Ever since PS2 backwards compatibility was removed from the PS3, Sony and its partners have sought to ensure that new gamers can still enjoy the classics from generations past, either via PSN or through HD remasteries/collections. Most of these have been welcome additions to my gaming shelf, but one has to draw the line somewhere. In Tekken Hybrid, Namco Bandai opt not to give us a set of games but a buffet of Tekken media, including a movie, an HD remastering of Tekken Tag Tournament, and a demo for the forthcoming Tekken Tag Tournament 2. While it seems like a good investment for a Tekken fan, it doesn't actually contain any must-have material.
Before I got stuck into the game, I popped the disc into my Blu-ray player (read: my PlayStation 3) to watch Tekken: Blood Vengeance, the appetizer ahead of the main course. It's one of those videogame-based movies that's so bad you just have to laugh and shake your head at it. Once I'd watched the entirety of this travesty I decided to head for what is surely meant to be the main course: Tekken Tag Tournament HD. Tekken Tag Tournament HD is faithful to the original, for better or for worse. It has no story mode (it was the “Mortal Kombat Trilogy” of the Tekken series - an excuse to include all of the characters to date in an all-inclusive brawl). The main aim of Tekken Tag Tournament was to introduce and popularize the idea of selecting not only one, but two fighters that you could 'tag' between at will, resulting in an extra layer of strategy. It's a mechanic which has proven very popular over the years, resulting in the continued popularity of the original game in Japan and the incorporation of the 'tag' system in numerous other fighting franchises.
As a game that's non-cannon, there's no story, save the little snippets of video you're presented with upon completion of the arcade mode with each character, and the game focuses almost entirely on its slew of various modes. Arcade mode is the meat and potatoes of any single player fighter, allowing you to beat and bruise your way through a list of fights, culminating in a boss battle that's topped off with the aforementioned cutscenes. Vs. mode has two friends squaring off against one another in two-on-two battles (this is the mode that ensured the game would endure through the generations). There's also a survival mode, which pits you against a series of increasingly difficult foes, a time attack mode, co-op mode, and the ever-present practice mode. There's also Tekken Bowl mode, which is hilariously out of place and silly. Yes, in case you're wondering, it is in fact a bowling minigame featuring the various fighters. I've no idea why this was added, it's neither well done, nor deep, or amusing (beyond the jaw dropping astonishment generated by the fact that such a mode is included). If you're looking for truly funny entertainment, check out the theatre mode!
The graphical overhaul is minimal. This iteration of Tekken has certainly not aged well, something which is made all the worse by the fact it's now likely to be displayed on a HD TV. A fighting game's controls are easily the most important thing to consider, and I have to say the controls feel horribly stiff. Technically, they work just fine, but the fighting doesn't flow very well and character movement is jerky and slow. Compared to other fighters - not only of today, but also of its own time - it just doesn't seem to stack up; this is especially odd because Tekken 4 and Tekken 5 didn't seem nearly as stiff to me and they were on the same hardware. Regardless of the stiff controls, it was the graphical upgrade (or lack thereof) that got to me most. The character models are blocky and jagged, the animations are still as jerky as ever, and for some reason the ground of the fighting arena seems to shift a lot underneath your feet, apparently disconnected from the rest of the level. This is not an upgrade in any way, and a HD TV just makes the original flaws look even worse. I could complain about the music as well, but it sounds the same as it did a decade ago, and that's not a compliment; it's repetitive and uninspired. The only character I was able to play as and enjoy was Eddie Gordo, because his smooth, flowing animations seem to be a league ahead of the rest thanks to his capoeira style. He was like a graceful swan of a fighter, compared to the robots and bears that made up the rest of the roster... literally.
Perhaps I'm just missing the point, but the whole experience seems silly. Fighting kangaroos, alien bug things, demons, and robots, all fighting amidst a backdrop of a relatively modern and normal world just seems weird. Perhaps it was intended as a satire of extraneous anime cliches or something, but taken as a serious story and setting, it fails. Why do the menus still say “insert coin”? I know that Tekken is an arcade series first and foremost, but this just seems like an act of pure laziness, rather than an homage, especially after two ports (keep your eyes on the gaming news for a story about someone destroying their PlayStation 3 by trying to shove a coin in the disc slot and the inevitable lawsuit that follows). If the gameplay were refined, then I could easily forgive these minor flaws, but alas it isn't.
Moving onto the dessert (also known as the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 demo): it's a light snack that allows you to play as 4 characters from the movie in a typical arcade mode. The same arena-graphic glitches are found here, and while the gameplay is certainly more malleable and smoother than that found it its predecessor, it still doesn't hold a candle to other modern fighting games. I know it's just a demo, and therefore not a completed product, but it's certainly not getting me excited about the prospect of another Tekken game being on the horizon.
All of this can be yours for the horribly bloated price of $49.99 at your local retailer! Trust me, save the money and get pretty much any other recent fighting game or, if you simply must have Tekken Hybrid for the movie and/or demo, save your money and wait until the price drops to a more reasonable 20 or 30 dollars. As it stands, it's a package that consist of a horrible movie, a poorly upscaled version of a fighting game that has not aged well, and a minimal demo of a title which lacks significant improvement over its predecessor. Avoid this one unless you're a hardcore Tekken fan, and even then you'd be better off waiting for Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
This review is based on a PS3 retail copy of Tekken Hybrid, provided by the publisher.