Saturday, August 21, 2010

Top 5 - Best Zelda Moments

The Legend of Zelda is an all time favorite series of mine.  I can't ever seem to get enough of adventuring through Hyrule, stabbing baddies and finding treasures.  Naturally I have some very fond memories of the games and so decided to create a list of five things I really loved from my time with the games.  Take note this is just pertaining to the games that appeared on a console.  There are so many Zelda games out there and I haven't even come close to playing them all.

#5 - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) - Finding the Golden Sword.

This seems to be something everyone knew about, but I had played and beaten the game hundreds of times before I ever discovered it.  In the Dark World there is a fairy fountain on the side of the Pyramid of Power that can be blasted open with a super bomb.  This is the place where you get the Silver Arrows you need to whoop Ganon's piggy butt.  I had never, ever considered throwing in the Lv.3 Tempered Sword as well to see what the fairy would do about it.  Sure, I knew all about the Magic Boomerang and the Red Shield that you can receive from the fairy fountain just outside Zora's Domain in the Light World.  Why didn't it ever occured to me that you might get two new items from the Dark World fairy as well?

One day it DID occur to me, and I was rewarded with the Lv.4 Golden Sword.  Whoa nelly this is a beast of a weapon.  Most everything dies in a few hits and even Ganon doesn't hold up long under it's awesome power.  It immediately validated another playthrough so I could try and obtain this sword as early on in the  quest as I could (Which is after Dungeon 6 unless you perform one of those nifty walk through walls tricks... but we'll talk about that another time).

#4 - The Legend of Zelda (NES) - Actually Beating the Game.

The first Zelda game was by far one of the hardest games I've ever played, though it always made you want more.  However, my first experience with this game wasn't my own, but my brother's.  As a kid I watched him battle his way through the monster hordes, conquering dungeon after dungeon, and grow more powerful with every new item obtained.  Then he found Dungeon 9 which was the lair of Ganon himself, a maze that took you through room after room of the hardest enemies.  Time and time again he ventured in only to be defeated before he could find the secret path that would put him face to face with the Dark Lord himself.  In the end he never figured it out and the game was left to legend in and of itself.

Many years later I was going through a heavy Zelda phase and decided to have a go at the classic.  I started in the morning, working my way through the dungeons and eventually found myself at the door to Dungeon 9.  I prepared myself with full supplies of bombs and potions, and launched a determined offensive.  Several times the dungeon spit me back out to lick my wounds and buy more gear before taking another crack at it.  Then, after hours of struggling, I finally uncovered the hidden path.  I was nervous as I ventured into territory I'd never seen before.  There he was, Ganon... and then he vanished!  Holy crap, he's invisible?!  I ran all around the room trying to dodge fireballs, all the while trying to devise a strategy against him.  Finally I began to work out a method of attack.  Run toward the fireballs and stab at the area it came from.  Once I had worked out the timing he was easy to beat and soon turned to a pile of ash.

From there I proceeded onto the room with Zelda in it, and made my way past the fire (which I never knew you could kill with your sword...) and finally finished the game, only to discover the second quest which I have never even come close to beating.

#3 - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube) - Discovering Hyrule

The Wind Waker puts Link on the Great Sea, a vast ocean only dotted with a few islands.  As you travel around this ocean you discover that it has very little to do with the Hyrule you remember from Ocarina of Time (The Wind Waker is around one hundred years after Ocarina of Time, storyline wise).  While there are two villages to see in this game, neither of them are Kakariko, though Windfall Island has a variation on the Kakariko musical theme.  So, where in the world is Hyrule?  Does this game have nothing to do with the legendary land we've quested upon so many times?

Your first hint comes when you meet the Great Deku Tree.  It knows ancient Hylian and mistakes you for the Hero of Time.  Hmm... only the Deku Sprout could know of the Hero of Time, and yet this is a massive tree inside another tree...?  Next you meet Jabun, which you might say is Lord Jabu-Jabu from Ocarina of Time (or as you might call him, the "fish dungeon").  He too knows ancient Hylian and has a brief conversation with your boat in it (yup, the boat talks).  The shoe finally drops after you finish the Tower of the Gods and unlock the path to the power to repel evil.  Outside the Tower appears a ring in the water, into which Link and the boat sink.

