When it comes to fighting games, I’ve always favored 2D brawlers over 3D ones. Simply put, I’d much rather be playing Street Fighter than Soul Calibur. I’ve always found Tekken to be a bit of an exception, with its often wacky character roster, and inventive mini-games. I don’t consider myself an expert on the lore, nor do I consider myself a giant fan of the series. This puts me in a relatively nostalgia-free zone as Bandai Namco unveils their supposed finale to the Tekken franchise with Tekken 7. It’s been quite a few years since the last numbered entry, and after spending two years in arcades, does Tekken 7 provide a worthy send off for a beloved franchise?
Tekken Origins: Cliff Throw
Before we get into the fighting mechanics or critique, I’ve got to admit that if anything, Tekken 7 goes for it. For a while, Tekken has always been a series that’s a bit odd and convoluted (especially when it comes to story), and Tekken 7 is no different. In fact, the main story mode “The Mishima Saga”, in pretty weird even for Tekken standards.
The main story mode is comprised of 15 chapters, all focusing on tying up the loose ends of the Mishima Clan. For those who aren’t well versed in Tekken lore, there’s a full gallery of cut scenes to watch, but you may still find yourself a bit confused. Long story short, a man named Heihachi threw his son Kazuya off a cliff when he was young. This, coupled with a lot of other stuff, has led to a giant war between two major entities. However, the story always seems to come back to Heihachi chucking his son off a cliff. This also plays host to the silliest quick-time event I’ve played in video games thus far, where you have to press two buttons together to commit the filicide.
Visually speaking, the game looks great across the board. Character models look great, arena design is functional and impressive, and the cinematic cut scenes beautifully produced. Additionally, I need to give a shout out to those in charge of the music composition. Tekken 7‘s soundtrack is absolutely awesome, and if you don’t believe me, go look up the main menu theme. I have nothing more to prove.
The majority of the narrative content in Tekken 7 revolves around Heihachi and the conclusion of his story. Throughout the main story mode, you’ll play a handful of characters, but it’s first and foremost the story of Heihachi. There’s two stories going on at once; the political war drama between the warring companies, and the family feud of the Mishima Clan.
Honestly, the actual narrative content isn’t all that great. Long time fans might be disappointed due to the inclusion of Akuma, a guest character from Street Fighter. Not only does Akuma appear in the canon story, but also plays a major role that affects the entire back canon for the entire series. Generally speaking, it’s not a wise decision to use a guest character as a key plot component. For a game as storied and lengthy as Tekken, it was pretty surprising to see just how big of a deal his appearance affected everything.
For newcomers, things will eventually get too confusing to follow, and most of it isn’t terribly interesting anyway. What is interesting, is the way that Tekken 7 uses the gameplay system intuitively as a cinematic experience. Unlike Injustice 2, Tekken 7‘s story isn’t just a collection of fights interspersed through cut scenes. Character control happens organically throughout the Mishima Saga, and it’s interesting to see inventive uses of the engine. You may find yourself battling a huge succession of robot enemies, using an assault rifle to shoot guards, and more. These fun little distractions are infrequent, but welcome and fun to see. Generally speaking, Tekken 7 does a better job integrating the fighting into the story than most of its competition.
Modes, Modes, Modes
Besides The Mishima Saga, there’s a wide variety of modes to pick from. I won’t go into incredible detail for all of them, as most are pretty self explanatory. There’s side content in the form of “Character Episodes”, each a single fight surrounding one specific character. There’s usually a text set up to explain the fight, and then a small cut scene at the end. While not incredibly inventive or lengthy, it’s nice to see each character on the roster get a moment in the spotlight.
Additional offline content comes in the form of Arcade Battle, Treasure Battle, and standard Versus and Practice modes. Arcade Battle represents a more classic arcade experience; choosing a specific character and fighting through a set of opponents. Treasure Mode is where you’ll spend most of your time offline, and plays like a Survival mode. As you progress further and further in Treasure Mode, you’ll obtain currency and customization options.
Online offerings are also pretty standard, but well designed. You can play unranked matches, ranked matches, and join tournaments as well. Everything works as described, and there’s a few filters you can apply when searching for opponents online. This way, you can ensure strong connections and comparable skill level (or higher/lower if you so choose). I also enjoyed the option between “Warm-Up” matchmaking and a standard match list search. Warm-Up mode allows you to beat up on a training opponent while waiting for a match to be found. It’s a nice way to keep yourself nimble in between matches.
