It started when Starbreeze decided to throw in a remake of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay alongside the sequel Assault on Dark Athena. It became en vogue when Sony decided to bundle up the first two God of War games into the God of War HD Collection. Since then, publishers have become interested in taking games that premiered only one console generation ago, remake them in HD, and push them out so that gamers can play these titles once more. Some have bundled a few into a compilation while others decided to release the titles individually as digital downloads. No matter the method, the plan seems to be working, as gamers are more than willing to take a short trip down memory lane to relive these newer classics. Namco Bandai, a veteran publisher when it comes to re-releasing classic games over multiple platform generations, decided to do something different when releasing their own HD remake. Tekken Hybrid is an appealing re-release for the hardcore series fan and an interesting one for the casual fan.
The single Blu-ray disc contains both a movie and a full game, something seen before with the likes of Phineas & Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension. The movie in question here is "Tekken: Blood Vengeance," the CG feature film that was released this past summer in select theaters. Occurring between Tekken 5 and Tekken 6, the plot follows Xiaoyu and Alisa, two students who have transferred to an elite private school in Kyoto. Both become friends but are also unaware that they have been set up as spies for different corporations. Xiaoyu is recruited as a spy for the G Corporation, which is headed up by Kazuya. Alisa, who is secretly an android, is sent by the Mishima Zaibatsu, which is headed up by Jin. They're assigned to gather intel on Shin Kamiya, the last surviving student of an experiment that seemingly left him with an immortality gene. When Shin is kidnapped by a third party, both Alisa and Xiaoyu team up to find him before the corporation heads do.
Surprisingly, the plot isn't half bad. Going for a mystery was a better approach than simply rehashing a tournament, and the restriction of characters used in the movie prevented the common problem in fighting game movies of trying to show everyone but giving them little to do. In particular, the focus on both Alisa and Xiaoyu and their developing friendship presented a more interesting dynamic to follow. It got silly at times, but you were better invested in those characters and the movie was better for it.
Some more praise goes to the action scenes. The fighting stayed true to the games and was fast paced and exciting to watch. The camera slowed down during pivotal scenes to increase the action movie feeling, and there isn't a shot with poor angles or where the camera somehow missed a move. Even if you felt that the plot wasn't good, the action did well enough to pull you back into the story.
There are a few spots where the film does falter. Most of the humor it tries to deliver is fine, but Lee's moments feel forced. The flamboyance works, but he isn't exactly given humorous material. The second meeting between Nina and Anna could have been as exciting as the first, but we get no payoff when we cut back to them. We see before and after the fight, but considering their history, it would've been satisfying to see the big fight. Finally, the ending could have been handled better, as the last fight could have done with less drama and more large-scale action.
From a technical standpoint, the animation is rather well done. The main characters move gracefully, and the fighting scenes really stand out thanks to the fluid, fast movements and the depiction of the chaos around the bout. The crumbling of buildings, while exaggerated, looks spectacular, and the environments are rendered well. About the only fault one can point out would be how the ancillary characters are done. Every student or bystander seems stiff in their movements, and their faces aren't as pronounced as those of the more recognizable characters. Adding more care to the little things would have gone a long way in polishing up the overall look.
The audio is also good. The voice work for both the Japanese and English is well done, even if some of the lines are pretty cheesy. The music is orchestral, something the series isn't exactly known for, but it works well in making the whole affair feel grand. The mix is also good, as it doesn't let any one thing overpower another. Music never masks dialogue, for example, and sound effects don't feel off. It's standard action fare, to be sure, but you wouldn't mind turning up the speakers for this one.
For those lucky enough to own a 3D HDTV, you'll be pleased to know that the 3-D version of the movie is also included on the same disc. While we didn't have the equipment necessary to test out the 3-D, it's worth knowing that the movie has plenty of pop-out scenes specifically with 3-D in mind.
Playable components aside, there's a light amount of film-based extras on the disc. You have both the teaser and theatrical trailers in English and Japanese. You also have a minidocumentary on the making of the film as well as an interview with the creator of the series and the film scriptwriter, both with very different ideas concerning the initial film concept as well as the use and creation of characters. The inclusion of other things, like deleted scenes, would have been nice, had they existed in the first place, but the other extras more than make up for this.
The game chosen for this disc is Tekken Tag Tournament HD, a remake of the arcade hit that launched with the PlayStation 2 in 2000. For those who aren't familiar with that title, it took all of the characters from the first three Tekken games and put them into a tag-team fighting system. New tag-specific moves were added, such as the ability for the tagged-in player to immediately get a hit and throws to be chained into hits for the incoming fighter. Absorbing damage with one fighter also gives the partner a small damage boost once he or she is tagged. The game doesn't follow the same rules as other tag fighters, like the Capcom vs. series, so if one fighter from a team goes down, that round is automatically lost no matter how much energy the remaining fighter has. While some may not prefer the difference, others may argue for its strategy since it makes people think more about fighter management rather than simply plugging away until every fighter in the stable is gone.