Turns out Hyrule is actually underwater!  Not underwater though in a sense that it's all flooded however, but in the sense that it exists as it was sealed underwater.  That means the Great Sea has a bubble inside it that contains all of Hyrule.  You descend into a castle courtyard and locate the Master Sword, and return color to the world below (black and white means frozen, you know).  You're treated to a muted version of the Hyrule Castle music, which hasn't been heard since A Link to the Past, and honestly this was a huge nostalgia moment for me and one I'll always remember.

#2 - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) - The Forest Temple

Holy crap, your a freakin' adult now!  You've got this sweet new Master Sword to whoop up things with, and a shield that not only can block decently but doesn't burn up when fire is applied.  Life is good, right?  Wrong!  You've been missing from Hyrule for seven years and while you were napping in the Sacred Realm Gannondorf had his way with the Triforce of Power and has turned Hyrule into a wasteland of monsters.  The castle town is trashed, ghosts are everywhere, Lon Lon Ranch is run by Ingo, Zora's are frozen, Gorons are about to be dragon food, the Kokiri are monster besieged, and generally everything sucks!  On top of this you can't use most of the items you had as a kid, including your newly acquired boomerang.  That means you are more or less starting over.  So what can you do about it?

After gaining the hookshot from Dampe's ghost (yeah, he's dead also... good job) you have to begin the process of actually doing something about Hyrule's sad state.  This begins with the Forest Temple, which is my favorite Temple of any Zelda to date.  This Temple is also infested with ghosts, and has a very haunted feel to it.  Everything is dark and foggy, the design is reminiscent of haunted woods overgrowing a haunted castle, and it even has a couple corridors that twist, which messes with your directional perception.  What sells it though is the music.  Right from the start the music sets a mystical and enchanting tone to the whole dungeon and gives you the feeling that you really are someplace special and unique, untouched and forgotten by the world.

The boss battle too is quite fun as it's Phantom Ganon and fighting him in his second form is like a 3D version of Agahnim from A Link to the Past.  I was sad to actually finish the dungeon, but excited to see what else the adult side dungeons had in store for me.  Sadly, not a single dungeon came close to the look and feel of The Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time, let alone any other Zelda yet.  (Temple of Time in Twilight Princess was close though, trust me.)

#1 - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GameCube/Wii) - Horseback Battles

One of the things that was missing from Ocarina of Time was a reason for the horse to even exist.  There was so much potential in having Link riding around Hyrule with his trusty steed.  The only weapon you could even use from Epona's back was the Fairy Bow, and while shooting arrows while moving was a good challenge, why was having Link stab things from horseback such a problem?  In fact, you can easily finish everything there is to do in Ocarina of Time without even bothering with the horse, save maybe getting the Biggoron Sword, which you don't need either.

The Wind Waker didn't even have a horse in it whatsoever, giving you a boat to ride about instead.  That makes sense, as the world is an ocean.  It would be silly to have Link riding the back of a horse as it struggled to paddle from isle to isle.  While on your boat you had access to different items like your boomerang and your hookshot, as well as boat specific things like bombs becoming a cannon.  Fighting from the boat was actually a neat and fun experience given these options.  

Why then would a horse be a problem when no one had ever considered Link in "boat-back" battles?  People used to fight from horses all the time and did so with more than a bow.  Why couldn't Link use his hookshot, or Deku Nuts, or jeez, I don't know... his sword?!  (I know in version 1.0 games usually meaning the gold cartridge games you could enact a glitch where you could actually use items from Epona, so it was all there all be it glitchy as crap)  Even Majora's Mask didn't allow for much activity on horseback, though having Epona was actually needed to get to certain locations in that game.

Imagine my delight then when I first played Twilight Princess.  Epona is introduced to you early on in the game, and while you only really have a wooden sword you can use it from your horse!  Finally!  Then you lose your horse, and most everything else and have to struggle along as a wolf for a bit.  Once you clean the twilight from Eldin Province you are reunited with Epona, this time with gear you can use and a large field of enemies to use it on.  Everything works great, and it's very satisfying to finally get to do all the things you wanted to do in Ocarina of Time.  After messing around you eventually proceed on with the story, where little do you know you are about to be treated to a real horseback battle.

