Review: Tekken 3

Here we are! The final review in my Arcade Fighter mini-series. From this point forward, I’ll be reviewing games from the genre as a natural part of my backlog play-through. The game I’ll be reviewing today is none other than Tekken 3. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the first two games in the Tekken series and both titles scored very high marks. In fact, after playing Tekken 2, I couldn’t imagine any way to really improve upon the experience outside of a next-generation hardware release.  I’ll come out and admit that I never played Tekken 3 during its original run. In fact, I actually never played the game at all until I started my playthrough earlier this month. So going in, I really had no idea what to expect. But now that I’ve put the game through its paces, let’s see how it fares.

Before getting into the game itself, let’s take a cursory look at the storyline. The game assumes that Heihachi was the winner of the 2nd King of the Iron Fist Tournament. After defeating his son Kazuya in battle, Heihachi flees the tournament via helicopter (taking Kazuya’s unconscious body with him). The chopper makes its way to a nearby volcano where Heihachi tosses his son overboard and into the fires of the volcano itself. Now, with Kazuya gone, Heihachi is able to re-assume control of his corporation. To protect his assets from being threatened in the future, Heihachi forms an elite group of soldiers called The Tekken Force. Their goal is to scour the globe for ancient artifacts of great power. During one of their explorations, they uncover the lair of a long forgotten monster. This “monster” is actually a warrior demon who’s strength increases every time he defeats an opponent in battle. This beast slaughters nearly every fighter on The Tekken Force. Only one warrior escapes to tell the tale. During his debrief, he describes the monster as a giant “Ogre” of unstoppable power. Immediately, Heihachi becomes obsessed with the idea of somehow capturing Ogre and using it to do his bidding.

As time passes, powerful warriors from all over the world begin vanishing mysteriously. Convinced that their disappearances have something to do with Ogre’s awakening, Heihachi begins searching for a disciple strong enough to best the monster in combat. He learns that his grandson, Jin (who had long ago gone into hiding) actually encountered Ogre and survived. Ignoring the animosity he holds for his own family tree, Heihachi agrees to train to Jin as his student. Finally, the time comes where Heihachi is satisfied with Jin’s skill as a martial artist. To lure Ogre out of hiding, Heihachi announces the 3rd King of the Iron Fist Tournament. It is his hope that a gathering of such powerful warriors will prove too tempting for the Ogre to ignore. Heihachi is not disappointed.

Since the events of this game take place nearly twenty years after the end of Tekken 2, there’s a number of new characters introduced to the roster. Characters carried over from the previous games are as follows: Lei, Paul, Nina, and Yoshimitsu. Anna and Heihachi are also available, but as unlockable characters.

The following characters are new additions to the series:

King – Yes, I know that a character named King was included in the other games. But technically, this “King 2” is a different character. As it turns out, the original King was slain by Ogre during the events after the last game. To avenge him, a new warrior has donned the mask and has taken on the “King” name.
Law – Forest Law. Son of previous Tekken warrior, Marshall Law. Law was forbidden from entering the tournament, but snuck away and did so upon learning that his friend Paul would be fighting.
Jin – Grandson and apprentice of Heihachi. Jin’s goal is defeat Ogre at the behest of his grandfather.
Xiaoyu – A young Chinese martial artist. Her dream is to win the tournament and use the winnings to build an amusement part.
Hwoarang – A disciple of both Tae Kwon Do and Baek Doo San. Hwoarang’s master was murdered by Ogre. He joins the tournament hoping to encounter Ogre and avenge his master’s death.
Eddy – A young master of Capoeira. Eddy’s family was killed by Heihachi’s organization. He has joined the tournament to seek revenge.

The following new characters are initially locked-out of the starting roster, but can be unlocked as playable characters:

Bryan – A cybernetic kickboxer who is sent to the tournament to root out a missing scientist, Dr. Bosconovitch, who is rumored to be held prisoner by Heihachi.
Gun Jack – The newest Jack robot. He has been deployed to the tournament in hopes of recovering the lost memories and data of his predecessor.
Kuma – A  fighting bear. This beast is the offspring of the original Kuma. Like his father, “Kuma 2” is Heihachi’s pet and guardian.
Julia – Daughter of Michelle. Julia has joined the tournament in hopes of finding her mother, who she believes is still being held prisoner by Heihachi.
Mokujin – A golem of sorts. Actually, an ancient kung-fu training dummy. It is believed that the awakening of Ogre somehow breathed life into this historic artifact.
Ogre – The ancient warrior demon himself.
Panda – This character is essentially a skin swap for Kuma. Panda is Xiaoyu’s pet and the love interest for Kuma.
Tiger – Skin swap for Eddy. Tiger is a mysterious dancing fighter with a large afro. His reasons for entering the tournament are unknown.
True Ogre – Ogre’s true form.
Dr. Bosconovitch – A brilliant Russian scientist held captive by Heihachi. Dr. Bosconovitch is the brains behind many of Heihachi’s scientific experiments.
Gon – A silly bonus character with no real purpose. Gon is a dinosaur character featured in a popular Japanese manga.

