I feel that a game should always be suited to the platform. If it isn’t, it shouldn’t be there without being entirely reworked as a totally new game. It’s a bit of design theory that Capcom ignored with Street Fighter IV Volt for iOS, a total mess of a fighter with poor touch controls that did nothing to take advantage of the mobile platform.
Thankfully, Namco Bandai seems to understand mobile games a bit better, having re-imagined their hit Tekken fighting series as Tekken Card Tournament rather than simply port over a dumbed-down version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 to cash in on name recognition.
Tekken Card Tournament is a “freemium” card battle game available for iOS, Android, and online via web browser. Players are given an initial deck of cards, with the option to purchase random booster packs either with premium currency, or by grinding out free gold and credits through playing the game. It’s a little insidious in that a basic pack of 3 cards costs a couple of bucks and doesn’t guarantee cards for your chosen character, only cards from a selection of characters. I haven’t paid money for any of my cards yet, but after using in-game currency to purchase several packs, I’ve only earned maybe four cards for Kazuya, my fighter of choice. Apparently if I ever choose to play Nina, I’m all set, as I’ve been gaining her cards left and right.
These might all sound like deal breakers, but the game itself is so fun and streamlined that I find it hard to stop playing during my commute. Each turn, players select from three actions: Focus, Strike, and Block. Focus draws a card, up to a max of five in your hand, but if you’re hit while using Focus, one of your cards is discarded and redrawn. Strike launches a Tekken-style combo string with whatever cards you have in your hand, all at once. The visuals for these strings will be familiar to Tekken fans, with classic combos and juggles based on the alternating punch/kick cards in your hand. Finally, Block causes the first two cards of your opponent’s Strike to do zero damage; everything after those two cards hits you as normal.
It’s simple, it’s quick, and it brilliantly mimics the ebb and flow of a tournament fighter. Do you throw out quick one-card pokes to catch your opponent in a Focus? Do you build for a long combo after blocking your opponent’s attack? Different cards have different effects other than damage, such as buffing similar-type cards or healing damage after a successful assault, or in response to an opponent’s action, so knowing your opponent’s style of play is also key. It all adds up to a fairly deep, visually-appealing experience that you can play easily with just a few taps.
While I’m reluctant to spend money on it solely because it’s so easy to actually waste money on boosters for characters I don’t play, Tekken Card Tournament is still a brilliant rework of the basic mechanics of Tekken. I’ll probably be grinding out new card packs on my own for the next few weeks, at least. Coming from someone who never gets hooked on freemium games, that’s fairly high praise.