The Tekken series is back in 2009, bigger and better than ever, according to Project Director Katsuhiro Harada. Harada took time out his busy schedule for an exclusive interview with Playstation Universe where he gives us the lowdown on the new gameplay modes, features, and environments.
For the first time ever, the Tekken series is also going multi-platform for Tekken 6, but Harada also tells us why we, Playstation 3 owners, can look forward to a game that is built specifically to take advantage of the PS3 architecture.
PSU: One of big news stories involving the TEKKEN franchise during 2008 was that the series is going multiplatform. What factors influenced the decision to branch out from a series that has long been associated with the Sony brand?
The TEKKEN team, and I personally, have been developing for Sony platforms for more than 10 years. So, naturally we are fonder than anyone of the platforms and have a lot of great memories.
Back when the X360 was the first next gen console to hit the market, we had a lot of requests from fans to bring the series to the X360.
During the years, we have had many requests to bring the series to various platforms. As the X360 began to establish itself in the U.S. and Europe, the number of requests from fans to bring the series to that platform increased greatly. In reaction to the great demand from the fans, there were some within the company who began to think we should take the title multi-platform.
We are always listening to our fans, and this was perhaps the greatest factor in this decision as well.
PSU: TEKKEN was the first Playstation game to sell a million copies. Why do think it was and still is such a successful series?
A key factor in the success was of course the superior capabilities of the PlayStation hardware. It’s hard to imagine the series being as successful without the hardware.
The PlayStation was a machine that had great 3D graphic rendering capabilities at a relatively low cost that could also be used as an arcade board. It was also a result of being fine-tuned in the arcades that the TEKKEN series evolved into the heavy impact series that it is.
Perhaps the main reason the series continues to be successful is that we listen to fans from not only Japan, but around the world. We are able to incorporate this data in our games to great effect. The fans’ opinions differ greatly from country to country and one area this is easily seen is how we’ve incorporated this feedback in the line-up of characters.
Regarding gameplay, our main challenge is whether it is exhilarating or not. There’s always a sense of tension during battle; even a veteran player can be knocked out by a novice if he/she is not careful. I can’t go into details, but there are many aspects of the game that are tweaked to help bring out this tension during battle.
I believe these elements have contributed to the ongoing success of the series.
PSU: What has the response to TEKKEN 6 been like from the arcade community?
The feedback from the fans was that they really enjoyed the over-the-top and exhilarating game play. Another thing we were pleased with was the increase in new fans.
In Japan, the machines are connected to the TEKKEN-NET, which you can access on your cell phone for a monthly fee. TEKKEN 6 recorded the highest number of registered players to date. Not only do the numbers include the core base and players who have returned after an absence, but they also show an increase in first time players.
PSU: The roster has been substantially upgraded to approximately 42 characters*. Can you tell us about some of the new additions and what strengths these fighters will bring to the tournament?
*There are 40 playable characters and two CPU characters.
The last console release was TEKKEN 5 or TEKKEN Dark Resurrection Online. So since then, there are six new characters for TEKKEN 6.
1) Bob (USA)
He possesses incredible speed, despite being overweight. Bob used to be slim, but he felt underpowered so he began a unique training regime to gain weight while maintaining his speed. His training paid off, and he produced remarkable results.
He uses an acrobatic style of Karate and his strengths are his speed, power, and jumping ability. He hardly has any weaknesses.
2) Miguel (Spain)
During the war-driven chaos created by the Mishima Zaibatsu, Miguel’s younger sister was caught in an explosion and killed as a result of a Zaibatsu bombing strike. Miguel swears revenge against the head of the Mishima Zaibatsu, Jin Kazama, for his sister’s death.
Miguel has no formal martial arts training; he is simply a brawler. He has neither polished punches nor kicks, and he doesn’t assume any fighting stance; however, he has incredible reach and power.
3) Leo (Germany)
This Bajiquan practitioner, whose real name and gender are unknown, is hot on the trail of Kazuya Mishima of the G Corporation.
The cool character design is very popular among Japanese players. Leo is very easy to control, and is good character to choose to enjoy TEKKEN.
4) Zafina (Middle East)
This mysterious female is the first character from the Middle East. Her storyline is heavily intertwined with the main plot and the storyline of the final boss character.
She uses a form of assassination arts that has been passed down through the generations. This very intimidating style uses fighting stances that resemble spiders, lizards, and scorpions.
5) Lars Alexandersson (Sweden)
Lars is an officer in the Jin Kazama-led Mishima Zaibatsu’s elite private forces; the TEKKEN Force.
Discontented with the way Jin ran the Mishima Zaibatsu, Lars lead a great number of the TEKKEN Force in a rebellion against Jin. Lars uses a form of hand-to-hand combat taught in the TEKKEN Force. The characteristic of this style is its hard-to-read accelerated movement, making it easy to overpower opponents. Also, Lars has the ability to turn the tables on his opponent when he has his back to the wall.
Lars is the secret child of Heihachi Mishima, but the only ones who know are Lars and his Swedish mother. No one else, not even Heihachi, knows of this connection.
6) Alisa Bosconovitch
Alisa is a robot said to have been modeled on the appearance of the daughter of Dr. Bosconovitch (no one knows for sure), who appeared in the console version of TEKKEN 3.
This unique character has a variety of attacks and fighting systems never before seen in the series. More details on this fascinating character will be unveiled at a later date.
PSU: With so many playable characters, are some of the moves duplicated or does each character offer something totally unique?
In past games in the series, some moves were so. However, all the characters moves have been made unique, whilst keeping the controls simple and intuitive.
PSU: We assume that due to the large roster character balancing becomes pretty difficult?
It is very difficult. When you see the character select screen, you almost wonder what convention is going on, and is almost overwhelming.