After returning to Kakariko you discover the kids are in mid peril thanks to a bunch of Bokoblins on hog monsters.  You chase them out into the open expanse of Hyrule Field and engage them in battle from Epona's saddle!  You are chasing one target in particular, but all the while you are being mobbed by Bokoblins on hogs who are shooting arrows at you and swinging their clubs.  In return you can retaliate with sword swings to the left or right, or go for the spin attack and clear out everyone.  Once you do enough damage to the Bokoblin King you are chasing he dashes onto the Bridge of Eldin, Link staying in hot persuit.  It's here you engage in a straight on joust with the monster and it's one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a Zelda.

Later in the game you'll also defend a carriage while on Epona and at the end engage in battle with Gannondorf himself.  That battle is unique as Zelda is riding with you trying to tag Gannondorf with Light Arrows so you can stab him with the Master Sword.  Basically everything you wanted to have happen in Ocarina of Time finally comes to bear in Twilight Princess, and it has a huge effect on the game and the intensity of the story.

There are many other wonderful memories from the games as well.  No doubt everyone has their own favorite Zelda moments, and I could sit here for hours going on about each and every single fun experience the games have left me with.  I just wanted to highlight five of them though as the one's I really remember and would site as reasons why the games are worth playing.  Memories that anyone who played the game would certainly enjoy and share.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Single Player - Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1994.  It's your standard platform game, pitting you against enemies and levels you must run, jump, swim, and roll through in order to complete the quest.  It is in no way difficult to learn, and as it was actually a pack in title late in the SNES's life, it had exposure along the same lines as Mario games.  The game quickly turned into a series, spawning two direct sequels and a plethora of other games based on the characters and world.

For this review, we're only going to talk about the first game.  Compared to it's two sequels, it's fairly easy to complete.  The premise is that you play as Donkey Kong and fight aganst the Kremlings and their leader King K. Rool for control of your banana horde which the Kremlings stole for some reason.  To help you in your endeavors is your side kick Diddy Kong, whom you may play as at anytime.  Other Kongs exist too like Funky Kong who will allow you to return to areas you've previously beaten, Candy Kong who lets you save your game, and old ape Cranky Kong who turns out is the original Donkey Kong from Mario's early days (you know, when Mario was known as "Jump Man".  Sounds like a Mega Man Robot Master to me.)

The levels are diverse, ranging from jungles and forests to snowy mountains and damp caves.  Frequently you'll find that you are required to make jumps with special timing, or leap from swinging ropes.  Then there are times when you need to jump into barrels which blast you like cannons around the screen, some of which are automatic in nature.  Tree Top Town in the third area is an example of this, and where I struggled a lot back in my younger days.  Swimming levels also exist as do locations where you have to navigate moving platforms.

While you are struggling to just get to the next safe piece of land you are hounded by enemies that want to end your quest short of your banana bounty.  On top of this you have no power ups like Mario enjoys.  How do you contend with all these hazards?  Well since Donkey and Diddy operate as a team, you have the ability to assume control of whichever is following along should the one you are controlling take a hit.  In essence it's as if you have two hits (barring plummeting into pits, mind you) so you don't just lose immediately.  You can also find boxes that contain animal helpers you can usually ride.  There's Rambi the rhino who is perfect for smashing through any enemy you encounter, then there Expresso the ostrich who runs fast and can flap his wings to lengthen his jumps.  That's not to leave out Winky the frog who can jump high and bounce on enemies the Kongs normally couldn't touch.  Then we have Enguarde the swordfish who makes swimming levels easy to finish with his ramming abilities and superior navigation.  Squawks the parrot is also in this game, but all he does is hold a light in one level, which is lame when compared to his ability to fly the Kongs around and shoot eggs at baddies in later games.

There are plenty of secrets to be found in this game, making it a worthy challenge for !00% completionists.  It's also a fun game to play with a friend, as it offers two types of co-op play.  The music is just awesome, and the graphics are amazingly good for being on the SNES.  There are even some awesome glitches to exploit if you can find them.  It's a solid game, and fortunately it's available on the Wii Shop Channel so it's very easy to go out and get this game.  I would very much recommend it to anyone who enjoys platform games as well as casual gamers who just want to play for a little bit and feel accomplished

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Glitches - Super Mario World: Awesome Jump Glitch

    Here is another fun glitch!  This one is done at the Cheese Bridge area.  Why I don't get hurt at the end of this is something I'll never understand, but it looks awesome and makes this level easy to beat!

Glitches - Super Mario World: Holding the key on Yoshi?

