Tekken made its name bringing the arcade fighting experience to the living room and it brings arcade monetisation – via the free-to-play model – along for the ride in this PSN exclusive. Arcade Coins are required to play Tekken Revolution’s singleplayer mode (which nonetheless requires you stay online) and are replenished free of charge at a rate of one per hour, though you can only hold a maximum of two Arcade Coins at a time. To play more than twice in two hours you’ll have to pop over to the PlayStation Store and invest in some Premium Coins (quite reasonably priced at £3.99 for 30 with smaller bundles available, too). There’s a similar coin system in place for the Ranked and PvP matches, though you can hold up to five Battle Coins at a time and the recharge time is reduced to half an hour, a setup that smartly nudges you towards online multiplayer.
It’s not the only economy at work in Tekken Revolution, either: the game has an all-new progress ladder. Characters are levelled, as in an RPG, across three categories with Skill Points added to Strength (hit points), Endurance (health) and Vigour (increasing your chances of delivering critical hits). To attain extra Skill Points – you’re awarded a few as a courtesy to get you started – you need to earn Fight Money to unlock them. This, along with XP and Gift Points to attain new characters, is earned through competing and winning against other players. It can be earned in Arcade mode, too, but at a painfully slow rate.
The game’s message is clear: if you want to be the best, you’re going to have to invest in more Premium Coins to speed up progress. There’s further incentive in the fact that – especially now the game has been in the wild for a over a week – there’s a whole community of players flooding Ranked matches who are quite simply untouchable for a newcomer. The frustration that comes after a handful of cruel, mismatched defeats will send you – as Namco surely knows – running to the PlayStation Store to buy some more game-time and a chance for vengeance.
Rather than cause a permanent imbalance, the levelling system can even the playing field over time. Players struggling with the technical aspects of combat can invest in a larger health bar; veterans looking to circumnavigate such protective measures can plough their points into greater power. You’re shown an opponent’s Skill Point distribution at the beginning of a match, adding a metagame of tactical decision-making as you determine what sort of player you’re facing, and how your own qualities can best counter theirs.
In motion, Revolution looks and feels like a stripped-down, slightly tweaked remix of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, though shorn of its signature tag mechanic and much of its roster, at least at launch. There are noticeable changes to the formula, many made to make the series more accessible to newcomers lured in by the free download. ‘Bound’ moves have been drastically pared down, so there’s little opportunity for stunning and staggering foes before a chained, death-dealing combo; super-powered strikes (called Critical Arts) have been introduced to offer a shortcut to power and loss-prevention. Veteran Tekken players may be offended by these two major alterations that dilute the series to more basic beat ‘em up shorthand, but the new rhythm – and sense of power – it brings is sure to find fans in new players.
The roster and stages have been carefully curated to support the game’s intended level of accessibility and rhythm, too. Stages are largely open, with walls collapsing under repeated impact to reduce the reliance on high-damage wall combos – and the character selection has wisely left-out the juggle-friendly likes of Hwoarang, Eddy Gordo and Christie Monteiro. The mechanics may offer accessibility, but the concentrated roster should satisfy the more experienced, traditional player as well. Kazuya Mishima and Marshall Law are the online community favourites at the time of writing, but this will no doubt change as Namco pumps more content into the game over the coming months.
That extra content, it’s been promised, will include a training mode, which has been criminally neglected from launch and means you can only improve, and even try out the title, with coin-funded play. To play the game without investing any real money means frustrating early hours battling players much stronger and higher up the levelling food chain. It’s shrewd stuff from Namco, but for players it’s often joyless, frequently embarrassing and marks a clear division – even at such an early stage in the game’s release – between rich and poor, as super-strength players with seemingly little actual proficiency in the genre deal out soul-crushing punishment.
In its shrewd monetisation aspects and as a watered-down but sturdy entry in the series, Revolution unarguably achieves its goal. The King Of Iron Fist Tournament is now closer than it’s been for a long time to its arcade roots, but the sense of friendly competition has been replaced with an initially hostile, rich versus poor and, at times, pay-to-win atmosphere.
Tekken Revolution is out now on PS3.