Tekken 3D: Prime Edition
The King of the Iron Fist Tournament goes 3D in Namco Bandai's fast-paced but feature lite beat-em-up.
The Tekken series walks that fine line between realistic and bizarre. How else do you explain a kangaroo squaring off against a giant panda, or a guy with black wings?
We don't mean to knock Namco Bandai's celebrated franchise. If anything, this varied collection of cuddly warriors and bad ass brawlers means there's a character for everyone, and this is on full display in Tekken 3D Prime Edition, a 3DS beat-em-up that gets so much right, what it lacks is all the more noticeable.
Since we're on the subject of the roster, the game includes 41 combatants (sorry, no Gon) spread across the entire franchise, with mainstays like Devil Jin, Kazuya, Paul, Nina, Law and King, pitted against the likes of Marduk, Bob, Christie and Dragunov; even Young Heihachi makes an appearance.
Next to the insane number of characters, the feature that stands out is the frame rate, easily one of the most impressive achievements. Namco Bandai locked in the action at a speedy 60 frames, allowing for fast and fluid animations that get pulled off so quickly, you or your opponent may not have a chance to recover. What's more, Tekken retains this high level of performance with glasses free 3D, except during multiplayer, when the developers disable it.
As with any fighting game, the quality and placement of buttons can break the experience, and thankfully, 3DS makes the game accessible for the most part, save for more complex moves that require diagonal presses using the d-pad, which more often than not fail to work. Namco Bandai somewhat fixes this issue by letting users map the majority of maneuvers to four hot keys, located along the touch screen. Don't worry about cheaters. You cannot fight effectively by rapidly tapping the screen. Do that, and you'll get taken apart.
OK, so the fighting feels good and we dig the roster, so what did Namco Bandai get wrong? More like, what did the company leave out? You see, Tekken 3D lacks a dedicated Story mode with individual cut scenes per character. In fact, there's no Arcade mode per se. Instead, there's Quick Battle (the closest thing), where you square off against ten opponents; calling it "Quick Battle" or "Arcade" is semantics, really.
Granted, most stories in fighting games make little sense, but plowing through Tekken games with individual characters was one of our favorite things to do, so it's a shame Namco Bandai chose to leave this out. Why bother beating the game with more than a handful of characters?
Well, there's an answer to that. Hidden within the game are 765 3D cards featuring different characters and scenes from the Tekken Universe. Performing well in modes and/or converting Play Coins nets you Card Points and cards. You can also gain access to new cards via StreetPass, providing you wirelessly interact with someone who has cards you don't possess.
Not a bad idea. Pokemon proves that people love collecting things, but this takes the place of Story, or one of those whacky Tekken bonus modes, like bowling or the entertaining Force mode. You'll either obsess over these cards or not bother.
As for the other modes, expect slim pickings. Practice is just that. Special Survival, meanwhile, tasks you with defeating opponents using just one health bar.
Past that is multiplayer, and while the game features online play as well as Wi-Fi battles, we couldn't find someone to pummel. That'll hopefully change in the days ahead.
Finally, you have Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a 92-minute animated film, viewed in 3D. The effects look better in some scenes, worse in others, but the movie's a cool bonus fans will enjoy.
All of this begs the question, is Tekken 3D Prime Edition worth buying, at $39.99, no less? Clearly, diehard Tekken supporters (who don't own the arguably superior PSP Tekken games) should pick it up, since it provides the classic experience on the go. Otherwise, it's a fun but extremely limited fighting game compared to the likes of Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition and Dead or Alive Dimensions, titles that debuted almost a year ago.
Ultimately, this could have been the definitive Tekken. As it stands, Namco Bandai will have to settle with having a good video game, by no means a bad thing, and if all you plan to enjoy is multiplayer, raise the score another half star.
Review copy provided by Namco Bandai
What's Hot: A whopping 41 detailed characters, buttery smooth animations, classic Tekken fighting, offline/online multiplayer, 765 cards, Tekken: Blood Vengeance movie.
What's Not: Not enough modes, trouble finding people online, some moves hard to pull off using 3DS d-pad.