Tekken 5 - Falling In Love Again 

 
By Dave Richards

 

The greatest toy ever invented is the video game. From the simple 1970s Ping Pong and Breakout efforts to the latest state of the art online multiplayer Space-Megadeth RPG fantasies, for pure addictive, engrossing, forget about everything-ness, nothing can beat them. Not even gripping hands. That said, the evolution from Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner into the modern platform/puzzle games has taken a lot of the idiot factor out of the thing. Some of these games have spawned a cottage industry of accompanying 200 page guide books, and you need a certificate from Mensa to get to the end of them. Where's the fun in that ? It's too much like hard work and I was never into them. The best I did with these was get about one third of the way through Tomb Raider 2 with the help of a "Lara Never Dies" code, and finishing Resident Evil 2, with the help of a free cheat book.

My thing was always sports games. In the days of the Sega Megadrive I grew to love the EA Sports franchise. Madden, NHL Hockey, Bulls v Blazers, FIFA Soccer, and the daddy of them all, PGA Tour Golf - "GASP! A DOUBLE EAGLE". Many a Friday night chong fest was livened up with a winner takes all "Nearest The Pin" challenge at the infamous Island Hole 17th at Sawgrass. Twenty nicker in the pot, each of us would have a go at the toughest hole in (virtual) golf.  To rule out any foul play, the competition had to stay in the other room whilst you took your shot. No sneaky peeks at how much draw/fade or what club selection you used. To the victor the spoils, which basically meant dancing in front of the telly and waving the wad in everyone's kite. It got knocked in the head in the end, it was too much pressure for the drug addled mind to take, and a serious outbreak of The Yips ripped the arse out of the Friday Night Golf Society. But even now, more than 10 years later, Ed Gein's mythical 56 at Sawgrass is mentioned in hushed tones by those of us who were privileged to witness it. Another honourable mention must go to the immortal Road Rash series, another superb game from the Electronic Arts stable. To the visionary who came up with the concept of racing high speed Nitro-powered superbikes through fetid jungles and Arizona deserts whilst twatting assorted Mad Max biker opponents with heavy chains to a hard rock soundtrack, I can only say "Schast'ya i zdorov'ya!"*. It's time to Speed and Bleed. Indeed.

With regard to togger games, in the old days we were treated to some total turkeys. Italia '90 was the first one I got into and it was frankly cack. The ball was bigger than the players and the view was from overhead, which was sound only if your dad was the pilot of the Police Helicopter and took you to work with him in the summer holidays to let you have a go of the Dragon Lamp. Things improved in 1992 with the legendary European Club Soccer game. Now this was more like it. The view was akin to a good spec in the Main Stand (just behind the directors box), it allowed you to play as a proper team, usually against an Eastern European crack outfit, but all the players had blag names. Never mind Baggio, Romario and Hagi. My footballing heroes of the early 90s were Aldo Baresi, Brian Plank and Primo Callisti. If you actually won the European Cup, you would go into the Intercontinental Cup for a one-off game against some South American loons who always seemed to be Independiente. Until the arrival of EA's FIFA International Soccer in late 1993, Euro Club Soccer was it.

The FIFA series was a massive leap forward in footy games. I probably played most of the incarnations on both the Megadrive and the Playstation One. And I grew to despise Blur's "Song 2" as a result of FIFA '98. Even now, whenever it comes on VH2 I mentally tap the Start Button. Anyway, as with most sports games, after a few hours you could suss which moves would guarantee a score and in one-player mode you could administer some right hammerings to Italy or Brazil while playing as Iran or Scotland . No, the true calling for these games is the two player mode. For money. With plenty of ale and dope.