In a way, it becomes hard to go back to some games when later ones in the series evolve so much, and the same can be said about fighting games. Since this one was made after Tekken 3 but before Tekken 4, players weaned on the newer games will find that some of their favorite fighters are missing some moves. Others will notice that the confined fighting areas have been replaced with more sprawling ones that lack both walls and multiple levels. In particular, Tekken 6 players will miss the game's bounce effect, where fighters hitting the ground hard have a tendency to rebound higher, giving you a better opportunity to initiate juggle combos. What you have left is a fighting game where juggle combo opportunities have a reduced window, and the limited move sets call for some calculated timing on when a particularly powerful attack can be used. Fans of the earlier games will have no problem getting into this one, while newer ones will have to deal with an adjustment period before they're able to enjoy it.
There are quite a few modes thrown into the game, most of which are standard fare for the genre. Arcade mode, team play, survival and versus all made it into this version, along with a music player and ending viewer, something that immediately becomes useful since all of the characters and endings are unlocked from the outset. The biggest mode, and most important to some, is Tekken Bowl, which is exactly what one expects from the title. You pick two fighters and set them up to go bowling in what looks like a dojo complete with gold Heihachi pins. Standard bowling rules apply, and the delivery is always the same: line up the shot, determine the amount of spin on the ball, and set up the throwing strength. Despite this being a simple minigame, there is a bit of strategy since every fighter has his own strengths and weaknesses. This also helps with the order of things, since you'll want to think about who you want to go first and who you want doing cleanup, making for a minigame that can quickly become deep and engrossing.
There is one thing players will lament in this remake, and that's the lack of online play. You're restricted to local play only, and that hurts the remake greatly when you realize that other re-releases and remakes in the fighting genre, including the three original Mortal Kombat games and the various Street Fighter entries, all sport online play. Both Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection and Tekken 6 also had some good net code for this, so it's painful to see that Namco Bandai didn't put in the extra effort to get the fighting online.
On the technical side, only the graphics have changed, and after seeing the various HD conversions made over the years, the best that can be said is that this is decent. The upgraded resolution is immediately apparent during gameplay as characters and backgrounds pop out more, though part of that comes from the lack of a remade lighting system for the characters. The fighters move rather fluidly, and the texturing still looks fine even if no touch-ups were made. The bulkiness of the fighters, especially the larger ones, could have been addressed since it most likely wouldn't have done anything to the frame rate. The backgrounds are fine, and it is still surprising to see how many moving elements they were able to pull off without bogging down the system. However, the game still has the odd background effect where the fighting stage seems to spin slower than the rest of the environment, making it look like you're fighting on a disc separate from everything else around you.
The final part of the disc is a special demo titled Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Prologue. As one can surmise from the title, this is a demo for the upcoming Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which features four of the characters who played a prominent role in the "Tekken: Blood Vengeance" film (Alisa, Xiaoyu, and the devil versions of Kazuya and Jin). The demo contains an arcade mode that is only four matches long, with both a mix of original images and still pictures from the movie being used as rewards for completion. There's also a model viewer, where you can view the four fighters from all angles and watch them perform one of four moves in this enclosed space. The only thing that's missing is a full-on versus mode, which is partially fixed by always allowing a second player to jump in when playing arcade mode.
It is good to see that what is on display here makes the upcoming release look promising. The gameplay mechanics fall more in line with what was present in the series up until Tekken 6, so things like extra ground bounce, stages with set boundaries, and multi-tiered stages are present. The tag moves from the previous game are still in here, along with the addition of a quick tag strike, where the player can briefly call on their partner to unleash a few moves before they retreat. While not a complete game changer, it helps the game feel faster and opens up possibilities for combo chains.
Hardcore Tekken fans will most likely buy Tekken Hybrid without a second thought, especially if they want to play Tekken Tag Tournament but don't have a PS2 or a backward-compatible PS3 in their collection. For the more casual fans of the series, purchasing the title will come down to whether or not they find the included film enjoyable since that accounts for the bulk of the cost. It's certainly the best of the three films so far, though the ending doesn't feel too satisfying and some of the attempts at humor fall flat. The film is enjoyable enough that you wouldn't mind watching it a few times with long stretches of time in between, and the game still has the power to lure you in for a few quick bouts. The package, as a whole, makes for a good rental with a purchase advised for those who need the original Tekken Tag to tide them over until the sequel hits and for those who can't get enough of the film.
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