‘Tekken Hybrid’ for hardcore fans only

“Tekken Hybrid” is the video game equivalent of a Happy Meal. The meat is tasty, but a little old. There are too few fries. And the toy will only hold your interest for so long. Still, hardcore fans will get a lot of bang for their buck with this title, as the $39.99 price tag includes an HD remake of “Tekken Tag,” a 3D-enabled CGI movie, and a preview of “Tekken Tag 2.”

“Tekken Tag Tournament” was one of the only good PS2 launch titles, and though the graphics have been given an HD overhaul, the visuals are pretty paltry compared to the more recent games. The lack of a story in the original “Tekken Tag” is somewhat rectified by the inclusion of “Tekken: Blood Vengeance,” a movie that, if nothing else, helps explain what’s goings on in the “Tekken” universe. While the film’s massive fight scenes look great, especially in 3-D, the problem is that too much time is wasted on slow-paced stabs at drama that come across as just plain silly. In the end, the only parts of “Blood Vengeance” worth watching are the impressive brawls, so fast-forwarding to get to the good part comes highly recommended.

“Tekken Tag” added a simple, but intuitive tag team mechanic that fans have been looking forward to for years. Basically, if one character loses all their health, you lose the round, however, the character who has been tagged out will slowly recover health. This adds some fun new wrinkles to the usual punches and kicks that make up a typical game of “Tekken.” This series is famous (or infamous) for featuring long and damaging “juggles,” or strings of attacks on an airborne opponent. Players not willing to memorize these combos won’t last five seconds in the ring with a veteran.

While “Tekken Tag’s” gameplay has aged well, the lack of so many of the interesting newer characters is hard to ignore. Fans looking to play as British boxer Steve Fox, socialite Lili or Middle Eastern shaman Zafina will instead have to settle for a cast that boasts much less diversity. Sure, “Tekken Tag” had the largest roster for the series at the time, but half of the characters are pretty much clones of the other half. While there are differences between P. Jack and Jack 2 and Yoshimitsu and Kunimitsu, the roster just isn’t as strong as the recent “Tekken” games. The lack of customization options to spice up your character’s appearance is also sorely missed.

The most grievous exclusion is that of online play. Yeah, yeah, I know it wasn’t in the original “Tekken Tag,” but it must be noted that budget-conscious gamers can pick up a copy of “Tekken 6” for a lower price than “Hybrid,” and it comes with customizable characters and online play as well as a story mode. If you’ve been thinking about trying the “Tekken” series, I would recommend starting with that one instead.

Some juicy extras, like a demo for the upcoming “Tekken Tag 2” and a shockingly fun bowling mini-game, sweeten the deal. The demo features only four characters, but serves as a tantalizing sneak peek at what is shaping up to be the best game in the series. The bowling mini-game is the gold standard by which all mini-games should be judged. It’s silly, strategic, and more addictive than you would think. For instance, larger characters, such as Kuma the grizzly bear, can throw the ball harder, but have less control, so you’ll have to pick your characters accordingly.

As a PS2 launch title, no amount of “HD-izing” could make “Tekken Tag” look shiny and new, but it’s a respectable effort. The game runs smoothly and still sounds as good as it did back in the day. Also, the penultimate stage of the game, an Aztec ruin replete with fire-breathing statues, features some of the best video game music ever recorded.

“Tekken Hybrid” may seem like a good value at $39.99. After all, it comes with a Blu-ray movie and an HD remake of a classic game. The fact that the movie is largely a waste of time and used copies of the original “Tekken Tag” can be bought for under a dollar on the Internet means I can’t highly recommend this game. Unless you just can’t wait for “Tekken Tag 2,” this is one bundle that only the most hardcore fans will appreciate.