    Super Mario World ranks up as one of the best games in the pre 3D era, and certain one of the best for the SNES.  But that's not to say that there aren't a few quirky things about the game. In fact, this game is full of oddities and glitches, some of which are good, some not so much.

    Here is an example of a glitch you can do about anywhere you can find a key with Yoshi.  Place the key on the ground, then dismount Yoshi so that the edge of the key is about half way into Yoshi's body.  Then jump onto the little dinosaur while holding the Y button, and Mario should end up with the key in his hands while riding Yoshi!  

    Note: The key's sprite has to appear in front of Yoshi for this to work.  If the key is behind him then it's usually not performable.  Also if you try to grab anything with Yoshi's tongue then he'll grab the key out of Mario's hands and hold it like normal.  Finally, some levels won't let you use a key hole with this glitch unless you can get the key itself to touch the hole, and that's usually not possible.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Random Encounter - Zombie Nation

    Ok, I got one for you.  How would you like to play a game where you are a severed head of an ancient samurai who's on a mission to save the United States from the evil alien Darc Seed who's used his magnetic rays to turn  the citizens into zombies?  Well that and reclaim the sword Asura, which according to this game is the most powerful weapon ever (more so than nuclear bombs anyway).  To top it all off, Darc Seed has animated the Statue of Liberty, turning our national treasure into a symbol of evil.  That sounds like a block buster if I ever heard one!

    Actually, it wasn't, but strangely this game does exist!  Zombie Nation for the NES, released in 1990, is a side scrolling shooter along the lines of games like Gradius or R-Type, except it's bad.  It's the kind of bad that makes you wonder who in their right mind would actually make this game and think they were going to make money with it.

You can pick amongst 4 stages and change their difficulties from easy to hard, though easy is almost impossible as this is one of those games where you have to play it a thousand times to memorize where everything is going to be.  Enemies and objects come at you from all sides, and if you touch anything that looks like electricity you'll be reduced to one hit point.  If you die your head smashes into the ground and a text bubble with japanese characters pops up.  Awesome.

    Should you find yourself curious enough to try it, be ready to play the same things over again and again.  Also don't expect anything to ever make sense.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Equipment - Consoles: Old Vs. New

    I just wanted to take a moment to talk about the durability of video game consoles.  You no doubt are familiar with the issues the PS2, PS3, and XBox 360 faced.  Disk read errors, red rings of death… Even the Wii had it's issues with it's System Menu 4.0 update rendering your sleek little Nintendo console a white, slanted brick.  High technology sure has it's price.

    Rewind twenty years, it's the age of the original Nintendo Entertainment System.  The old gray box wasn't without it's own issues.  Stick a game in, shut the lid, click in the power button and… nothing.  What did you do?  Power off, slide out your game, blow on it, blow on the console, wiggle things, press down something, insert another game maybe.  Everyone had a trick that got the bugger to work eventually.

    How about the Wii?  If I put a disk in and nothing happens, what do I do?  Blow on it?  Push the disk in firmly?  In this day and age of next gen consoles there is one thing for certain, if it won't work you are more or less screwed.  Unless you are the savviest of tech geeks you're either on the phone with Nintendo's Help or in the market for a new console.

    I understand that these consoles are much needier devices than the older systems.  High end graphics, bluetooth, wifi, and internal hard drives all provide a number of things that could go wrong at any time, whereas the Atari 2600 - 7800, Sega, and Nintendo only had a motherboard and a cartridge slot for the most part, not to mention just simple RF or AV ports and your trust controller ports.  Very simple in this age that now lacks RF and controller ports (favoring HDMI, Component, Optical, and USB).

    There exists though another reason why consoles have become more fragile, a reason now long forgotten.  In the 1980's there was a video game crash of sorts.  Customers were't interested in consoles anymore and stores were quickly replacing displays of Ataris, Intellevisions, and Colecovisions with board games and card decks.  When Nintendo emerged on the scene here in the States they had a steep hill to climb.  There was no room for error as even the slightest slip up would forever doom the market to obscurity.  This resulted in the NES becoming a massively popular system, as well as the creation of the current video game era.

