I’m a big Tekken fan, but I’ll admit that I never laid hands on Tekken 4. The word is that it was a tremendous step backwards for the series after the phenomenal Tekken 3. Now, finally, the true successor to the Tekken throne has arrived in Tekken 5. In the opening movie Heihachi is supposedly killed and the Mishima Corporation is in ruins. Someone else has started up the Tekken Tournament again and the fighters are ready for yet another round to see who is the Champion.

Wow…just wow. Tekken 5 is possibly the best looking fighter on the PS2 ever made. Remember back when Tekken Tag Tournament came out as a launch game and everyone was bitching and moaning about the jaggies? Well, with Tekken 5 the jaggies are gone. In fact, Namco even has progressive scan and widescreen support on this game. Adding those into this game make it look even more fantastic than in normal mode.

As usual in a Tekken game, each character is very well animated, but the big showoffs in Tekken 5 are the stages and the pure punishment that the fighters dole out. Some stages are filled with moving environments and it makes the game look fantastic. There’s a stage where there is a fire all around you and the heat given off makes waves go through your character like it would in real life if you were looking at them from a third-person perspective. There’s also a stage where there are flowers on the ground and as you go through them or get pounded through them their pedals fly into the air. Everything is just well done in this game and it’s one of the best graphical fighters I’ve ever seen.

Also of note, but something Namco has always done, is the pre-rendered cutscenes. Namco is always very good at creating great cutscenes and this game is no different. Each character has a pre-rendered ending and most of them are usually hilarious, just like the other Tekken games. Namco certainly goes the extra mile in this section.

Usually a Tekken game is filled with techno and hard pounding music in it. Namco went a different way with Tekken 5. In many ways the music matches the stage that you are in. It’s difficult to explain, but in the peaceful looking stages the music is soft while in the more violent looking stages the hard beats start coming out.

The sound is also fantastic. Characters talk a lot and they talk in their native tongues (with subtitles). Just wait until you see characters like Panda and Roger talk in their native tongue and the fact that everyone seems to be able to understand them…pure hilarity. The sounds during fighting are also fantastic. The pure force of a punch or a smackdown onto the floor of a stage just sounds like it hurts.

No big surprise that Tekken 5 gets a high mark for control. In many ways, the Tekken control system hasn’t changed. You have your two punch and kick buttons that correspond to your left and right hands and legs. New in Tekken 5 is something you will have to get used to. Instead of the standard push away to block attacks you actually stand still to block attacks. Standing upright will allow you to block high and mid attacks and crouching down will allow you to block low attacks. The only problem with this is that you still cannot block the one unblockable attack that each character has unfortunately. It took me a while to get used to not pushing back to block and I found myself standing up to people and then counter-attacking much more than I did in previous Tekken games. As always though, the controls are nice and tight on this game.

The beginning shows Heihachi dying by the hands of an army of Jacks. Of course, do you really think Heihachi is truly gone? Well, you’ll have to play the game and unlock characters to see if Heihachi is alive or not.

Much like the rest of the series, Tekken 5 presents you with many options. Story mode and Arcade mode are the main ones and we’ll look at those here for the moment. Story mode lets you go through the stages to get to the end boss, see your ending and unlock other characters. Story mode is augmented by the fact that everyone is voiced and there are some sub-stories going on with each character. The last boss is unusually tough in my estimation. I seem to remember last bosses not being so tough in the Tekken world as they are in other fighters, but this one is pretty darn tough.

Along with the usual Tekken cast from the previous games, this game introduces 3 new characters. Raven looks like Wesley Snipes from Demolition Manand is an assassin that can use teleportation in his moves; Feng is a kenpo master who wants to find some scrolls that the Mishima Corporation has and finally Asuka the schoolgirl who is a cousin of Jin.

Arcade mode is set up much like Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution in that you go through and defeat a bunch of people and rise in your ranking. You also collect money that you can use to buy new outfits and other stuff for your character, much like Virtua Fighter 4: Evolutions. It’s obvious that Namco is trying to copy VF4: Evo in this regard, but it is pretty tough to beat that game in this section. VF4: Evo is simply better set up than Tekken 5 in this mode.

Along with those modes there is also a mini-game called Devil Within where you take the role of Jin as he raids the Mishima Zaibatsu and G Corporation’s headquarters and beats up robots along the way. It isn’t anything spectacular, but since it is a mini-game along the lines of Tekken Force in Tekken 3, I shouldn’t expect too much from it.

You can also go into Arcade History mode, which is a gem itself. Going into this mode allows you to play the arcade versions of Tekken, Tekken 2 and Tekken 3. It’s pretty tough to go back to Tekken, but Tekken 2 and Tekken 3 still stand up very well in this day and age.

If there was one minus in this section it is that there is no online component to the game. Seriously, Tekken 5 has everything you could possibly want in a fighter game, but it doesn’t have an online mode. Hopefully the next Tekken game can have this mode on it because this game would be fun online.

As usual it will take you a long time to unlock all the characters and see all the ending movies. You may get very frustrated by the end boss though. I haven’t quite figured out a great plan on how to defeat him as of yet, but I plan to find it out sometime.

There is a lot of gameplay in this game depending on what type of game you want to play. Maybe you want to take the VF4: Evo-like route and go for the Arcade mode or maybe you want to unlock characters and see all the endings in the Story mode. Heck, maybe you wan to play the old Tekken games. You can do them all in this game.