For something that came out of nowhere, Tekken Card Tournament is actually a decent if simplistic little card game. As you're locked in card combat, fighter avatars will jostle about on screen just like the core games with a surprising amount of polish, and the game itself is incredibly easy to pick up.
But that's only half the experience. Littered with obscene microtransaction amounts up to $99.99, typical "beg your friends" Facebook bonuses and an energy system, Tekken Card Tournament's pitiful means of asking you for cash at every turn detract from an otherwise enjoyable affair.
Tekken Card Tournament (Android, iPad, iPhone [reviewed on iPhone 5], PC)
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Released: April 4, 2013
MSRP: Free-to-play (Microtransactions, $0.99-$99.99 for currency to buy cards and boosters)
After booting up TCT for the first time, you'll have the opportunity to select one of the limited characters on offer (Panda, Nina, Yoshimitsu, Xiaoyu, Lili, Kazuya, Law, and Paul), all of who feature a different deck and playstyle. Then you can basically jump into combat after a short tutorial and pick up on the game almost instantantly.
Simply put, there are three options every single turn: Focus, Strike, and Block. Focus draws a card into your hand, Strike plays all your cards in your hand (for damage), and Block nullifies the first two cards in an opponent's hand. As you might imagine, drawing cards is completely random, so there is some luck involved, but choosing when to draw, play, or block cards can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
Essentially, it's a more intricate version of rock paper scissors. That's not really a bad thing, mind you. Just don't expect a whole lot at first until you develop your deck and reach the more nuanced ability cards (such as cards that deal instant high damage but give your opponents free cards).
A 10-second time limit for each turn keeps play fast and frantic, and the actual cards signify real moves from the franchise, which flow very well into cool-looking combos. Like most contemporary mobile games, there's a level system that slowly unlocks new content, like higher offline difficulties or new card options.
Faithful visuals compliment the game, and like Uncharted: Fight for Fortune, you don't really need to be a fan of the franchise to enjoy the core gameplay (though it does help). As polished as the game is visually however, the utterly lazy menu translations don't really do any favors.
Okay, so the game is simple, is pretty fun to play, and has a single- and multiplayer component. So what's the bad news? Well, as you could tell from the big red "free" flag listed above, the game has microtransactions -- and lots of them -- Yoshimitsu's Robin Hood mantra be damned.
Like most IAP titles, there are two forms of currency: coins (in-game) and credits (real-life cash). You mostly have to pay credits for packs, but gold can be earned more freely, which you can use to buy individual cards, of which there are a total of 191 cards (at this current time).
You can also randomly earn cards through play, but the issue here is that they're for a random character. Your cards may actually be spread out over multiple fighters, which never allows you to really develop one good deck for quite some time.
Although you can sell cards off for more scratch, often the sell value is astronomically low, as in one-fourth of the entire value of the card. When you reach level four, you can fuse cards together, but it's a bit of a grind to even get there, given that you will struggle at times with a basic set if you refuse to shell out a decent amount of dough.
What really grinds my gears is that I encountered multiple drops when playing online, compounded by the fact that the servers as a whole have been taken down for extended periods to deal with fan demand. If you're going to ask players to spend tons of cash to truly enjoy your game, at least allow them to play online consistently and progress a little more quickly. If people lose interest, why are they going to continue paying you in the first place?
For the sake of science, I tested the game both on and offline, and let's just say you do not want to ever play the game offline. Comically, it seems as if you have to constantly be connected (most likely to suggestively sell you stuff at every turn) to earn rewards for a fight, even if it's offline against a CPU. This screen I captured and posted just below hilariously highlights both the inability to earn offline rewards and the poor translation.
If you're actually interested despite the constant paywalls, the good news is there will be physical cards this Summer with QR codes to add to your digital deck. If you're a card game fan like myself, finding a group of people to play this with in a social gathering and getting free digital cards may be more enticing than ponying up for microtransactions. But again, that isn't available yet.
In many ways, Tekken Card Tournament is a shame, because it's actually a decent, simple little card game. If someone laid a real-life starter deck in front of me, I'd actually play it for an extended period of time, but as it stands, it's not worth slogging through the mictrotransaction and "energy" nonsense to do it.