TEKKEN 5 / Namco / Playstation 2
I'm coming into this one having only played Tekken 1-3 and a bit of Tag a looong, long time ago in the dorms when it first came out for the PS2. So I can't really comment on how it is in relation to Tekken 4. I'd have to guess it's a step up though, as the game is really much more polished and engaging than the first three arcade games while still retaining a familiar feel.
This was a late-end (2005) release for the PS2 and the graphics are fantastic, on par with main rival Virtua Fighter 4 if not better. Honestly, I liked VF4's backgrounds better, and background interactivity here is limited only to the ground cracking where you fall and some token stuff breaking off and falling when you get tossed into a wall. The characters models are top-notch though, even better than the impressive work in VF4 - and this game has more of them. Some of the backdrops here are also downright beautiful and memorable, such as the castle field at moonlight and the pirate cove. Music is fairly forgettable on the whole, but the sound work is very good.
The game also inundates you with modes of play and games-within-games. It sets the tone at bootup by throwing you into arcade classic Star Blade as the game loads ... not really necessary as the game only takes like three seconds to load, but thoughtful all the same I suppose. The full run of Star Blade ends up being unlockable later on, but arcade-perfect ports of Tekken 1 to 3 are available right off the bat. There's a shit ton of modes of play, the only place that VF4 has the edge here is in that Tekken 5 does not have the very deep and helpful tutorial mode that that game does, instead giving you a more generic Practice mode and a simple command list to figure things out for yourself. Whether the game is more complex and deep than VF4 is for the hardcore who pour hundreds of hours into these sorts of things to debate ... I will say that Tekken 5 is more immediately accessible without feeling like it's pandering to button-mashers. There's certain characters that are more mash-friendly than others, but even at the lower levels of difficulty, the computer recognizes and adapts to patterns forcing you to at least cycle between 2 or 3 different types of approaches.
Tekken 5 also deserves some kudos for being thoughtful of the solo player, not just relying on competitive play to carry its profit-making. Aside from all the shit tons of modes of play and bonus games to mess around with, the Story Modes have genuinely entertaining cut-scenes and endings that are actually worth bothering to pound through to get. Now, granted, the Tekken "mythology" is beyond stupid, but at this point the designers are far from taking it seriously. Only the few "main" characters such as the Kazama family have "serious" stories, and everyone else's are pretty much goofy fun, including some genuinely funny endings. Beating the game with each character also unlocks their opening and ending movies in a separate Theater mode, is a step toward unlocking all the optional characters, and gives you $100,000 per character to spend in the Customization shop to buy alternate outfits for characters and deck them out with all sorts of weird accessories to wear while fighting.
The one mis-step in all this was the Devil Within mini-game, a continuation of the Tekken Force games from previous titles. In this one, Jin runs through way too many samey corridors beating up heaps of samey generic robots and Jack clones while occassionaly doing an awkward bit of platform jumping. It's like the most repetitive 3D beat-em-up, and just drags on for way too long. There's also this irritating techno-rock loop that serves as the background music, which is only about 30 seconds long yet repeats through the ENTIRE thing, through every level into the ending. If the repetitive action doesn't drive you up a wall before you finish it, the music will. Unfortunately getting deep into this thing is the only way to unlock Star Blade, which IMO was the only reason to even bother plowing away at it.
Oh, there is one other element that's bullshit - Jinpachi, the Story mode's final boss, is cheaper than the worst of SNK's roster of final villains. He has this ridiculous arsenal of moves that take off huge chunks of health, instant highest-priority stun moves, and when he's getting in any kind of trouble, he spams a dash-back-and-giant-fireball move that takes off 50 to 75% of your health and cannot be blocked or dodged other than getting really lucky with a jump. He's literally one of the worst fighting game final bosses ever, maybe THE worst. I was able to get to him with nearly all of the game's roster, but could only actually beat him with about half of them, and some of those took like 10 to 15 tries to do it (and spamming the cheesiest combos possible over and over.)
Those two things aren't nearly enough to sink what is otherwise an excellent game in all other regards, though. It's debatable whether this, Soul Cal 2 or VF4: Evo are the best 3D fighter on the PS2, but all of them cost a pittance now so you might as well just grab 'em all.
It even has strippers, how can you beat that
* Gameplay Video