However, all the Japanese arcade machines are connected to the TEKKEN-NET so we are able to gather all sorts of information such as win ratio by character and other details. We analyze the data collected and then are able to optimize the game over the network so the overall quality of the game is greatly increased.
PSU: Included in the new features for TEKKEN 6 is the “Rage system.” Can you explain how this works and how it affects the gameplay?
When a player’s health is greatly decreased, the Rage system kicks in and his/her attack power increases. As a result, a player always has a chance of a come back even if there is a considerable difference in health.
This creates a new strategic element to the latter part of battles when players’ health is decreased. When you decrease your opponent’s health to a certain amount, it would make more sense strategically to try to decrease the remaining health in one combo to avoid allowing them to make use of the Rage feature.
The Rage system can be very dangerous so you’ll want to try to finish your opponent’s in one string or aerial juggle when they are weak.
PSU: Can you tell us about “Item moves?” We understand that they are designed to be humorous rather than to actually affect the gameplay. Can you give us some examples?
Previously we received requests from fans such as “It would be cool if you could actually use the gun that Lei Wulong has equipped in-game.” This is when we started considering the item techniques.
However, we didn’t want these items to be a factor in the outcome of the match. We wanted it to be a fun game element; another way for the player to express himself/herself.
There are some really unique ones like Kuma throwing a salmon at his opponent or Paul’s hair stretching even higher, and then there are others like Nina and Anna shooting a bazooka or Raven throwing a giant shuriken.
These projectiles don’t do much damage but this “shooting” and “evading” adds a new element of fun to the game.
PSU: One of the new features in TEKKEN 6 is multi-tiered stages, similar to those seen in other fighting games, such as Mortal Kombat. Why was the decision made to include such a feature?
In TEKKEN, it’s not falling through a level that’s important but what you do afterward that adds a new level of strategy to the game.
The reason for adding these stages is we wanted something flashy and thrilling that would add a strategic element to the game while also opening up new combo possibilities.
As a result of these stages, a player’s position on the top level will play a big factor in the match. You will want to position so that you can force your opponent into an area where the ground is breakable. You can throw or slam your opponent into the ground to break the floor. They will bounce once they hit the floor of the lower level.
This opens up combo possibilities never seen before in the series. You can chain ground attacks to an aerial juggle, slam your opponent to the ground, pick them up once they’ve bounced off the floor of the lower level, and carry them into a wall combo for a spectacularly damaging combo.
PSU: TEKKEN 6 introduces a day and night cycle. Is this purely for visual effect or will it have any affect on fights?
This represents the contrast between light and dark. Along with the sunshaft and other graphical effects, this is to portray the feeling of space and enhance the atmosphere to highlight the exhilarating combat.
PSU: What can we expect in terms of customization in TEKKEN 6?
This time, the clothing is actually added like layers to the character model. You can match clothing tops and bottoms, or remove an inner layer of clothing. This allows for much greater customization of the characters. There is also a new system that allows the player to freely customize individual parts of a hairstyle to create something totally unique. The hair is divided into a base, left and right bangs, top area, etc. There are also many hair colors to choose from. It’s possible to come up with a character totally different from the default model.
PSU: How have you balanced accessibility to cater to new players with depth of combat to appeal to hardcore gamers?
There is a variety of characters in TEKKEN 6; some are easier to control for novice players and some are more suited for advanced players. So, it is easy for a beginner to find a character that fits them and learn a few moves that will help them in combat. As a player improves, he/she will learn to use different aerial juggles depending on the situation; one might want to do a high damage combo in the middle of a stage, or choose a weaker combo that will carry the opponent farther so they can string it into a wall combo. Advance players will also be more aware of their surroundings, thus being able to back their opponent into a wall for a wall combo, or smash them through the floor for an extended combo.
So, there is a lot of depth for advanced players but the intuitive controls, variety of characters, and game elements like the Rage system help novice players really enjoy the game and want to learn more.
PSU: Graphically, the TEKKEN series has always impressed. What have you done this time around to ensure TEKKEN 6 effectively utilizes the power of the PS3?
After releasing TEKKEN 6 in the arcades, we developed an updated version called TEKKEN 6: Bloodline Rebellion.
When we developed the update, we overhauled the graphic engine and created new shaders. In doing so, we had to make sure we could implement the graphic effects we wanted while still maintaining 60 frames. This is something that is extremely difficult to pull off, and there weren’t many examples in other games. Tailoring the programming to make the most use of the Cell’s SPU allowed us to achieve the results we were aiming for.
Over 90% of the games out there run in 30 frames, so we would like you all to keep in mind that TEKKEN 6 has implemented all the new graphic effects while still running in 60 frames. After seeing the game, we’re sure you’ll realize the high potential of the PLAYSTATION 3.
PSU: Can we expect the arcade upgrade, TEKKEN 6: Bloodline Rebellion, to appear as downloadable content shortly after release?
We don’t believe in slicing off part of the game that players expect should be included and selling it separately so, of course, the console version will be based on the upgrade, TEKKEN 6: Bloodline Rebellion. We also have console specific content planned as well as online content.
PSU: Is there anything new in terms of multiplayer content — team battles perhaps?
We have plans for something online in addition to online versus game play, but we can’t go into details at the moment.
PSU: You’ve worked closely with Sony consoles in the past, and TEKKEN 6 was the first arcade game released to use the Playstation 3-based System 357 arcade board. Does this mean that PS3 users can expect a superior version of the game (in comparison to Xbox 360 users)?
The game was programmed on PS3 architecture and specifically designed to make full use of the Cell’s SPU. So it’s going to be a big challenge to bring the game to the Xbox 360.
We would like to thank Katsuhiro Harada for taking the time to talk with us about Tekken 6.