The first game in the series was quite a simple one when compared to what followed, with only two game modes available: the first one is the arcade mode, and the second one is a two player versus mode. The camera angle could be adjusted in the beginning of each battle, this one being the only game in the series (that I can remember) with that feature, but it was not really that useful. This game hasn’t aged that well, the opening movie is quite funny looking these days, and the character select screen portraits are a bit scary; Yoshimitsu should go see a dentist and Law’s cheeks look kinda... well, it looks like he doesn’t have any cheeks at all. The gameplay feels somewhat stiff and unresponsive at times, but at least you have the super high jumps that defy all laws of physics.
This game is a huge improvement from the first one, which only had the two modes you could play; this time you have four new ones added: survival, team battle, time attack, and practice. However, probably the most important addition was that now you could see the characters’ command lists and practise their moves all you wanted in the convenient practice mode. The graphics are also much better and the character models in the movies aren’t as blocky and funny looking as they unfortunately were in the first game. Although Nina’s ‘noodle hair’ in the intro movie does look kinda silly these days. The super high jumps make their last appearance (can’t really imagine Tekken 3 with its more realistic and mature feel having them).
My first experience with this game was playing the demo for it, if I remember correctly it was before I bought the third game in the series, I think... I’m 99.99% sure it was before... Well, anyways, the two playable characters were Jun Kazama and Lei Wulong (of course I always chose to play as Jun ’cause we’re both girls), and I thought the game seemed nice, although the characters’ movements felt a bit stiff. Some time after I had been playing Tekken 3 a lot, I rented this one a few times to get to experience the whole game, and I liked it quite a bit, and eventually I bought it. Besides playing as Jun, I mostly used Michelle Chang (I think I like her more than Julia Chang, her replacement in Tekken 3), and she and Julia are the first characters whose listed combos I could perform without making mistakes.
I do believe this one was the first PlayStation game I ever owned. I bought it in 1999 after one of my best friends told me how much fun it was to play (she had played it over at her cousin’s house or something like that). I would play the game with her a lot after school and I clearly remember that we had quite a bit of trouble with Heihachi in the Arcade mode, and we screamed a lot at the screen as we deperately tried to beat him. I would imagine Ogre and True Ogre also gave us a lot of trouble, but the battles with Heihachi are the ones I remember most clearly. We weren’t that good at the game, just button mashing mostly, trying to survive (we were so smart we didn’t think about going to the training mode or doing something to actually learn the attacks we could perform).
My favourite character has always been Ling Xiaoyu; she’s the young and cute one, and seems quick in her movements and also has a bit of a comical side to her. In the early days of playing the game I also sometimes used Hwoarang (kick, kick, kick...), Julia Chang, and Jin Kazama.
I’m really not an expert on fighting games (or any type of game), but in my personal opinion this one just might be the best the genre has to offer the world, at least as far as the actual playing/fighting goes. It took everything that was good in the previous two games and made it even better, and it reached a level that is pretty much impossible to improve on that much. The only addition (that I can think of, anyway) to the sequels that might be a slight improvement is the way the characters can walk around their opponents in a more fluid way, but it doesn’t really feel like you even need that feature when so many things are already working so well.
The music is also great. There are two soundtracks you can choose from, the original version that was on the arcade game, and the new, console-only remixed one. Or you could choose to play without any music, but who would do that when the songs are so awesome. All the characters have their own songs on the remixed soundtrack, while on the arcade version the hidden/bonus characters share the same track. The only song I don’t really like is Bryan’s theme; the ‘messy’ bit near the middle just annoys me to no end. Actually, Bryan as a character also annoys me, with his psycho laugh and all (and the fact that he often kicks the snot out of me might have something to do with it too).
Now that I think about it, Tekken and Tekken 2 had a bit of a lighter feel to them, for example the colours used were a bit brighter and intense(?), and the character models didn’t look quite as realistic when compared to the ones in this game. Tekken 3 feels a bit more serious and mature, and its backstory is more dark with a monster like Ogre having killed so many fighters (at least I think that’s how he was supposed to have ‘stolen’ his moves from them).
It does feel a bit odd that this game does not have Kazuya as a playable character, seeing as the Mishima family are the main driving force of the storyline, but I guess the addition of Jin kinda makes up for it. It could have been planned all along to have him sit this one out and have people think that he was dead, being thrown into a volcano in the previous game and all, and then have him make a grand return in a later instalment. Or maybe the developers felt that adding Kazuya would have made it too crowded, i.e. too many guys with similar fighting styles, and just having Jin and Heihachi was enough.
Another thing that feels kinda odd is Ogre being the final boss, seemingly coming out of nowhere into the game series, when in the past it has all been about the Mishimas. But then again this is only the third game in the series, so not much of a pattern has been established as to how the storylines tend to work out.
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