    Today games are a corner stone of companies like Sony and Microsoft.  Major games have productions that rival major motion pictures and release dates that the later schedule around.  E.T. on Atari had a six week development time from inception to release, Final Fantasy XIII was in development for over four years, both were highly anticipated titles for their times (ignoring the fact that E.T.'s flop lead to the 80's video game crash).  The industry is so huge now there really is little fear of it ever coming to an end, unlike the early days of Nintendo.  There is no razor's edge these days, just ups and downs.

    The consequence of this is that the same care and attention that went into the NES has been traded for mass production and lowered development costs.  What used to take only six weeks to three months takes years now, and in some cases more money than any single Atari or NES game grossed in it's time.  Naturally cuts have to be made where they can in order to curb time and lower prices for the consumer.  Unfortunately that sometimes means we're left staring at red rings and empty wallets.

    It's no wonder that old games are seeing a second life.  People are dusting off their old consoles for another go, even in this age of HD and 3D.  I think the new innovation in systems need to be reliability, not motion controls.  I'm confident that ten years from now I'll be able to hook up my NES and play The Legend of Zelda with a little tweaking.  I don't think my PS3 will survive that long.  My PS2 is showing it's age already, being unable to remember the date if the power is out even a moment.  And my PS2 is a slim, so it's not even as old as some of the others that exist out there.

    In conclusion while todays games are very gorgeous and tons of fun, the consoles are definitely letting us down, and I think it's high time we start remembering what it was about games that attracted us all in the first place; Reliability and simplicity.  Fun isn't determined by how it looks, but how it's played.

Random Encounter - Crystalis

    One of my favorite games of all time is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.  Swinging a sword, exploring a world, finding items in chests, whooping monster baddies, it was the ultimate action RPG.  In fact, I usually gravitate towards any game like it, but few games prove themselves to be a worth while endeavor.

    Imagine my surprise when I found a game from the old 8-bit era that actually gave me the fun and excitement of a Zelda game without actually being one.
    Crystalis is a game released for the NES back in 1991 by SNK (You know, the guys who do The King of Fighters).  I won't say it really brought anything new to the table as far as action RPGs go, but honestly the experience with the game was solid even though I have yet to actually finish it.

    I totally recommend giving this one a try if you can find it.  I also would recommend finding a walkthrough online for it too as it can be confusing to figure out where you are supposed to go.  