The gameplay for Tekken 3 is very similar to other games in the series. There’s not really any major changes to the overall combat system, but things have been tweaked considerably. This game adds a bit more depth to the arena by allowing third-dimensional sidesteps. Also, the overall physics engine has been greatly improved. Jumps and attacks have a more realistic feel to them. Characters are no longer able to soar into the sky when jumping and attack recovery times are also very much improved. The end result of these tweaks is a game that feels much more fluid and responsive than the Tekken games that came before.

The graphics are also noticeably better than either Tekken or Tekken 2. Everything from the character models to the backgrounds are much smoother and better rendered. Even the lighting effects introduced in the second game seem to have a better visual presence this time around.

Personally, I feel that the improvements listed above, combined with the new and interesting cast of characters, already make Tekken 3 a worthy sequel. But the developers didn’t stop there. The biggest (and most welcome) addition to the game for me, was the inclusion of two new modes of play. As expected, Tekken 3 features a number of play modes to select from. All of the modes seen previously are still available (Survival, Time-Attack,  Team Battle), but this time there’s a new addition right from the start, Tekken Force Mode.

Tekken Force Mode is essentially a mini-game inspired by classic beat-em-up titles like Double Dragon or Final Fight. In this mode of play, you select a character from the roster and progress through a series of side-scrolling levels. As you make your way from stage to stage, you do battle with multiple opponents (usually Tekken Force soldiers). Once you’ve reached the end, you go up against another character from the game’s roster. If you manage to complete Tekken Force mode a total of four times, you will unlock Dr. Bosconovitch as a playable character.

There’s also a hidden mode that’s available for players who are willing to take the time to complete the main game with every character. Accomplishing this feat will add the coveted Tekken Ball mode to the main menu. Tekken Ball is essentially a volley-ball like mini-game. In a nutshell, players must attempt to hit each other with an oversized beach ball. Every hit with the ball deals damage to your opponent. The game ends once your opponent is defeated. One of the characters you’ll be pitted against in Tekken Ball is Gon. Defeating Gon in Tekken Ball will unlock him as a playable character.

By staying true to its roots and making a number of quality of life improvements, Tekken 3 hits a home run. In my opinion, it is easily the best game in the series so far. The success of this title also cements it as one of the major players in the fighting game genre. If you’re a fan of arcade fighters, this is a classic game that you won’t want to pass up.

Difficulty: Variable –  Like Tekken 2, this game allows the player to select a level of difficulty. In the past, this choice didn’t seem to have much of an effect in some of the later battles of the game. This time around, it actually seems to make a difference. Selecting the easiest setting should allow even the greenest of players to make it to the end battles. Playing on “hard” is, as expected, a pretty tough experience. But it is still very do-able for veterans of the series. The medium setting is the default and the setting that I recommend for majority of players. Of course, when playing against another opponent, the challenge will vary depending on the skill of the other player.

Multiplayer:  Local

Story: It’s easy to dismiss the backstory as simply “another game, another tournament”. But in reality, Tekken 3 sets up the foundation for some pretty epic lore. The idea behind an ancient warrior demon seeking out Earth’s most powerful fighters is pretty unique in itself. But combine that with the whole “Tekken Force” angle, and you’ve got something pretty fresh and unique.

Originality: Like Tekken 2, this game is very much a refinement of what’s come in the series so far. But this time there are a few new additions to help make the game feel unique. Tekken Ball and Tekken Force are welcome bonuses that help prevent this game from feeling like just another two-player slugfest.

Soundtrack: Tekken 3 features a pretty catchy CD-quality soundtrack. The music in this game is full of energy that matches the action on the screen pretty well. In the end, no one track really stands out as particularly memorable. But overall, the soundtrack is very well done and fitting for this type of game.

Fun: Like most fighting games, Tekken 3 is best played with others. But just like the first two games, all of the unlockables and alternate game options provide for a stellar experience even when playing in single player mode.

Graphics: The graphics in Tekken 3 are about as good as it gets for the original Playstation. 3D models with minimal jaggies, well rendered backgrounds, and superb lighting effects.

Playcontrol: Tekken 3 plays like silk. The controls are responsive and sensible. Any remaining “clunk” from the previous entries have been smoothed over in this game.

Downloadable Content: No.

Mature Content: Fighting violence, blood.

Value: Tekken 3 is currently available on PSN for the low price of $6.00. For this price, it is well worth the money. However you’ll need either a PS3 or PSP to play it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Tekken 3 is retro 3D fighting at its best. I didn’t think the developers would be able to wow me after Tekken 2, but I was wrong. This game gets nearly everything right and it surpasses the previous games on nearly every point of measure. When it comes to 90’s era fighting games, this one ranks right up there with the best. In fact, I daresay it might be the best fighting game released for the original Playstation. Fans of the genre shouldn’t pass this up.

Originally Available: Arcade, PS1

Available on: PS3, PSP

Other Reviews In This Series:

Tekken    –    Tekken 2   –   Tekken 3   –   Tekken 4    –    Tekken 5    –    Tekken 6    –    Tekken 7

Tekken Tag Tournament    –    Tekken Tag Tournament 2