The King of Iron Fist Tournament, it’s just a YouTube nutshell video away

Tekken (1994)

I’ve decided that I’ve been emasculated for too long and that I’m finally going to become a man. I’m not too far away either, I’ve ticked off quite a few of the other boxes, almost got a full house on manly bingo. I can drive, I can grow a beard, I’ve even had sex. They all took an awful long time for me to get there, and even now they only occur under very special circumstances. The only string missing to my masculine bow nowadays is the trickiest of all to master – DIY.

If you’re anything like me, your only previous exposure to “doing it yourself” and fixing things around the house was those times you’d be dragged away from your periods of blissful solitude, often spent in front of a games console, and being coerced into housework by your dad. And what use was that?

You might get good at holding things, and shining a torch on something (and even that might not be done strictly to your master’s satisfaction) but you’re not going to actually learn anything by watching, are you/ Just like you could watch a driver give you a lift to work every day, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to clamber into the driver’s seat and do the business yourself, an exquisite driving display learned entirely by osmosis.

But then, what am I saying? Of course you can learn by watching, just think about how many YouTube tutorials exist for all manner of things, usually hosted by a wide range of heroic Indians. So I did take a look at videos, which detailed useful things like how to fix a carburettor – although first I had to learn what a carburettor actually was.

Thanks to my goldfish attention span, I had to watch these car mechanic videos three times each. The first time, I looked. The second time, I listened. The third time I learned. Ah yes, it’s all a logical process, online video learning. Like becomes Subscribe becomes Notification, I get it now. Of course, in the end I hadn’t learned what I needed, or rather what I had learned was merely surface level knowledge.

There is simply no replacement for practical, hands-on knowledge. It’s like when I see suggested videos on YouTube about how to fight, or learning martial arts, like the algorithm somehow knows that I get bullied routinely. Could these videos really be any use? It’s well and good watching an Aikido 101 video and thinking you could sort out your next aggressor handily, but let’s face it, unless self-defence and combat training have been drilled into you, you’re hardly going to calmly select the appropriate defensive move.

It’s not like Bruce Lee had a mobile phone he could pull out while he was busting heads, some way of consulting somebody for the correct fighting stance. No, you’re gonna be swinging, raking, gouging and biting desperately until the scrap is over, with no online help. How many fights in public have you ever seen decisively ended by the one good punch or kick it would take? I’m telling you, nobody out there knows how to fight.

But there is always this risk of dweebs overanalysing, or worse, overintellectuallising everything. You see this in football, where nerds in thick glasses who’ve never played the game start seeing stats which aren’t there, like expected goals, which is a measure of how many balls your auntie would have if she were your uncle. What this academia, anorakery and data modelling never accounts for is the chaos, the physicality, the bottle, the truly unpredictable. How could you possibly predict when someone stitches an opponent a loaf?

It’s like I often hear about supposed fighting game labs, an excuse for a not-socially-blessed specimen to sit inside on a hot summer’s day and do frame-by-frame analyses of every character in the game. Where’s the i-frames? The endlag?The hitstun? Which moves have high priority? Hey,, I won’t knock it until I tried it. After all, I used to always lose at Tekken 1 back in the day, obviously because I wasn’t a student of the Iron Fist tournament games way back as a kid.

That won’t do, because I always have to be the best at everything. It’s one of my endearing quirks. Therefore I decided to take some time to don a white coat, grab a nifty arcade stick and do a few labs myself. I learned a bit about “combos”, a little smattering of “special moves”. I even learned to “block”, something I’d always spurned. With some very short-lived glee, I managed to get the advantage and win out over my childhood pal, and that was it – I was King of Iron Fist Tournament in my local estate.

But I tell you, it was all for nowt. I happened to find a Tekken arcade machine in recent years, and the missus and I stepped up to have a go. My strategy of course was to be the not-so-gallant gentleman, letting her think she was gonna do the business but then, right when it looked like I was beaten, I’d turn the style on, get my “framedata” going and snatch victory right from under her.

Oh, if only. You see, she trumped my crafty strategy with an unstoppable one of her own – smacking each of the buttons as hard as she could, as quickly as she could. The poor cabinet was in bits, and more to the point my character, Kazuya (out of 8 characters) was in bits as well. There it was, I succumbed to a KO. Mere seconds into the second round, I almost suffered a Perfect KO. Now, what the hell?

The 3D fighting stage provided to us by Tekken was rather new, but for me and her it was the same old story – button bashing works to get you the result, and I’m afraid Tekken is the biggest button basher of them all. This isn’t all to suggest the game is bad either, by the way, far from it. Tekken is a bona fide classic. You’ll definitely have fun with it, and better than that, as long as you don’t suffer from ungodly arthritis your button-bashing will be enough to beat even the most onerous of eggheads and leave them choking and spluttering.

I love being an underdog, don’t you? Because it’s no fun when both players have an ocean of ability between them. If you’re the top dog, you feel that you have to carry your hapless counterpart through the match like some deity fallen to earth, who’s trying his best not to show off his omnipotent power just so that his mortal friend can enjoy it a little and have some fun.

Well, Tekken is the great equaliser here. There are no deities. This game represents your best chance to knock the nerds’ faces in the dirt. Well, at least it did about 25 years ago, but I bet the winning strategy hasn’t changed since then, right? Bring the game home and it doesn’t matter what DualShock you use, it’s all the same when you’re bashing it faster than Mike Tyson on speed. They even have turbo controllers these days, you know. I once had a dweeb point a finger at me, with narrowed eyes going “Don’t even think about using autofire, or I’ll know.” I wonder if Ocelot ever did know?

As for the roster, there’s slim pickings at the arcade but it’s a lot better at home on the PS1, even if they give you plenty of palette swaps. Lots of Japanese martial artists there to satisfy the weebs, of course, but never mind all that because we have the lovely Nina and Anna Williams hailing from beautiful Ireland. Honestly, they don’t look or sound Irish, so I have to think that the storywriter just pulled my country out of their arse. Still, these two sexpots will kill you in a second and blow a kiss at you while they’re doing it, which is a lot like some Irish women I’ve known.

I doubt you’ll see either of these women, or big Jack or chopsocky Yoshimitsu indeed, at the sweaty and dank arcade. But if you did you’ll know what strategy to use – firstly, look up a quick 10 minute online tutorial on how to fight. Then, immediately forget all of that and mash the buttons to within an inch of their mechanical lives. Do this until a member of staff comes over to bollock you, or your thorouhgly defeated oponent loses the rag and offers you outside, one of the two.

31 December 2021

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