Tekken 6
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PSP
| Tekken 6

Eagles may soar high, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines. It's a memorable quote from John Benfield, and oddly enough a fitting remark for the PSP's latest Namco production, Tekken 6.

You see, Tekken has been the flagship fighter for Sony hardware since the PSone days, and throughout its long history the game has evolved, particularly in the graphics department. Never have your favourite characters looked as detailed as they do in the latest Iron Fist Tournament.

When your opponent is launched through the air by a meaty, mighty Dragon Punch, it's immensely satisfying to behold, the loud clash and the bright polygons helping you feel the full extent of the power at play.

And when it's a friend that you've just floored with a stylish kick from the leg-tastic Tae Kwon Do master Baek, it's the kind of moment that encapsulates a golden gaming instant – the ensuing argument over who is the better player bears testament to that.

Old timer

However, no matter how you dress Tekken, be it with the addition of a side-scroller story game, tag battles, or character customisation, fundamentally it's still a beat-'em-up. A battle of reflex, skill, and cunning. The health bar at the top of the screen becomes the only indicator of how much of a beating you have left in you.

And usually, the genre's 'simple' foundation wouldn't matter one iota, but years of progression have meant that for some a great fighting system alone isn't enough. If that's you, then Tekken 6 will look decidedly bare in terms of extra curricular activities when compared with other entries in both the series and genre.

Still, the core inclusions have made the cut. Story mode is present, albeit very briefly – only four battles are needed to get to see your character's end movie – whereas Arcade takes the form of a ten-battle affair with bonus matches along the way.

Ghost, Survival, and Time Attack are self explanatory, while Challenge centres on obtaining gold for hitting your opponent.

All modes are enjoyable, and what you would expect from a Tekken game. However, even with the strong combat system and the promise of making your chosen fighter more individual via customisation, some may argue it feels a little dry.

And that'll be down to the more austere approach of Tekken 6. The bowling mode from Dark Resurrection, for instance, is gone, and with it any kind of light relief.

Old dog, new tricky

Don't get me wrong. The core fighting mechanic here is as fluid, rewarding and fun as the leading examples of the Tekken franchise, but beneath the superb presentation and brilliant graphics you can find frustration.

The Story mode boss, Azazel, is very tough. Even with the difficulty downgraded to Easy, I found myself constantly retrying. His attacks hit very hard, and quickly, which makes winning difficult. Perhaps understandable in a mode that only offers four rounds, but the resulting difficulty spike seems unfair.

This issue is evident elsewhere, with the bonus rounds also proving far too tricky. A large robot in Arcade, again, sent my fighter packing in no time. Games shouldn't hold your hand, but there's a point where player irritation overrides the challenge and spoils the experience.

You can of course remove the frustrating AI entirely by going up against your mates instead (although the effectiveness of this strategy does rely entirely on your friends' beat-'em-up ability).

When it comes to multiplayer, gone is the shared UMD approach, so your chums will all need a copy. While we can live with that – and ad-hoc multiplayer is excellent and as addictive as you'd expect – we can't live with the laggy online multiplayer.

In a game so reliant on speed, reaction and timing, lag in online matches means frustration once again punches Tekken 6 hard.

Fight for your cause

Negatives aside, the game delivers a near-console quality handheld addition to the series, boasting an impressive 41 fighters, which will delight fans of the series.

If you want the ability to beat people up on the move without getting an ASBO, Tekken 6 is a perfect solution. Where it comes up trumps is in its staggering style, slick character animations, and gratifying sense of achievement when you win a fight.

You won't find it a revolutionary lunge over Dark Resurrection, and the lack of diverting side-content will disappoint those expecting a more substantial package, but the fundamentals are firmly in place, with a combat system that's as responsive, adaptable, and comprehensive as you'd expect.

Whether the game's 'less is more' approach will convince you will depend on the number of examples of the genre in your collection. Regardless, when it comes to portable fighting, Tekken 6 delivers one of the purest beat-'em-up experiences on PSP.

Tekken 6

Tekken 6 is a superb portable beat-'em-up that offers fantastic battling, although owners of Dark Resurrection may not consider it a must-own title
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