Revisiting: ‘Tekken 3’ (1998)

Join ScreenCritics Shaun as he takes a look back at Namco’s popular ‘Tekken 3’ – arguably one of the best PlayStation 1 games.

By the time 1998 rolled around, Sony’s PlayStation had become a cultural behemoth. The platform had not only broken into the video game industry, it had shifted the accepted norm. Industry veterans Nintendo and Sega were struggling in the face of this new foe, and it would only get worse from there. There’s many reasons why the original PlayStation did so well, one of which being that it catered so widely to games that couldn’t be found elsewhere. One of these series was Namco’s Tekken series.

Released in 1997 into the Arcades, Namco’s Tekken 3 was the culmination of the series development. It was the apex of its PlayStation 1 run, so deliciously brilliant and gorgeously crafted that some consider it the best game on the PlayStation 1. I’m not sure I’d extend my praise that far, if only because Tekken 3 was more of a polish than a reinvention. Why would they change things up though when the series had long since nailed its formula so hard?

Tekken 3 continues the story of the previous games, the Mishima family going to war over control of their family empire and dragging in some of the worlds greatest fighters to boot. The third Iron Fist tournament serving a helpful way for Heihetchi to lure out an ancient ogre and commit murder. Fighting games don’t come with amazing story’s and it’s probably fair to say that Tekken 3 wasn’t going to win any awards for originality. Yet the story is probably the most forgettable part of the entire game – and easily forgivable when looking across at the entire package. Because what a package it was!

23 fighters make up the games roster of fighters, and they all (almost) have their own unique sense of charm and ability about them. From Jin Mishima (Who’s basically just a clone of Kazuya) through to series new comers like Ling Xiaoyu and Hwoarang – the roster is filled with enough different styles and approaches to excite most beat-em-up fans. It’s this clash of styles that makes matches so interesting in Tekken – with the series by and large ignoring projectile combat in favor of hand to hand beat downs. This focus makes matches feel more intimate, like a ballet of brutality that plays out between agonizing screams. It’s always fun to play Tekken an in Tekken 3 – these matches are just glorious fun.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about just how gorgeous Tekken 3 is. It’s easily one of the best looking games on PlayStation 1 and manages to hold performance well. It’s no secret that Namco were pushing the system to its limits with Tekken – the frame rate and performance smooth across the board as the console squeezes every drop of performance from its hardware. Every stage, every character and every animation just flows throughout, and its a carnival of excellence. Every stage has its own sense of scale and presence, and it helps the game greatly. The game also makes great use of lighting, helping to really show off just what Sony’s console was capable of.

Of course the game also knows how to have fun, and it’s not scared to let gamers enjoy themselves. The game comes packing an almost exhaustive selection of modes and game play options to get lost in. Various team configurations, time attack modes and even a volleyball mini game make their mark. In the end what really makes Tekken 3 tick is the gameplay. At its core, the mechanics that underpin the action are fast and frantic.

Alongside this is the Arcade mode, which continues the series impressive use of FMV animations to showcase each characters end-game. Rivalries play out, the difficulty rises and even the end-game boss is a huge badass. Tekken is a challenging game when you let it be, and it affords the game a huge amount of replayability. Can you beat your previous time? Can you take the challenge up another skill level? Tekke

Without question, Tekken 3 is one of the best games on PlayStation 1. Better with friends, it easily showcases the best of Sony’s console and pushes the console to its limit. It’s well worth revisiting and still plays well to this day. It was arguably the point where Tekken was at its peak, where all the parts came together and made a gaming experience that many could delight in. Just a shame about Tekken 4…..

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