It's understandable how someone could think that the PSP means nothing but sub-par games with a lot of loading time and camera issues, but that's not the way it has to be. There've been a few standouts recently that show when developers take the time to do things right, the PSP is an amazing little machine capable of home-quality experiences. Thanks to the wizards at Bandai Namco, PSP owners can add one more stellar game to the list. Debatably better than the PS2's outstanding Tekken 5, Dark Resurrection is a reworking of the same material with a flawless technical presentation, two worthwhile new characters, and enough extras and options to make it a must-own for PSP players.
First things first—for those not familiar with the series, Tekken is a mostly-2D fighter with 3D elements. The combatants face off in traditional side-to-side fashion, but sidesteps and dodges take characters into and out of the third dimension. Each face button controls one limb; square handles left punch, triangle handles right punch, and so on. Since it's a remix version of Tekken 5, all of the same elements are here like the ultra-flashy attacks, long combo strings, and the often-infuriating juggles. (Please… can we just stop with the juggles?!?) People familiar with the series will feel right at home. However, this familiarity is one of Dark Resurrection's strong points—this is essentially the same PS2 game with no step down in quality despite being on a handheld.
The bloated, frequent loading times that plague so many other UMDs have been shrunk down to an almost unnoticeable level, easily on par with the PS2. Action comes fast and furious, with very little wait time in between—there's simply nothing to complain about. Graphically, it's extremely luscious and sure to impress. I'm sure that if you held the versions together side by side, nitpickers would be able to point out little things here and there, but overall Dark Resurrection is practically identical to its big brother.
In terms of content, the bulk of the game is the same experience found in Tekken 5, but given that game's high quality, this is not a bad thing. To make it more appealing, Bandai Namco has added two completely new fighters; the stoic Russian Dragunov and pampered princess Lili. Although they both reflect Tekken's recent philosophy shift towards less extreme, more evenly-balanced designs, they're both legitimately substantial additions to the cast. Lili in particular was my favorite, her slight frame packing an array of acrobatic kicks and unexpectedly hefty strikes. The rest of the cast returns as well, and in a surprising move, each combatant is available from the start. For gamers without the patience to unlock things, having immediate access to a massive roster of thirty-five highly varied choices is a great thing.
Other features include the return of Tekken bowling, a dojo mode that simulates fights against other "real" ranked opponents in a fashion similar to that seen in Virtua Fighter, a useful mode that helps teach attacks and combos, and a variety of items to customize and personalize characters. (Fans of Goth-style makeup or tiger-striped PJs are in luck.) Online features are present, although I'm sad to say that infrastructure mode (playing against real people online) is not supported. However, data from other players can be downloaded and in a surprise move, ad hoc (local, non-online multiplayer) is possible using only one copy of the game. It may not be quite what players want, but kudos for that, at least.
Although nothing in Dark Resurrection will win over those who already know they don't care for the Tekken style, there's no denying that it's a top-tier effort proving that PSP games can rock hard when crafted by hands that know how to finesse the machine. As for me, this has been the easiest review I've had to write in a while—Tekken: Dark Resurrection is one of the PlayStation 2's best fighters in a portable format, and it made the jump without sacrificing a bit of the quality.