Online tournaments also work pretty well, and you can easily join one on the fly. You can create private tournaments for you and your friends, allowing a variety of options to tinker with. I found it really fun to hop into a quick tournament and watch as I progressed through the bracket and other players commentated over their headsets. I only have one complaint, and that’s the inability to quit. If you lose in the first round of a tournament, you cannot quit to the menu. You’re forced to sit there and spectate the rest of the matches. In order to get around this, you have to reset the software. Seems like a silly design decision to me.
Kick, Punch, It’s All in the Limbs
Worry not, Tekken 7‘s fighting will feel familiar and normal to Tekken veterans. There’s no massive changes to the fighting systems, as the majority of Tekken 7 is adapted from the updated arcade release. Thanks to two years in the arcade scene in Japan, the console release of Tekken 7 is already a game that has undergone balance changes and tuning. The focus of Tekken 7‘s combat system is refining the small things and ensuring a smooth ride for both veterans and newcomers alike. Plainly speaking, you can button mash and win. Also, there’s incredibly difficult combos that require precise frame data to be memorized. A bit of Column A, a bit of Column B.
For anyone fresh to the Tekken series, the fighting system is pretty intuitive. Each of the four face buttons controls a specific limb on your character, and you move in a three dimensional plane. This lets you side step opponents, use walls and spacing to your advantage, and more. There’s a lot of weight and impact that comes with the style of Tekken. It’s a flashy looking fighter that is incredibly technical. If you’re just interested in smashing some buttons and having a good time, Tekken 7 can still do that for you.
The only real changes that have been made are the addition of the “Rage” mechanic, as well as some tuning on side stepping. Generally speaking, side stepping isn’t as overpowered as it once was, and is used more in situational moments. The “Rage” mechanic is essentially a super move that you gain once your health bar has fallen low enough. By pressing the right input, you’ll pull of a flashy super move with an accompanying animation, dealing massive damage. These moves are pretty interesting to see, and often super entertaining. They’re not as flashy as something like Injustice 2‘s super moves, but they’re fun in their own right.
Customize Your Heart Out
If there’s one thing that stands out to me about Tekken 7, it’s the massive amount of customization options available. Each character has a staggering number of accessories, clothing options, attack effects, and more to unlock. All of the clothing options can also be colored to your hearts content, truly allowing for some crazy combinations. In fact, there’s so many possible combinations available that you can almost guarantee you’ll never see someone with the same character outfit as you.
Beyond character specific customization, there’s even a plethora of options for your online player display. Adjusting your background, catchphrase box, and even a life meter border, all give an incredible sense of identity when compared to other online players. There’s a huge number of collectible content in Tekken 7. I mentioned the Gallery earlier, but failed to mention its contents. Using the aforementioned fight money, you can unlock every single cut scene in the Tekken franchise. For the die hard fan, this is an incredibly cool addition. For a newcomer, it’s an awesome tool for viewing the progression of the series.
I’m all around impressed with the level of customization Tekken 7 affords to its players, and the amount of content they offer for single player unlockables.
The Bottom Line on Tekken 7
Tekken 7 will no doubt please long time fans, and will be a fun time for some newbies as well. Conversely, not too much has changed in the fundamental gameplay. If you didn’t like Tekken before, Tekken 7 certainly won’t change your mind. The main story is convoluted, shallow, and ultimately boring. However, it’s also an intuitive approach to integrating both gameplay and cinematics. There’s not a ton of original content besides the single player offerings, but what’s here is good and feels rewarding to play. The main story will run you anyway from 3-5 hours, depending on the difficulty you choose.
The massive amount of customization and the overall quality of online performance makes it an easy recommendation for those who enjoy competitive fighters. For newcomers looking for a wider variety in single player content, I would suggest Injustice 2 before Tekken 7. However, it’s hard to deny that Tekken is unique in a very good way, and Tekken 7 does a great job showing why. The ultimate conclusion to the Mishima story line may be a letdown, but the rest of the game is pretty solid.
Note: Game was reviewed on Xbox One.