Whether you think the free-to-play model is a fad or a permanent profitable future for developers and publishers, it can't be denied that console publishers are paying attention. With the success it has seen on PC and Smartphones, it shouldn't be surprising that two of the major console platforms are testing the waters with DC Universe Online, Happy Wars, Jetpack Joyride and World of Tanks. For Namco Bandai's initial entry into this space, it enlisted the help of one of its more well-known franchises that seems to fit with the free-to-play model. Tekken Revolution is a fun title, but the real question is how consumers feel about the new gameplay model.
Despite the title, Tekken Revolution isn't a new entry in the series but more like a retooling and paring down of last year's Tekken Tag Tournament 2. The fighting is still very solid, and it features improvements like expanded move sets and multi-tiered levels. The only change is that it is now restricted to one-on-one fights instead of tag bouts. There are only three gameplay modes, and two of them (Player Match and Ranked Match) focus on online multiplayer fighting over a single-player campaign or offline fighting. The only offline mode is Arcade, and even that excludes the final boss from Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and the ending cut scenes.
The roster has been trimmed down to eight characters when you initially download the game. The included characters aren't new to the series, but they represent a decent selection, with Jack-6 representing the heavy fighters, Lili for faster fighting, and Paul for the middle ground. If you're a fan of the fighters on the initial roster (including Asuka, Kazuya, King, Lars and Marshal Law), you'll be fine. Otherwise, you may need to force yourself to put up with them for some time.
One major change to the game mechanics is in the customization. The game no longer allows players to change their fighter's appearance with wacky accessories and costumes, but you can modify characters in three different areas. Power determines the strength of each blow, Endurance determines the amount of health, and Vigor determines how often you'll score a critical hit on your opponent. All three are additive for each fighter, so you can't give Kazuya no chance to score a critical hit while giving him a double life bar, for example. Adding to each category requires skill points, which are earned as you gain levels, and fight money, which is also earned via fights. While skill points are given to every fighter in your roster for every level you gain, fight money is a universal quantity. Should you spend a majority of your fight money to upgrade Kazuya, you won't have enough left to upgrade Lars even though he has just as many skill points as everyone else. Though that means a lot of grinding to get everyone up to speed, it also means that players can focus on upgrading one fighter at a time.
The presentation has also received a few changes. On the audio side, the music is brand-new material. While the game has an allegiance to electronic music and its sub-genres, like dubstep, none of the tracks in the available stages have been recycled from the previous games in the series. From a visual standpoint, the characters feature a thin black outline. It isn't a start to making the characters cel-shaded, mind you, but they stand out more against a light backdrop. Meanwhile, the special moves got a boost with a massive blur effect and more particles and lighting. It doesn't really increase the move's effectiveness, but it is more apparent to casual players that you did something that should cause more damage than normal moves. For those expecting other graphical changes, however, you're out of luck. The game still moves smoothly but does so with a lack of anti-aliasing.
The initial set of changes wouldn't require a review, but the free-to-play elements make the game intriguing. The gift point system requires grinding because they're only gained via fights, like XP and fight money. Scoring a certain amount of gift points lets you earn more characters from the Tekken roster, but instead of being able to choose which characters you get, the character rewards are random. One player, for example, could get Alisa as a first reward character while others get Raven, Xiaoyu, Yoshimitsu, etc. Just like the lineup for the initial roster, your happiness or displeasure are entirely dependent on your luck of the draw. The only issue is that we have no idea how large the roster is and who is included. When asked about this at E3, producer Katsuhiro Harada wasn't willing divulge any information either way. This can all be taken care of via patches or game updates, so it might not be much of an issue. The chances of getting the exact fighter you want vary wildly.
As for the coin and ticket system, there are four types of coins and tickets you can get, each governing something different. Arcade Coins let you play Arcade mode until you lose. The tickets only activate whenever Arcade mode is selected and don't count against continuing since that feature doesn't exist. Versus Coins allow you to play any online versus game, whether it's a ranked or player match. Win or lose, the coin is spent as long as you get into a match. Gold Coins act as a super version of the Versus Coin, where it can be spent on an online match anytime. However, you don't have to spend another coin of that type as long as you keep winning, so it's similar to an arcade machine, where the winner stays for as long as he wants on one payment. Finally, there's the Golden Ticket, which behaves similarly to the Gold Coin but is only given during special events or when you beat someone who spent a Gold Coin or Ticket.
Like any free-to-play game, the currency has limits. You can only have two Arcade Coins at a time, and they regenerate once every hour. Versus Coins regenerate every half-hour, but you can have a maximum of five on hand. Both Golden Tickets and Golden Coins don't regenerate, but you can store up to 999 of each. The coins' time limits mean that the average player can only spend less than a half-hour at a time on the game. It's familiar to those who often play free-to-play games but will be shocking to traditional fighting game fans. The focus of this title is more on the casual player who likes the game but is unwilling to buy it. For those who are expecting to play a fighting game for long periods of time, the limits force you to get better to maximize your time or start paying to get more time.
The only thing you can pay for in Tekken Revolution is Gold Coins, which are $0.25 each. They can only be purchased in packs, so the real minimum is $1.00 for a pack of four, but you can't pay real money for anything else in the title. Gift Points, extra characters, XP-boosting items and other similar things are hiding behind gameplay time instead of a pay wall. This form of free-to-play is very far removed from the typical pay-to-win schemes seen during the infancy of the system. Furthermore, the game always depletes coins from the free pool first before dipping into the paid items, making this a very favorable system. It still may be restrictive, and the full game certainly offers up more, but this isn't a bad alternative because those who don't want to pay can still enjoy everything. The only thing to observe is whether there's a large enough player base willing to pay to keep it alive.
Tekken Revolution won't inspire people to toss out their old Tekken copies and embrace this wholeheartedly. Unless you exclusively play online, you'll miss out on the offline features and local multiplayer that make fighting games so much fun. However, this approach to the free-to-play model strikes a nice balance. The lack of a pay-to-win scheme means that all wins come down to skill instead of wallet size. Since the game is free, the only reasons for fighting fans to not give this a try are if they have less than 2GB left on the console hard drive or if they have bandwidth and download caps. Otherwise, even for casual players, Tekken Revolution is worth checking out.
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