More than any other two entertainment mediums, video games and movies undergo the most frequent comparisons as audio-visual vehicles for storytelling. Whereas video games must be concerned with mechanics and design, film has the freedom to focus on character and plot development. Naturally the two can compliment each other due to their respective constraints and discretions, and Tekken Hybrid tries to capitalize on this. In principle, pairing a video game and movie in one package is a promising idea; but when it involves a lazy update of an 11 year-old game and a terrible CG film, the results are bound to be disastrous.
Making up half of the $40 package is an HD update of Tekken Tag Tournement, originally released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2000. With its sequel on the horizon, the choice makes sense. The re-release seems careless and half-hearted on Namco’s part outside of the updated character models and environments. A glimmer of hope for a worthwhile package persists with the inclusion of a Tekken film. It’s especially important as an extension of the Tekken universe since there are likely gamers out there who have questions regarding the series. What are the characters’ motives, what are their relationships with each other, and why exactly are people fighting pandas and wooden training dummies?
Those kinds of pseudo-intellectual questions sound rather ridiculous when applied to a fighting game, but there is interest in elements like backstory and characterization. Why else would a live-action Street Fighter film exist? The point is there are fans out there who want to know more about the Tekken universe, and a Tekken movie can serve that purpose. Unfortunately “Tekken: Blood Vengeance” is an awful CG film that seems more concerned with girls in short skirts and highschool crushes.
Series regulars make appearances in the film, and there are plenty of interactions between characters. The plot is needlessly complex, fight scenes are lackluster, and the dialogue is atrocious. Overall the film is painful to watch. Any opportunity to touch on backstory is lost because of its poor quality, and fans would be better served playing through story modes again in the main videogame entries.
It’s a shame that this is the case, because Tekken Hybrid has the potential to create a stronger connection between the character and player. Fighting game fans often gravitate toward one or two specific characters in an attempt to master those particular skill sets, often boiling down to recognizing extensive move lists. But there is an unspoken bond formed between the player and character. Just as gamers are capable of becoming invested in a Commander Shepard or Nathan Drake, the same genuine interest can be attached to fighting game fans who spend hours upon hours playing Tekken Tag Tournament with Nina Willaims or Yoshimitsu.
The critical difference with the fighting genre is that less time is spent establishing relatable qualities and characteristics for each character. With the inclusion of a feature film that has the breadth to expand on such elements, that aforementioned connection between the player and character can be strengthened. It’s a lot easier to care about a someone when you know them outside of just melee combat. “Tekken Vengeance” is too concerned with presenting the Tekken cast as shallow, though, and it actually makes the player care less about the characters. If Tekken Hybrid had been successful in this department, the idea of pairing different forms of media together could have been extended to other fighting series or entire genres.
The most disappointing aspect of Tekken Hybrid isn’t the bare-bones update of Tekken Tag Tournment or the dreadful CG film included in the release. It’s the fact that it feels like a squandered opportunity for something bigger. While videogame developers are more concerned with interactivity, story elements can get lost in the shuffle. But movies represent a chance to touch upon those lost elements and expand them. Perhaps Tekken isn’t the best example due to its placement in the fighting genre, but Namco could have certainly come up with something better than this. In the end it feels like a laudable idealization rather than a fully realized concept.
Review based on PlayStation 3 release.