A decade later, Tekken is back
2017 has been a great year for us fighting game fans. Injustice 2 and Ultra Street Fighter II have been big hits on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. At the same time, Street Fighter V is finally hitting its stride after a somewhat rocky start. Now, courtesy of Bandai Namco, their legendary fighting series is back with Tekken 7 on PS4 and Xbox One.
It’s hard to believe the last numbered entry, Tekken 6, released in Japanese arcades nearly ten years ago. Bandai Namco has seemingly been experimenting ever since, giving us the free-to-play Tekken Revolution and 2v2 Tekken Tag Tournament 2. That all changes with Tekken 7, a game that marks the return of classic 1v1 battles in 3D arenas.
In a crowed year of superb fighting games, does Tekken 7 have what it takes to stand out? Let’s take a look!
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One
Conclusion of the Mishima Blood Saga
Ever since the first Tekken, story has been a crucial element to this franchise. While the older games featured cutscenes highlighting characters’ motivations, they were never really all that coherent as a whole. A recent pair of sub-par Hollywood movies didn’t help the situation, perhaps tarnishing the story even more.
To rectify this situation, and introduce new players to Tekken, this newest entry includes a robust 3-hour single-player campaign. Called the “Mishima Blood Saga,” this story-driven experience begins shortly after the events of Tekken 6. It focuses on the global war between the Mishima Zaibatsu and G Corporation, led by members of the Mishima family. The violent family feud has been central to Tekken‘s story for 20 years now, and we finally get a resolution. I won’t spoil any details, but will say the story is well-told and has exciting cinematic moments.
The large focus on the Mishima family—namely Jin, Kazuya, Heihachi, and Kazumi—does have one drawback, though. It relegates many of the roster’s 30+ characters to slim side stories, including fan-favourites like Yoshimitsu, Paul, and King II. Once you beat the Mishima Saga you’ll unlock individual character stories, which contain a paltry single battle and one cutscene. On the bright side, many of these clips are amusing, with newcomer pop sensation Lucky Chloe being my personal favourite.
Huge roster of characters
As just mentioned, Tekken 7 includes a big, big roster of characters to play as. Not only that, the series tradition of giving us an outlandish mix of fighters to choose from continues. There are gargantuan anthropomorphic creatures like Kuma (a grizzly bear) and Panda. Androids, including the returning Alisa, and a new model of Jack, called Jack-7. Mysterious masked fighters like Gigas, Yoshimitsu, and King II. And a mix of more traditional fighters like Lars, Claudio, and Ling.
Oh, and Tekken 7 also includes a playable guest fighter: Akuma from Capcom’s Street Fighter. That’s right, the demon fighter comes to the Tekken series for the first time, and he makes a big splash. For starters, Akuma makes a significant impact on the aforementioned story mode, and he fits into Tekken‘s universe rather well. Secondly, Akuma retains his signature special moves, like the Gohadoken (fireball), Goshoryuken (rising uppercut), and his spin kick. That makes him instantly accessible to anyone who’s used him in Street Fighter, which I imagine is a lot of people. Also, with his focus on projectile attacks, Akuma breaks free from Tekken‘s long tradition of strict hand-to-hand combat.
Going back to the list of returning fighters, I also appreciate how Bandai Namco have evolved some of them creatively. Yoshimitsu now looks even more octopus-like with realistic tentacles protruding from his head and midsection. King II has added a cape to his wrestling costume, making him appear even more comic book-like. Kuma dons new black armour with piercing glowing red eyes. And Heihachi has swapped his traditional karate outfit for all-new samurai garb. It’s somewhat risky to tamper with time-honored characters like this, but the evolutions look great and keep them fresh.
As touched upon earlier, Tekken 7 marks the long-awaited return of traditional 1-on-1 battles in 3D arenas. The highly technical gameplay returns, too, even while Bandai Namco has taken strides to make it more access than ever. Most importantly, the complex “bound” juggling system has been replaced with easier-to-grasp screw attacks. This mechanic makes your opponent spin sideways when they are hit airborne, letting you extend combos with more strikes. However, you can’t use screw attacks to punish your opponent with devastating wall attacks.
Another big change is now combo damage is front-loaded—meaning the longer your combo, the less damage individual attacks inflict. This significantly impacts the risk/reward proposition of extended combos: do you continue combos with diminishing returns, or end them prematurely to set-up your next string? Determining how to proceed requires on-the-fly judgments of positioning, health, and your opponent’s likely next move. In a sense, then, the late-combo damage reduction makes the gameplay even more strategic.
Other new gameplay additions include Rage Arts and Power Crushes. Rage Arts become available when your health bar is critical and unleash powerful combos à la Street Fighter‘s Ultra Combos. These are great comeback moves and can quickly turn the tide of battles. Next, Power Crush moves enable you to continue combos even when you are being hit by your opponent. You’ll still take all the damage from your opponent’s strikes, though you’ll also punish them at the same time.
Furthermore, Akuma and Eliza have an EX/Super gauge that can be used to power up moves. Other characters have Rage Drive attacks, which are souped up versions of regular attacks dealing greater damage. With Tekken 7‘s traditional gameplay mixed with all these new mechanics, it’s easily the deepest and most technically sound version yet.
Single-player and online modes
In terms of game modes, Tekken 7 has quite a few to keep you busy. There’s a standard Arcade Mode that’s just as you’d expect; you fight a series of (five) A.I. opponents to win. Next, there’s Treasure Battle where you fight a never-ending list of opponents to earn money and cosmetic unlocks. I really enjoyed this mode as there are dozens of cosmetic items per character, and some are very creative/funny. Santa suits, anyone?
Tekken 7 also includes a significant archive of unlockable content from past entries delivering a nostalgic trip down memory lane. You can re-watch all cutscenes from Tekken 1-7, browse concept art, and enjoy official character sketches from throughout franchise history. PS4 owners also get an exclusive Jukebox full of every mainline Tekken song, a phenomenal bonus for longtime fans.
Regarding online play, Tekken 7 features casual matches, ranked matches, and online tournaments. Creating lobbies to play with your friends is a snap, or if you prefer a quick match, you can train while matchmaking occurs. Training also enables you to simulate network connections letting to you practice moves with slight input lag. When you are matched-up the game indicates your opponent’s connection strength, and you can decline if connection if you like. Overall, the online experience has been great and there are lots of in-game currency and treasure chests to win.
As a whole, Tekken 7 is my favourite entry to date. It’s graphically and technically impressive, and the all-new story mode finally fleshes out the backstory. I enjoyed the huge, varied roster of characters, and rooting through the 100s of outfits for them is very fun. The gameplay enhancements make Tekken more accessible than ever, while simultaneously deepening the experience. Tekken 7 is a wonderful love letter to series veterans, while also a great introduction point for newcomers. Fighting games fans won’t want to miss this one.
+ Most detailed Tekken yet
+ Large, varied roster
+ Vast amount of cosmetic customization
+ Story mode is a highlight
+ Accessible and deep gameplay
+ Akuma is a fun, surprising addition
– Non-Mishima family characters have limited story
– Challenging to master the gameplay
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.25/5 (85%)