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My journey with Tekken began when I was eight years old. I was introduced to this unexplainable object of wonder that was the PlayStation by my twenty-six-year-old cousin while in Australia. I was inducted into three games, all of which feature in my top five favorites of all time. The original Tekken was the first thing I played, a classic fighting game that pretty much ripped off Virtua Fighter to a tee, but I didn't know anything about that. All I knew was how amazing the introduction to the game looked and how freaking badass Law was standing right in the middle of the fire. Of course, the Playstation FMV sequences now are horrifying to look at, but at the time, they were simply awesome. I realize this entry is about Tekken 3 and so far I've just been rambling on about the first incarnation of the series.
Well, it's to set the scene really. While the first game had great characters, decent mechanics (until you re-visit them today), Tekken 3 was revolutionary. Gone were the moon jumps from the first two games. Gone was our main protagonist, Kazuya. Instead, we got Jin, an amalgamation of Kazuya and Jun. Remember how amazing the Tekken intro was? Forget about it, Tekken 3's impressive opening sequence blew it out of the water.
Tekken 3 still stands as one of the most highly regarded and well reviewed fighters of all time and built off of the success and improvements Tekken 2 made over the first installment. The fights had evolved; gone were the infamous “moon jumps”, everything was a lot more tightly knit and the combat instead looked like a highly choreographed scene from a martial arts movie, which is a testament to how fluid and realistic the motion capture looked. This is exemplified with one of the Arcade introductions, with members of the roster showcasing their abilities. At the time, this was simply mind blowing with how realistic it looked and even today, some of the characters still look good.
Adding to the game play was the huge roster of playable characters, who for the most part all had unique fighting styles, some of which were brand new to the series. This of course meant that battles were more unpredictable and even if you had a character mastered from previous versions of Tekken, you had to adapt and learn the new tricks quickly, in order to overcome your foes. Referring back to the impressive CG cut-scenes, each time you completed the game via “Arcade Mode” you were rewarded with an end movie for your character. Some were comedic, some serving the story line as a whole, others just a lot of fun. It was so beautifully made however, that replaying through the story with different characters became an enjoyable goal, as you wanted to see what fun ending you would get. It's very much of it's time, as back in the 90s, video games wanted to make you feel like you were part of a movie, so it fit perfectly here.
The designs for each characters were totally revamped and remodeled for this game and really aimed to push the Playstation to its limit; put simply the graphics at the time were outstanding and it ran at 60 frames per second on the home console, making it transition beautifully from the arcade right to the comfort of your abode. That was a giant leap for Namco over it's previous titles in the series and again, another outstanding decision to ensure this game was one for the ages.
Music was also another important part of each character. In general, every avatar had their “home” ground (below, Paul Phoenix is on “his stage” in Tekken 3) and as such, everyone had a theme that would accompany them. It's not an exaggeration to exclaim that this soundtrack is iconic, I still listen to it today and as I've mentioned in other articles, music can make or break a game and here it simply acts as such a wonderful supplement to the atmosphere and vibe of the game.
One thing that has always impressed me with the Tekken series is it's story, which is all about family, betrayal and of course, fighting. Namco took a bold decision with Tekken 3 to remove their poster boy for the franchise, Kazuya Mishima, and replace him with Jin Kazama. This has since been proven a great decision as next to Ryu from the Street Fighter series, Jin is arguably one of the most well-known and beloved protagonists for fighting games. Jin, along with his contemporaries, were thrust into a fully realized world that had you, as a player, in awe of what was being represented on the screen. As mentioned above, it really helped fuel the ambition to replay the game several times with new characters in order to put all the pieces together and watch the masterpiece unfold.
Tekken Force mode was a supplement to the main storyline and a truly distinguishing feature for the game that helped it stand out from it's rivals. You could play through as any character you had unlocked and it was a side scrolling, beat-em-up tear through four levels, with the objective simply to reach the end of each stage. This would later be expanded in other versions of the game, but the initial incarnation was fun, fresh and exciting.
A final mode was the volleyball mode, which is as ridiculous as it sounds. The goal was to eliminate your opponent with a volleyball, by smashing it with a high powered move, which would impact against the other player and if they didn't counter it with a hit, they would get damaged and vice versa. It was a quirky and unique addition that again showed how ready the developers were to take well calculated risks, as this has remained one of the most famous and enjoyable mini games throughout the entire series.
This juggernaut of a game is something that can still be enjoyed today. From it's music, character design and iconic levels, Tekken 3 can be played alone or with friends and enjoyment will be almost guaranteed. Namco made a gigantic leap from Tekken 2 to this version and featured far more in terms of content, depth of storyline and additional game modes. A classic, a must play and one of my all time favorites.