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Game Review

I suppose it's a bit strange if, as a kid, your every decision in life was based on mimicking a cartoon character. Yet where I grew up, it didn't seem that odd. Instead of idolizing famous athletes or rock stars, role models for those around me in Hong Kong were the iconic characters from imported Japanese animated series. While stateside youngsters were zoning out from one too many Smurfs or Strawberry Shortcake episodes, we were learning life lessons from the likes of Dragon Ball Z, Gundam and Mighty Atom.

OK, so we weren't mimicking every move they made. But I saw friends taking the plots, characters and daily cliff-hangers very seriously. And it's with that same zeal and devotion that fans of another Japanese creation, Tekken, are treating the latest installment of its video game saga. With new personalities and a few additional twists showcased in the fighting franchise's first venture on PSP, Tekken Dark Resurrection has already earned glowing reviews. GameSpot senior editor Jeff Gerstmann calls it "one of the best portable fighting games to ever be released." IGN's Jeremy Dunham not only labels it "the best PSP fighter," but adds that it's "one of the PSP's most outstanding pieces of software for any genre. Yes, it's that good."

So, is it?

Packed Punch
Originally released in 1994, Tekken began as an arcade game and has over the years made its way through every version of the PlayStation. While other brawling behemoths such as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat have leaned toward a whack-a-button approach that corresponds to how hard and fast you attack, Tekken's creators opted to assign each controller button to a specific limb. That meant the fighting became more intuitive and, dare I say, a bit smarter. If an opponent was relentlessly assailing your right side, for instance, you couldn't just whale away with a fury of button mashing; only a rhythmic right-side block, left punch/kick combo would do the trick.

In addition, a commitment to cutting-edge 3-D graphics has kept Tekken at the head of its class. Dark Resurrection is no exception. Though relatively sparse (and brief), its movie clips reveal stunning detail that make even the exaggerated traits of characters seem true to life. Bouts take place in such visually stimulating locales as a field of flowers, an Antarctic iceberg (complete with waddling penguins), a pirate ship and a fluffy room filled with pink hearts and a massive bunny rabbit.

If those environments seem a tad random to you, welcome to the world of Tekken, aka Alice in Wonderland meets Fight Club. In Dark Resurrection, you either play as or square off against schoolgirls, devils, wooden robots, boxing kangaroos, men with animal heads and giant pandas—just to name a few of the odd profiles. The makers try to add some gravity by explaining why each of these beings has entered the King of Iron Fist Tournament 5: Some fight to pay medical bills for a dying parent, some come for revenge. Yet these background stories, apparently concocted by fourth-graders, include such laughably absurd lines as, "Wow ... such robust eyebrows—just like my father's!" Or my favorite, "Well, now that I've avenged my father, it's time to have some fun!"

Fighting Flaws
The unintentionally hilarious script may be chalked up to translation problems with Japanese and English colloquialisms. But certain elements in this game are unmistakably universal—and problematic. Most obvious is the violence. This is street fighting, after all, where friends, siblings and enemies alike have one goal in mind: Beat opponents to a pulp. Though this PSP venture doesn't wallow in bloody gore (mega-hits merely leave an explosive cloud), challengers get punched, kicked, tossed, spun and shellacked. Bone-crushing sound effects merely add to the pain.

Less frequent yet just as obvious are the game's sexualized depictions of women. As with most anime, female characters have accentuated features that, for some, are clearly intended to titillate. The sultry Christie Monteiro, for example, may have an admirable background story that involves trying to find a cure for her ailing grandfather, but her stripper-chic attire will be all most gamers notice. After her victories, the camera often pans out from an up-close cleavage shot. Other female characters receive the same treatment, as do the gyrating "background bikini babes" that surround a fight scene and—of all things—a bowling side game.

Occasional mild language also factors into the game's T rating. And its dark spirituality follows main character Jin Kazama, who, as in Tekken 5, wrestles with an evil gene inside him. That gene transforms him into "Devil Jin," who claims to be a god. The ensuing battle—and its effect on several other characters, some of whom are also god-like—makes for some of the oddest forms of maniacal mysticism I've seen since God of War.

Soupy Summary
With action, romance, spirituality, sibling rivalries and even a little environmentalism thrown in for good measure, what does this mixed bag not have? A real point. Because somewhere in the midst of fighting as one of the kazillion characters and unfolding his/her/its past history, the truth becomes apparent. Dark Resurrection isn't a soul-searing story of re-emergence. It isn't even a multilayered quest. It's simply an attractively muddled attempt by Tekken-ites to add a little more spice to a franchise that, in their opinion, now needs to offer more than old-fashioned iron fistfights.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

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Record Label




Namco Bandai


On Video

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Marcus Yoars Kevin Simpson

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