Alas, the imminent arrival of sprog one in 1998 meant that the days of the lads bailing round for a session got jibbed. I couldn't be arsed with the sports games in one-player mode, and the Tomb Raider type efforts bored me shitless. It nearly meant lashing the unit altogether until a lad in work gave me a copy of Tekken 2**. I'd never really been a fan of Beat 'Em Ups. I played Mortal Kombat on the Megadrive but it never did anything for me. Nonetheless, I had a go of Tekken 2 and thought it was OK, and a week later the same lad gave me a blowse US import copy of Tekken 3. Even after only having Tekken 2 for a short time, you could see that Tekken 3 was a Quantum Leap. The Tekken games for the Playstation were conversions of the arcade games developed by the Japanese corporation NAMCO. In a nutshell, the concept is to pick a character from a list of about 15 and beat the cack out of all the rest of them, one after another, in 3 60-second rounds of hand to hand combat. As you progress, it gets harder. If you defeat them all, you win and get to see a nifty little graphic story about your character and unlock some other characters that you can then use in the game. NAMCO created a variety of types of brawler, from typical Jackie Chan Kung Fu heads to Brazilian Capoeira fighters to bizarre half-beast men made out of jaguar remnants to robotic psychotic Russian war veterans.

Now this was a game that was suitable for a grown man with a new born kid. Probably. The best thing was that you could play it for 10 minutes while the baby's bottles were getting sterilised and still get a pure adrenaline rush. I became totally addicted to it. The 3-D graphics, the colour, the moves, they were all poetry in motion and glitch free. Each character had a huge range of "combos" that when executed correctly would generate a flawless drop-kick, head-lock, eye-gouge, neck-snap assault on the hapless opponent. There was a training mode in which you could pan the snot out of a manequin-esque dummy who didn't fight back, and at the bottom of the screen it would demo the button combinations you needed to press to move from Grasshopper (button masher) to Enlightened One. And it's worth mentioning that the Nina Williams character was quite simply gorgeous. Her sister Anna would get a game as well. For my sins, I actually visited various Tekken web sites, which seemed to be filled with unnerving American and Asiatic characters who thought they lived IN the game. They were offering each other out, for Jah's sake. Straighteners were being arranged in arcades in downtown Seoul . It was all very serious. And I loved it. The highpoint was probably finding a real Tekken arcade game in New Brighton and putting on a masterclass to a small crowd of local juvenile delinquents and awed Waltzers operators. It reached the stage where I could complete the game in HARD MODE and the various opponents would never even land a blow on my character, at least not until the late stages of the contest. Or I would fight Nina and manouver her into various compromising positions that emphasised her svelte feline form and great rack............My God, the shame of that. I think that was the final straw. One night I realised that being a Tekken Meister, a veritable genius of The King Of The Iron Fist Tournament, meant fuck all in the big scheme of things. At the end of the day, it was only impressive to strange internet freaks from Japan who perched in arcades while their sisters were out getting pierced with Gwen Stefani. None of the lads gave a toss about my obsession. And anyway, they knew that they would have got frigging KILLED if they had took me on. So after a moment of clarity, I sold the lot (chipped playstation and about 40 snide games) to some lad in Garston for a ton in time for Christmas 1999.

Fast forward to the present day and I've just brought the sprog home from Alder Hey Hospital after a routine (but still you flap) operation. He's been after a PS2. All his mates in school have got one. I was gonna hang on until his birthday, but what the hell, I got him one with the Spiderman 2 game, cos he loves old Spidey and it takes his mind off picking at the stitches. I'll get him a togger game one day, and I hear that there's two camps now, the EA FIFA crowd and the Pro Evo 4 mob, and they hate each other like crows and magpies. I help him out with the hard bits of Spiderman, in a dad-son-bonding "JUST GIVE ME A FUCKING GO WILL YER LAD" way, while he swings around mashing buttons and killing both baddies and goodies with impunity. But over there, stashed away out of sight of the wife and the boy, is a spanking new copy of Tekken 5. For me. And when they're all in bed, it's gonna be time to ENTER THE TEKKEN.

* Google it. I fucking did.

** The name literally means "Iron Fist"