Portable systems have never been the platforms-of-choice for fighting games, but the 3DS has defied the conventional wisdom by amassing a library of some very high-quality brawlers within a very short timeframe. Joining the fray early next year is Namco-Bandai’s long-running Tekken franchise. Tekken’s last appearance on a Nintendo platform was the misguided, best-left-forgotten Tekken Advance for the GBA. This time, however, things are different - Tekken 3D Prime Edition is a faithful translation of Tekken’s beloved brand of combat to the up-and-coming platform.
We were given a hands-on with a limited, work-in-progress demo of the game. Though our playable character selection was limited, the full 40-some character roster of the game was on display – and fear not, Tekken faithful, almost all of your favorites have been packed into the tiny cartridge. We were able to play through several quick versus CPU matches in succession with our character of choice (Christie). One thing that immediately struck us was just how smooth the game ran with the 3D turned on. Previous 3DS fighters had their framerate chopped to 30FPS when running in 3D mode, however, the team at Namco-Bandai has managed to keep the framerate constant in both 2D and 3D mode. In other words, if you’re a serious fighting game fan who would shut off 3D mode on other titles to keep a smooth, console-accurate framerate, you won’t have to sacrifice the extra eye candy any longer. It might not be quite as pretty and meticulously detailed as its console sibling, but Tekken 3D Prime looks very nice indeed.
Perhaps more important than graphical flourishes is the core fighting gameplay, and Tekken 3D Prime Edition delivers an authentic Iron Fist experience. Movement and directional input can be accomplished with either the analog slider or the d-pad, and the button layout will feel instantly familiar to Tekken pad-players. An exclusive addition tailored for the 3DS are pre-programmed command sequences that can be activated by touching one of four panels on the bottom screen. It was hinted that players by be able to program these combos themselves, making access to a damaging string as easy as a finger swipe. (Of course, you still have to know when and how to actually use these skills to avoid eating some nasty counterattacks, so don’t expect to use these as “win buttons.”) The game was a very early build and lacked even pause functionality, but we were told that standard fighting game features like in-game command list lookups will be available, making the title further accessible to both longtime franchise fans and new players alike.
But why the “Prime Edition” titling? Namco-Bandai will be marketing the game as a premium product, although the price will be the standard 3DS retail. To show their dedication to producing the definitive portable Tekken experience on the 3DS, the full-length 3D edition of the CG-animated Tekken: Blood Vengeance film will be included on the game card. Whether or not you care about the movie, there’s no denying that it’s a very nice extra that really sweetens the entire package. Details on other game modes and features were still a bit sparse, but it’s clear that there will be a lot of nice extras packed snugly into this 3DS cartridge.
Tekken 3D Prime Edition is set for a 2012 release on the Nintendo 3DS.