Single Player - Tekken in Review

Back in the mid 90's Namco released Tekken, one of the first 3D fighting games to the Arcade scene. It was the early years of the third dimension in gaming so graphically it's weak by today's standards, but back then it was state of the art. Soon there after it was ported to the PlayStation where players could enjoy the full excitement of the arcade experience with their friends and family without having to shovel out tons of quarters.
Currently there are eight Tekken games including Tekken through Tekken 6 (including Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection and Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion), Tekken Tag Tournament, and Tekken Advance. They've appeared on every PlayStation system to date, and Tekken Advance was released on the Game Boy Advance. Even the Dreamcast had an unofficial port of Tekken 3 if you used the Bleem! boot disk.
One thing I've always praised about the games is that you can just pick up and start playing without having to suffer through learning moves. It that respect it's much like the Street Fighter series, but without being limited to the same moves in different variations. You move with the directional pad (or arcade joystick) and use four buttons to attack, one for each limb. Different combinations of punches and kicks possibly combined with holding, tapping, or double tapping a direction result in a wide variety of attacks and throws.
Each fighter has their own move set, ranging from straight forward to zany and unorthodox. Each move set is, for the most part, based on a real life fighting style (if not embellished upon like in the cases of Paul Phoenix's Judo and Mishima Style Karate in general). As the series goes on the motion acting improves vastly giving you a very fast paced, intense experience as both the player and the spectator. Two skilled players can very literally beat each other to a draw consistently.
My first experience with Tekken was Tekken 3. This was the first game where the player had the ability to move into the third dimension at will (Tekken and Tekken 2 only allowed moving around the arena in certain moves or combos). As a result of this enhanced mobility, the balance was to end characters' "moon jumping", replacing insane vertical leaps with realistic hops. It was a solid fighter, especially as someone who's previous fighter experience was Super Street Fighter II on the SNES.
Back then I would have believed that Tekken games would only go up from there. I'd have never imagined that over 10 years later I'd still feel that the third installment was the best of them all.
That's not to say that everything from Tekken Tag Tournament to Tekken 6 was awful. Each is a satisfying experience. What I am saying is that the games started to trade innovation in favor or lame, gimmicky improvements that Street Fighter, Virtua Fighter, and basically every fighting game today falls into (Soul Calibur IV is a prime example in the extreme, but that's a whole other story for another time).
This is an accounting of each of my experiences with the newer games. I'm not going to try to explain the stories or anything, but give you my impressions as a gamer.
When the PlayStation 2 launched Tekken Tag Tournament was right there waiting in it's next-gen glory. While not a canonical game (as it has the full roster of all characters up to Tekken 3 whether they were alive or dead) it was a great fighter. It was a fine example of the PS2's abilities early on and was definitely the easiest Tekken to pick up. The engine was exactly the same as that of Tekken 3 right down to move timings and character speed. The only change made in this iteration was the Tag mechanic. Two fighters were selected before a fight and the player could change between them at will, giving the reserve character a chance to heal slightly if injured.
It was just as fast, just as fun, but nothing really new. It left me wanting to see Tekken 4, believing that it would blow my mind in the same way Tekken 3 did.
It blew, I'll say that.
Tekken 4 came out in 2002, two years after Tekken Tag Tournament. I was excited to finally get to see the game I'd been waiting so long for. My excitement didn't take long to turn into frustration. Lots of things changed in this update, and not for the better.
Before I get into what went wrong I'd like to talk about what went right, the stages became more involved. In all previous Tekkens stages were just a never ending expanse that was surrounded by a background that didn't really seem to move right with the battle (imagine walking toward a building a mile away from you that never gets closer no matter how long or how fast you go). Tekken 4 introduced uneven terrain, walls, pillars, and all kinds of things one might find if they were to actually be in a world in which people lived. Characters could dodge around parked cars to avoid a hit, or smash the enemy into a wall for extra damage. The environment was very immersive and satisfying.
That brings us to the bad part. As a result of this they changed move speeds and timings drastically. Remember how I said Tekken 3 and Tekken Tag had the same game engine? For five years since Tekken 3's release in 1997 avid players had been practicing and refining their moves with their favorite characters. Then Tekken 4 comes along and just pulls the rug out from under you and makes you feel like you have never played Tekken before.
Combos have always been a strong part of Tekken games. To be good you really need to be able to take advantage of a momentary weakness in the enemy's defense and then exploit it as much as possible with a combo. Tekken 4 instead seemed to favor a single strike style, where hitting an opponent every now and again would get you farther than trying to combo, as most parts of combos (should you ever get the new timing back down to actually perform one) hit absolutely nothing.
This was all we had for three more years. I was heart broken by how much I didn't enjoy Tekken 4 (which is what I feel fueled my love affair with the Soul Calibur series until it too betrayed me with it's own number IV). Tekken 5 was released in 2005, and as a loyal fan I wanted to play it. It harkens back to 3 in that timing was properly restored and combos mattered again. However, that also meant that complex stages had to go too. Why? Instead of awesome stages like the underground parking lot or the mall in 4 we're back to battling across the planes of infinite space. There were a few arenas with walls, but there was still no varied hight or any random objects to affect the battle.
