features many more playable characters: Besides Jin, Paul, and Law (whom we saw at Space World), playable characters include Xiaoyu, Nina, Yoshimitsu, Gun Jack, Hwoarang, and King--all stock Tekken 3 characters, with the only notable omissions being Eddie and Lei. As in other Tekken games, a number of hidden characters should also be unlockable in the finished version of Tekken Advance, though Namco has not commented on these at this time. The game supports many of the same modes of play as Tekken 3 for the PlayStation, including arcade, versus, practice, time attack, and survival modes--Namco would not comment on any additional modes besides these.

The main visual difference between this and other versions of Tekken is that the characters on the Game Boy Advance appear to be prerendered, animated sprites rather than 3D models being animated on the fly. The result, essentially, is that the animation looks choppier on the Game Boy Advance than it does in the arcades or on the PlayStation. The game still retains the camera zoom effect for when characters get closer or farther away from each other, and a pseudo-3D gameplay is made possible with the characters' ability to sidestep short distances, just like in the arcade. Some animations look much better than others on the GBA, and there's a possibility that some of these will be cleaned up and improved before the game is complete. Furthermore, the game currently lacks any win poses for any of the characters. Nonetheless, it looks unmistakably like Tekken--and plays much like Tekken, too.

The gameplay in Tekken Advance is pared down from Tekken 3, but very similar. The arcade game uses four action buttons, while on the GBA, there's a button for punches, a button for kicks, and a button for throws. This means many of the arcade game's complex strings of punches and kicks have been simplified in this version. Still, you'll find that many of your moves will perform more or less exactly as they do in the original game--even some of the game's complex combos are retained fully intact. That's because most of the dynamics of Tekken 3 have been faithfully ported to this new version. Still, some of the physics on knockdowns and landings, and the timing for many of the moves, remain a bit unrefined. There should be plenty of time for Namco to address such issues, especially if the game is little over halfway finished.

Tekken Advance already sounds good--or at least a lot like Tekken 3. You'll instantly recognize the voice samples used for the characters, as well as the effects for successfully connected attacks.

Unfortunately, it seems that Tekken Advance will require two cartridges in order for you to play against your friends. Also, fans would undoubtedly want an option to have complete arcade-style control, with four punches and four kicks. The Game Boy Advance has enough buttons to theoretically allow this, though technical limitations are probably the reason that the game system was stripped down to begin with. Otherwise, fans would probably like to see some features unique to the Game Boy Advance in this new game. After all, though Tekken Advance is a port of a classic fighting game, it's a port of a classic fighting game that many have already played for untold hours. The faithfulness of the translation can actually make the game seem extremely familiar--a mixed blessing, depending on how much Tekken 3 you've played previously. Still, it's hard to deny the appeal of having this impressive fighting game in a portable format. Tekken Advance is due out later this year, and we'll have more details on it as they become available.

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