Tekken 3 is King of Iron Fist!
A massively popular hit in Japanese and American arcades, many expected to be a bit disappointed with the home console port of Tekken 3, as the arcade technology had surpassed that of the aging PlayStation. And while the models have slightly fewer polygons and the backgrounds are again in rotating 2D, Namco threw in a plethora of extras and home exclusives, and while they were hit-or-miss, the hits more than make up for the slight drop in graphical quality.
Not that the game doesn't look terrific. One of the first last-generation titles on the PSX, Tekken 3 pushes the limits, sacrificing 3D backgrounds for some of the most detailed character design possible. The characters animate much more smoothly than the somewhat stiff, blocky motions of it's predecessor, and overall the controls are looser and more forgiving.
The combo system is also extremely deep, especially with King and Nina's linkable throws, and Lei's Funky Chicken stances or whatever the hell they're called. It takes a LONG time to master one character in this game. Namco has also fleshed out the secondary (unlockable) characters a bit more, in Tekken 2 they seemed to be blatant ripoffs of other characters within the game, sharing the same moves under a different skin. Now even Anna has a different set of moves then her twin Nina, and the only characters who still seem to be the product of incestous design shortcuts are Kuma (the bear) and Gun Jack (the android).
The techno music doesn't seem quite as good as the more sweeping instrumentals of the previous two, but it fits the darker mood of the game and the tracks are well suited to the characters.
All the standard Tekken modes you know and love are here, including Arcade, Vs., Team, Practice, and the fruit-bearing Survival, and Namco threw in three eclectic new modes to boot:
Tekken Force - A homage to Streets of Rage, Tekken Force lets you control one character in a series of side-scrolling, 2.5D streets. You fight lots of baddies, mostly Mishima henchmen with about one-quarter to one-half a life bar. It's a decent diversion, yielding a nifty hidden character, but it's not as good as Tobal's Quest Mode.
Tekken Ball - Quite possibly the most bizarre fighting game extra ever, Tekken ball is a very simple concept: do special moves on a ball to "charge" it and send it to the opponents side, where he can hit it with a special move and send it back to you with more charge, send it back with no extra charge by doing a standard move, or block it and then hit it. Let it hit you or touch the ground on your side and lose health. This mode is very fun and a blast in 2-player mode, but they didn't bother including a seperate AI for the Ball Mode, and so the computer is incompetent at best.
Theatre - Yes Yes YES! With this option, you can view any of the quality ending cinemas or listen to the music trackes. You can also pop in your Tekken 1 or 2 disc and view the media there. Very nice.
The problem with Tekken is that it is very friendly towards button-mashers. There is not that much of a visible difference in the ability of beginners and good players and only a real master has noticeably better odds against a newbie. While Tekken looks superb when it's played like it's supposed to, it can be ugly watching a newbie mash for half the match only to figure out one move he likes, and then use it exclusively for the rest of the round hoping his opponent does not figure out how to counter it.
Namco doesn't help by including at least one newbie-friendly win-at-no-cost cheap character. It was Law in the first one, Lei in the second, now say hello to Eddy Gordo. Pity the coolest fighting style in the game is so cheesy.
Gon. G-O-N. Some cross-promotion with a Japanese comic resulted in this abomination. Do yourself a favor and don't unlock this character. He is ridiculously small, rendering normal character's mid-high attacks ineffective. You can't throw or counter him, making him ludicrously advantaged. When someone picks Gon, it just makes me want to put the game down. Sigh.
The Bottom Line
The graphics are the best you could expect from the PSX, and the numerous home extras make this another better-than-perfect arcade port.