January 03, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Reviews of ”Tekken” for PSP, and the Nike+iPod

Tekken: Dark Resurrection
(Namco, Teen, PSP)
In the videogame world, pledging allegiance to a martial-arts fighting franchise has all the solemn implications of choosing a political party. Since most fighting games follow old-school kung-fu story lines — character X fights for vengeance/knowledge/ego and must battle hordes of similarly driven opponents — the fans that they attract rarely care about plot or narrative. In fact, it’s the particular way a game lets players kick butt that builds loyalties. Gamers spend so much time building a repertoire of moves that jumping ship to another franchise — or (shudder) another console — becomes unthinkable. As a result, developers tend to be very cautious when adding characters and new features into a new chapter of a branded franchise, for fear of offending the faithful.

Daringly, Dark Resurrection brings the retooled arcade version of Tekken 5 to the PSP with two new characters, spoiled rich girl Lili and gothy Russian black-ops agent Dragunov. There are also some welcome tweaks to the familiar Tekken formula: After years of listening to its constituents grouse, Namco finally allows for Internet playability in a console game. In addition, Dark Resurrection includes two-player support through ad hoc wireless game sharing, so opponents can duke it out in the ”Vs.” game modes — or duel each other in the strangely addictive bowling minigame. The biggest surprises are the “ghosts” — avatars that mimic a player’s fighting style. These ghosts — complete with data about your win/loss record and combat tendencies — can be sent to a virtual lobby where others can download them.

Overall, the game suffers only slightly in the translation to handheld: Veteran Tekken players will find it hard to adapt to the PSP’s smaller D-pad and dodgy analog stick. Still, there’s enough of the series’ trademark speed, polish, and depth to add this title to the small but growing number of essential PSP games. B+Evan Narcisse

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Should running be considered entertainment? My own take: I only run when chased. Of course, giving the Nike+iPod a fair review meant I had to shut off the TV and get up from the couch. But having now used this cool hybrid of software and gadgetry, lacing up a pair of sneakers and hitting the streets has suddenly become more attractive then sitting through, say, a marathon of Pepper Dennis.

There are two parts to the Nike+iPod: a pair of special Nike shoes and an iPod Nano (the program won’t work on other iPods). Imbedded in one of the shoes is a wireless transmitter, which fits into a groove hidden under the insole. The receiver is inserted into the bottom of the Nano and wirelessly receives info from the shoe to extrapolate information and judge pace, calorie count, and distance.

Then comes the hard part: running.

Pedometers have kept track of distance for years, but how many pedometers can — at the push of a button — give you all that inormation via a melodic female (or male) voice cooing into your headphones? It’s a bit like having HAL from 2001 strapped to your arm. Still, it’s very handy, if your hands are busy wiping sweat away or, in my case, frantically massaging a charley horse.

Another feature is for post-workout. Plug the iPod into your computer and it automatically will download all your workout information to a Nike website (which, alas, requires registration). Want to know how fast you ran the mile four months ago? It’s right there with snazzy little graphics. Or you can challenge a friend who lives across the country to a race and the site will track who is winning. (Just think: Soon we won’t have to deal with people face to face at all! Technology is bringing people who are apart closer together, so that we can stay away from the people near us. Good stuff.)

But my favorite feature is the Powersong button. Ever been to a party that’s dragging until the DJ finally starts spinning Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” — at which point the crowd goes wild? The Powersong gets the same reaction. Program your Powersong off the Nano (mine is Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” — and don’t you judge me), and when the need for an emotional boost rises, hit the center button and the Nano automatically jumps to that song. Now that’s service. A-Paul Katz

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