Tekken 5 is the latest edition of one of the most prestigious fighting franchises in gaming history, and is also one of the most highly anticipated console fighters of the year. Upon its console release for the PS2 in the U.S. (currently slated for Feb 22) Tekken 5 will be featured in MLG’s tournament lineup, letting 3-D fighting fans duke it out for prize money, bragging rights, and national rankings.

With Tekken 5, the series has been practically rebuilt from the ground up. Chief among the improvements is the all new graphics engine that will push the PS2 to its limits, generating superb character models, animations, and environments. According to localization producer Hiroshi Tanaka, the awkwardness and limitation of movement associated with Tekken 4 has been greatly improved upon and overall the game is “a lot smoother, a lot faster.” Since Tekken 5 has already hit arcades, console gamers can know what to expect. Twenty characters are returning including favorites such as Bruce, Law, Lei, Jin and Mardok, and at least three new characters have been added: Asuka Kazama, Raven and Feng Wei.

Tekken Zaibatsu has all the characters’ moves listed including throws and grabs (with your position in relation to the opponent) for the arcade mode, which should be very similar to the PS2 version. Many combinations from previous versions were completely removed or are escapable now, to better balance game play. It appears the mediocre reception of Tekken 4 has been taken to heart by the big shots over at Namco, and Tekken 5 is looking to be the best entry in the series to date.

One of the fun features of Tekken 5 is the customization capability that enables players in Japan with cell phones to customize their fighters with sunglasses, hats, new outfits etc.

The lush, multi-tiered environments of the previous games are returning along with destructible objects in the levels. That being said, the level of detail given to the characters and environments has been greatly increased. Expect to see (if you haven’t already in the arcades or screenshots) magnificent lighting effects, wood chips flying when you break a wall, dust floating up from the ground and unique effects for your favorite characters’ moves. One of my favorite levels has different colored grasses and flowers that cover the players’ legs, showing off amazing clarity between the individual plants.

One of the fun features of Tekken 5 is the customization capability that enables players in Japan with cell phones to customize their fighters with sunglasses, hats, new outfits etc. Although American players won’t be able to use their cell phones, the American PS2 version will allow players to earn fight money throughout the game which they can spend on any of the over 600 items included.

Jin Kazama will be the star of a new free-roaming game mode. This mode will feature destructible objects, the ability to double-jump into hidden areas, hang from walls and, obviously, freely move around the levels. The bonus mode will involve elements not involved in the traditional versus and survival modes that are included with the console version such as multiple enemies to face at once. Details of this new game mode were hard to come by so stay tuned for more details.

Judging by the multitude of screenshots, articles and videos that are already out there, PS2 owners will not be disappointed. Tekken fans can revel in knowing that the arcade has already proven their new game to be great while they whittle away the minutes until they get their hands on a PS2 copy, as a highly competitive MLG tournament season lies just ahead.

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You can contact Brick at Brick@mlgpro.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Major League Gaming or its affiliates.