Watching these four characters pummel each other is like witnessing a sort of hellish beauty. Blood never flies in Tekken's beatings, and death never arrives. But the conflicts bring across a sense of life and vitality that many other fighting games lack. Much of that is due to the series' use of 3D modeling. It's much easier to feel like bodies are contacting bodies when they display some heft.
Of course the new game looks flashy. But it doesn't entirely eclipse the biggest part of Hybrid, which is an upgraded version of the original Tekken Tag Tournament. This 11-year-old game, which was released alongside the PlayStation 2 in late 2000, is still good enough to give me some doubts about the sequel.
Characters in Tag Tournament pair up not so that they can combine powers (as is the case in the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise), but mainly so that they can swap out and regain health while their ally fights. This can draw out the Tekken matches into grueling battles, with players trying to deliver some of the franchise's elaborate long-form beatings before their opponents have a chance to recover.
The staggering number of unique fighting maneuvers each character has in Tekken Tag Tournament keeps the fights from becoming predictable or repetitive. But more importantly, each fighter's unique repertoire is as intricate and individual as any personality. They may look like generic anime characters, but they fight like unique superhuman beings.
The movie Tekken: Blood Vengeance 3D is included in Hybrid, and it somehow manages to explain the schoolgirl uniforms and demon warriors that appear in the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 preview. I never thought I'd enjoy a CGI animated film, but the restrained visuals and outlandish storytelling of Blood Vengeance are at least as believable and entertaining as the last Transformers movie.
Tekken games can be played almost equally well by practiced players and by newbies who just want to sit down and randomly press buttons. This can be fun if a mixed crowd wants to play. But it can also make learning the dozens of individual attacks seem pointless. Based on the preview, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 tries to solve this problem by slowing down the button pressing that's required to control the characters. The results feel sluggish instead of fair, and the game (or at least this preview) loses too much of its extravagant energy.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Tekken Hybrid: half good, half new.