Retro Respawn – Tekken 4

There was once a very important philosophical query that had challenged mankind for eons. For years, no person had truly been able to sufficiently answer it. Great, powerful super computers were built in order to break the mystery down, yet they all came up empty handed. Just when humanity had begun to start losing hope, Tekken 4 came along to answer the question once and for all.

“Is it possible for Heihachi Mishima to wear a nappy and still look intimidating?”

After morosely inspecting the imprint of a geta sandal in their forehead, most players of Tekken 4 will respond with a despondent yet resounding “yes”.

Tekken 4 was the last game in the Tekken series to ground its finale in some semblance of sanity before things started to get really silly in the latter titles. Whereas you had to close out the game by fighting the literal Devil and a giant, fire-breathing moth creature in Tekken 2 and 3, respectively, Tekken 4 takes the series back to its roots by making you go one-on-one with the feared patriarch of the Mishima family in the King of Iron Fist Tournament Final. There are exceptions to this, of course, (depending on who you choose to play as in the all new story mode), but for most of the roster, the path to all their hopes and dreams is blocked by a ridiculously overpowered elderly man with a highly questionable haircut, just as it was in the very first Tekken game way back in 1994.

As if Heichahi’s return as the closing boss isn’t enough of a blast from the past, his son Kazuya also makes his return to the series after his supposed death in Tekken 2 to really amp up the nostalgia. Tekken 4 is a game that feels both familiar yet also very different, especially if you skipped out on Tekken Tag Tournament as I had done back in the day. Kazuya is not the only Mishima family member to return to the game as his half-brother, Lee, and son, Jin, also make their way onto the roster once again, thus bringing the primary focus of the story mode back onto the family feud. This proceeds to make Tekken 4 feel more like the original game than any of the other Tekken sequels whilst also taking the series in a new direction at the same time.

One big change that will be immediately noticeable to those who have played the previous games will be the size of some of the fighting stages. In previous games in the series, the arenas where you did battle were vast 3D areas where it was basically impossible to reach the end of the level. That isn’t the case in Tekken 4 as the stages are a lot smaller, which adds a tactical nuance to the fighting that wasn’t previously present. Fights can now take place in small, even claustrophobic areas, such as abandoned car parks, which give you little room to hide. On top of that, stages now include uneven terrain, with some like the jungle arena even having slopes and water hazards to slow you down. It’s also now possible to destroy parts of the scenery, such as pillars in the car park and statues during a rooftop battle. You can even trap opposing fighters up against a wall and barrage them with constant attacks as they struggle to get away.

The controls have also changed slightly, with it now being easier to sidestep by just pressing up or down on the D-pad rather than double tapping it. You also have the ability to push your opponent away or grab hold of them and switch positions. This comes especially handy if an opponent has you cornered as you can switch things around at the last moment and hoist them by their own petard. All in all, the combat in Tekken 4 feels smoother and more impactful than any of the previous games, and each fighting stage having its own sense of identity means it’s rare for one fight to feel the same as the previous one. In addition, the fact that most of the characters do battle with Heihachi in a UFC-styled cage with thousands of fans in attendance makes The King of Iron Fist actually feel like a genuine tournament for once. It’s always confused me in regards to how people know who actually has won these tournaments in the Tekken universe, seeing as the finals tend to take place in isolated, clandestine areas, like ancient Aztec temples with nary a TV camera in sight. Tekken 4 at least makes a stab at explaining it by making the finale look like a big, worldwide media event, complete with glitzy entrance ways and pyrotechnics.

Tekken 4 also features the debut of future recurring characters Craig, Steve and Christie, along with the only canon appearance to date of Combot. Combot is essentially a robot version of Mokujin (in that he steals other fighters’ move sets), whilst Christie is pretty much a palette swap of Eddy Gordo and uses most of his moves. Marduk is a character clearly inspired by professional wrestler Bill Goldberg, even down to doing a version of his entrance taunt as part of his victory celebration. Steve is the most unique of the newbies in that he’s a boxer who doesn’t have any kicks in his arsenal, meaning that the kick buttons cause him to dodge instead. Long-time Street Fighter fans won’t be too surprised to play as a fighter who solely delivers punches, but for Tekken this was something new and gives Steve an interesting tactical characteristic that separates him from the rest of the field.

Every fighter in the game now has their own narrative in the brand new story mode, complete with opening and closing blurbs followed by the standard FMV Tekken ending, which at least makes everyone’s character feel a bit more rounded. Of course, most of the juicy stuff takes place in the Heihachi/Jin/Kazuya stories, but there’s still plenty of other interesting tales to follow, such as King trying to avenge the death of his trainer, Paul going through a midlife crisis and Lee entering the tournament under the alias “Violet” so that he can introduce the world to his new invention. One thing I noticed is that quite a few of the endings have a more “tell” than “show” approach, with Xiaoyu’s and Bryan’s endings in particular being pretty dialogue heavy and light on action. Despite this, story mode definitely adds a welcome extra dynamic to the single-player experience, and the individual stories in Tekken 4 are, for the most part, some of the best in the series’ history.

Graphically, the game looks excellent, especially considering it was released in 2002 for the PlayStation 2. The game has a nice contrast of bright, colourful stages and darker, more imposing ones, with all of them being well detailed. The fighters themselves look great for the time period, with hair physics on people like Paul in particular looking excellent. Tekken 4 really is a sumptuous game to look at, and it feels like it is often pushing the PS2 as hard as it possibly can. The usual versus, time attack, survival and team battle modes all make their return, along with an improved version of the Tekken Force mode found in Tekken 3.

Tekken 4 is genuinely a fantastic game. I don’t think the difficulty and learning curve is as perfectly weighted as it was on Tekken 3, but it’s still an immensely enjoyable experience that both plays smoothly and looks delightful. Bringing back Heihachi as the show-closing boss is another tick in the plus column, especially as the two end game bosses in Tekken 5 and 6 would be so ludicrously overpowered and cheap. Heihachi is a punishing and dangerous opponent, but he doesn’t cross the line into being cheap, which makes his Tekken 4 form possibly the best final boss in the entirety of the Tekken series. I strongly recommend you play Tekken 4 if you haven’t in the past. It’s an amazing game, and you can get it for practically buttons online.

If you’re interested in playing Tekken 4 for yourself, you can find it on Amazon for as little as £3.29 by clicking right HERE

Looking for more great content here on Gaming Respawn? Well, then why not take a goosey gander at Alec’s review of Progress Wrestling Chapter 74 by clicking right HERE

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