Still though it was an improvement over Tekken 4. Fights were fun again, the characters were well balanced, and we finally got a chance to play Devil Jin (who has the fighting style of regular Jin Kazama from Tekken 3). One would just about be prepared to say that Tekken 5 put the series back on track. Then you get into a fight with the game's main antagonist Jinpachi Mishima (Heihachi's father apparently) and discover that this Tekken is probably one of the most frustrating games out there.
Looking back, each Tekken that I can remember had a character or two that had a cheap move. Tekken 2 had Devil who could shoot lasers and fly. Tekken 3 had True Ogre who could teleport, fly, and shoot fire as well as hit through block with a few moves. However, a good player could easily dispatch these characters as their cheap moves had negative consequences (for the most part). The challenge was reasonable.
Well then here comes Jinpachi in Tekken 5 to totally break your will to keep playing the series let alone the game. Beating him devolves from a test of skill to just dumb, blind luck. Everything he does seems to connect, most of it is unpredictable, and most everything you do to him is ignored. You only have small windows to attack, and usually even doing so opens you up to be killed immediately there after. Not even Devil Jin with his own lasers can out cheap Jinpachi. Your only hope to see all the character endings is to set the rounds to one, so if you do get lucky and beat him you only have to do it the one time.
As a quick aside, it is unbelievably frustrating to anyone who is a gamer when a game's difficulty is whittled down to having to battle a boss or enemy that does nothing short of cheat. Going back to Street Fighter II, battling M. Bison was a harrowing experience, but with refinement of your skills with your favorite characters you could eventually beat him. Or in Tekken 3 with True Ogre. That's because, while having special moves, they still have to play by the same rules as you did when it came to the laws of attack and defend. If I dodge your punch and punch you back while your attacking, I get a hit on you.
With that in mind consider how unfair Jinpachi was to everyone who faced him. He teleports, shoots fire from his belly that instantly crosses the screen, can hit you with the same move regardless of whether you are in the air, standing, or ducking, and in some cases when you are no where near him. He can stop you in any move, and seems to only be vulnerable when not actually moving (as in he's not doing anything like if one was not controlling him so he just stood there). Eventually, if you are patient, you'll get lucky and defeat him, but you'll walk away from the fight with the sickening feeling that you have a long, long road ahead of you if you intend to beat the game with every character.
Sadly, this ridiculous final boss crap stuck around for Tekken 6, though in every other way it's a massive improvement over Tekken 5. Whatever version you've played (as the first arcade version was released in Japan in 2007, the XBox 360/PlayStation 3 version in 2009, and the PSP version in late 2009 or early 2010 depending on where you live) you are treated to an amazing roster of about 40 characters. The endless plane battle areas are gone again, though complex arenas are still absent. Instead some areas have break thru points which take you to another area or expand the current area if you beat someone into the ground or wall enough.
Battle timing is still spot on, and even for having so many characters there is hardly any overlap that didn't already exist (like Nina and Anna, or King and Armor King). Even the Scenario Campaign is a massive improvement over Tekken 5's The Devil Within or Tekken 3 and 4's Tekken Force modes. Combos have just as much of a place as single strikes, and both a patient fighting style and an aggressive one will be as successful. The pick up and play is right where it needs to be, though it's still not where it was in Tekken 3. Only Yoshimitsu fans probably complained about the fighting system as his move set seems to have completely changed to be a blend between his Tekken style and his Soul Calibur style.
In the Arcade Mode you are faced with three tough opponents. The first is a giant robot that goes by the name of NANCY (which I think stands for something, but you never learn what it is). Nancy does not respond to hits, though it does take damage. It has missiles, machine guns, and a laser that will cut a hole in the floor to make you fall out and lose. This would be insanely frustrating except for it's only a bonus round, so you don't have to win to continue. As of yet I haven't beat it, so for that I'm grateful.
After than you are engaged in battle with Jin Kazama (not to be confused with Devil Jin). He is always in Rage Mode, a new mechanic that enhances your attack and defense slightly (when near death for players). He's fast, and he hits hard, but he's beatable. The fight against him usually ends fast one way or another, and it's not anything frustrating. That's yet to come.
Once Jin is down, you go on to face the final boss Azazel. Guess what? He's almost as cheap as Jinpachi. The main difference here is while Jinpachi had a lot of unblockables, Azazel only really has one in his sweeping laser. However, while Jinpachi was vulnerable when not moving, Azazel seems to have an auto guard function that just protects him like there is a force field around him. He doesn't even respond to the hit. And this will exist even if he is in mid attack. You never know what attack is coming up next, and once you are knocked off your feet you will die. He will not let you get up again so you might as well just let him finish you off. Azazel also appears in Scenario Mode, but he's easier because you can surround him by having yourself on one side and the other character (whether it's the CPU or a second player) at his front to distract him.
I'm not sure why it is that a good challenge anymore has been broken down into just having a nearly impossible boss. Or why you can either have complex levels, or good fighting mechanics, but not both. In conclusion though, Tekken games as a whole are still very satisfying experiences for fighting game fans. Every game has had it's improvements, and it's pit falls, but none of them have quite been as good as Tekken 3. None the less each was a memorable experience that kept me coming back for more. Not every fighting franchise has that luxury (Virtua Fighter and Mortal Kombat are two examples that pop to mind of fighters that just don't keep you interested.).
All in all, I do recommend the games. Even if you are new to the series, you can rest assured that the basics of what you learn in one game will carry over to the next, even if the timing is off. Hopefully when Tekken 7 comes out there won't be an even cheaper boss waiting at the end between you and being declared The King of Iron Fist.