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Not Your Ordinary Button Masher's Delight

Why is a terrific fighting game so addictive? Does it make you feel like Ali (Muhammad or Laila)? Does it get you in the zone so that time passes in the blink of an eye? Or is it more than that? The truth lies in something Ali once said, "Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even." Fighting is about being all-too-human, about one's own mental failures and genetic flaws and primitive anger banished by finding the right way to win. It's also about brushing yourself off when you lose and trying to come back.

TEKKEN: DARK RESURRECTION is a nearly seamless fighting game that fits the PSP like a glove. With complex fighting moves, console-like graphics and an alluring story mode, it's no mere button masher's delight. Sure, it's a lot like Tekken 5. But due to the way it fits on the PSP's wide screen, it's arguably even better. Heck, even the load times (to get the game to play) are really quick.

Here's a well thought out game with a deep story, so deep it reminds of the best of the console fighting games, Soul Calibur. The story appears almost juvenile at first. Your character has to win something called the Iron Fist Tournament 5. Each of the almost 30 outlandish characters (including a powerfully aggressive female panda) has his or her own reasons for winning the championship. These back stories are revealed with anime and with comic book-like panels that look nothing like graphics of game play. For me, that difference adds style and panache. There's mystery here due to the unintentional poor English translation of dialog and due to the intentionally unhurried unveiling of each character's tale.

Looks a lot like August in New York
image: Namco
Looks a lot like August in New York

Details

Tekken: Dark Resurrection
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Namco
For: PSP

  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
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    You'll be fighting on 19 stages, some of which are unlocked as you play. The detail on some of the stages varies. For instance, one background takes place on a creepy pirate ship, full of piles of doubloons which scatter like daffodil petals when you're rudely knocked into them. Another stage seems to be in a girl's room with giant-sized stuffed animals and huge heart balloons flowing down around you. Others stages seem to not have enough detail like a graveyard stage which could use more animations and general eerieness.

    If you say, well, this is nothing more than a port of the console version of Tekken 5 to the PSP, you'd be mistaken. Here, you can customize your character with twice the items you had in the fifth iteration of Tekken. Gold Rush mode allows you to earn coins when you win. And these, in turn, allow you to change your character for the better.

    There is one big disappointment to the game, however. You can't play against others wirelessly over an Internet broadband connection. How much fun it would have been if Bandai Namco would have added such vital functionality. Yes, you can still play wirelessly against a friend who's in the room if he has a PSP and doesn't have a game (he'll work off your game). But the ability to play against those folks you don't know from around the world is sorely needed and acutely missed.

    Even so, Tekken: Dark Resurrection is the just the thing to take with you on the road this summer. You can choose to play for just a few minutes while waiting for grub at the truck stop. Or you can play all night by the light of a lantern in the tent. There won't be any blood. There won't be any hospitals. But there will be hurt—if you lose. So just play it again, bucko. You've got it in you. And in the dark of night, no one will know you switched to Beginner Mode.

    Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.

    Prey
    Publisher: 2K Games
    Developer: Venom Games

    Turn on, tune in, shoot 'em up. If Timothy Leary and HR Giger spawned a video game, they surely would have come up with something like Prey. That's because Prey is like one long night with various entheogens courtesy of the Mazatecs of Mexico—with a dash of Alien to add some horror-rich paranoia.

    Certainly, first person shooters can be more boring than watching reruns of The Simple Life. But when it comes to Prey, the creepy, long-delayed game from developer Venom Games, the action comes fast and furious.

    And like your mother's fanciest birthday cake, the level of detail and care here is impressive. In fact, in the first hours of the game, you'll be awed. You'll even get a War of the Worlds panic attack as you listen to real-life radio talk show loon Art Bell as he takes calls from freaked-out Americans.

    The premise? Everyone has been sucked up into a mammoth, living spacecraft, the blue whale of UFOs, bigger than anything you've ever seen.

    That's not so different. So, why was Prey worth the decade-long wait? For me, it was the promise of a complex story. Yes, Prey conjures up thoughts of the Alien movie series since it takes place in a spaceship filled with monsters. But there's a spiritual tale here, too. Tommy, the Native American garage mechanic you play, is an anti-hero with a mystical side. As Tommy, you'll be armed with a Hunter Rifle, the first weapon you'll use. The rifle has long range ability and, with your sniper scope, you'll aim with the precision of Jesse James. Other weapons are, well, alive. Grenades are actually crabs, for instance. Strange, but the idea works.

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