Promotional feature: What will you fight for? That was the question Namco Bandai asked UK gamers when it invited the nation down to Namco Station in London for its prestigious Tekken tournament.
Travelling from as far afield as Liverpool and Manchester for this tournament, Tekken players from far and wide responded to the challenge to prove they were the best. Well, that and the small matter walking away with the grand prize of a 42" TV.
There were two tournaments due to be played - the final qualifiers and the actual national tournament itself when all the big guns would be turning up. That's when it got hardcore.
Sunday 10am might seem an early start for some, but not these guys. Players turned up in droves, even arriving ahead of Namco Station staff. Once the doors were open and the players scrambled inside, there was no messing about as they jumped on the Tekken 6 pods straight away to start warming up.
There was a huge contrast in playing styles, from defensive Zafina players to all out Lars aggression. There was even someone chancing their luck as Mokujin! I scoped the opposition and noticed a few Law players standing out as something special and a Devil Jin player who even brought his own custom arcade stick. Serious business was at hand. And why was I checking out the talent? Because I was entering the tournament myself, of course. Gulp.
I'd be taking my battle-hardened Raven up against the various Eddy, Steve, Xiayou, and others lined up on the Tekken pods. The atmosphere between the players was friendly, but you could sense the slight tension in the air as everyone analysed each others playing styles and strategies. Not soon after the players had arrived, a projector screen beamed the first set of tournament brackets. The tournament was starting!
My first match was against Londoner Andy. The rules were relayed to us; best out of three, only the loser can switch characters. As newcomer to the game, he didn't seem confident and it showed. Tekken 6 rewards aggressive play - once you get in close the pressure is on the defender to stay sharp and safely duck out of trouble and create distance again.
That didn't happen here, as Andy's Steve quickly fell under the pressure of my Raven. It's always nice when the first match in a tournament is a comfortable one and so it proved here - not only does it help you warm up but it settles your nerves slightly too.
Up next was Ian from Sheffield, who had eased through the first round with Hwaorang. Hwaorang is a tricky character to face. He has various flamingo stances where his kicks become unpredictable, so defending against him up close can be a real headache. Bearing this in mind, I decided to keep my distance, wait for the kicks to miss, and then counterattack with a Raven combo.
It proved a sound tactic - the more Ian's energy bar wiltered under various combos, the more erratic his attacks became as he put himself under pressure. The first match was quite close but the second was a comfortable win.
Now the quarter-finals and things started getting serious. Michael was my next opponent. A lively lad from Liverpool who seemed to spend as much time dancing and singing as he did practicing, he was clearly happy to have made it that far and loving every second of the tournament. But that didn't mean he was there to make up the numbers - Michael was the first opponent I faced who had a clear gameplan.