Tekken has always been my preferred fighter of choice and it’s one that I hold near and dear to my heart. I have very fond memories of being a scrub and using Eddy Gordo in Tekken 3 to beat my brother and no fighter has ever been able to top it. The last Tekken I played was Tekken 6, which didn’t quite hit the spot, so I was keen to see if Tekken 7 could bring things back on track. I’d played a few preview builds throughout the year and walked away impressed with the progress the game was making (despite the absence of boxing kangaroo Roger). So how does the final product stack up?
Tekken 7 is based around the conclusion of the Mishima saga. For those to whom the story is unbeknownst, one of the main themes of the Tekken games is the intergenerational feud within the Mishima clan. A lot has been left fairly unanswered in the franchise’s many years (almost two decades and change actually), and now we finally get answers. The three notable characters are Heihachi Mishima, Kazumi Hachibo and their son Kazuya Mishima. Kazumi’s bloodline is somewhat cursed, and people of the Hachibo lineage have the blood of a devil inside them and can transform into devil forms of themselves. This is also present in Jin Kazama, but he’s not really a part of whole Mishima Saga so we’ll leave him out for now. Tekken 7’s story mode is told from the perspective of a journalist whose family was completely wiped out by the events of Tekken 6. Tekken 7’s story answers various burning questions, like the origins of Kazuya’s devil powers, why Heihachi is an absolute turd to his son and grandson and the reason behind Kazumi Hachibo’s death.
Unfortunately, while the premise behind Tekken 7’s story is great, it’s got a fair few issues. The first one is its length. Now, I’m not the greatest at fighting games, though I would say Tekken is the one I’m best at due to the familiarity with the characters and their move sets. But even playing on Hard, (with a fair amount of beat downs being endured), the story mode only lasted a couple hours at most. It’s very, very short and the ending leaves a lot to be desired. The main issue with it being so short is that its pacing goes all over the place. The first few chapters set up an intriguing narrative flow, but then the pacing quickly changes and the story progresses faster than you can comprehend. Furthermore, during the story there is a strong emphasis on a certain character being the means to end the war. This plot point is visited once and then never looked at again until after the final battle, which leaves a large amount of room for either a story DLC or just a new game in general. I don’t think a Tekken 8 would surprise anyone, but the open-ended conclusion of Tekken 7 makes it feel unsatisfying in terms of story arc.
This isn’t even my final form!
Once the short story experience is complete, you unlock little stories for all the characters that you didn’t play as called Character Stories. These little missions consists of one fight and a cutscene which follows. The coolest thing about these is they give some insight into the characters that are being played. For example, series mainstay Nina finds herself as an assassin where her next target is the groom of a wedding. How does she get to her target? By being the bride. While these character stories are small, they’re great at conveying the goofier side of Tekken. In fact, there was a specific character story which was so goofy that it reminded me of Gon’s Arcade Mode completion cutscene in Tekken 3 (people who know this will remember how weird it was).
In terms of actual fighting, Tekken 7 sees the return of the static flow that made the older games so good. In many ways its style and feel are redolent of the older Tekken games, and this is only a good thing in this case. There are 37 (including Eliza the DLC character) playable fighters in Tekken 7, with many familiar faces like Yoshimitsu, Law, King, Bryan Fury and Eddie Gordo joined by fresh faces like cutesy freestyling otaku Lucky Chloe, and hulking red cybernetic beast Gigas. Street Fighter’s Akuma is also on lend for the latest instalment. As is tradition, each character has distinctive movesets and attack speeds to both utilise and learn to counter if you want to be the biggest bad ass of them all.
KO? More like “good God that was close.”
Despite feeling mostly familiar, there are a few new mechanics introduced in the form of Power Crushes and Rage manoeuvres. Power Crushes are essentially hyper armour, which allows players to mitigate some incoming damage and proceed uninterrupted in a combo. Power Crushes ignore the stagger produced by a mid or a high move, so you have to nail them with a low attack to interrupt. Rage is a mechanic that, while not technically new to Tekken (Tekken 6 had a rage system), has been a mechanic that a few other fighters do. When you are nearing the end of your health bar, you essentially are given a git gud button which is bound to R1 or RB by default. This unleashes a powerful attack called a Rage Art (not too dissimilar to the X-Ray moves in Mortal Kombat), which can turn the tides when you’re down but can be blocked and leaves you wide open to counterattack if missed. Alternatively you can activate a Rage Drive, which is a combo with increased damage that is less risky than a Rage Art but also less powerful. My only real issue with these Rage Arts and Rage Drives is that it kind of makes it feel less like Tekken and more like the other fighters. I was actually a fan of the way it worked in Tekken 6 whereby when you entered rage you would just hit harder. I understand that sometimes you have to change the game for it to remain relevant, but I think Tekken 6’s rage system was fine.
As a side note, I do have to give Tekken 7 praise for keeping custom key bindings. I’m a believer that pretty much every game should allow players to customise their key bindings so they can play in the ways that make them feel the most comfortable. While many might overlook this little feature, it can also be used to help execute some of the more complex moves in a character’s move sets.
As is the way with modern fighters, there is a type of progression system in place where you earn Battle Money in order to unlock cosmetic items for the various characters. It’s a good way of injecting the fighters with a bit of customisable personality, and the best way of earning currency is through Treasure Battles. These are essentially endless battles, and after each one you open a treasure chest, and sometimes more if you met specific requirements of the round like not taking any damage. Opening chests is incredibly addictive, and must feed into whatever part of the brain loves having a cheeky slap on the pokies. It’s a bit grindy, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Better than paying for a cruddy microtransaction!
On an audiovisual front, Tekken 7 is very competent, with Unreal Engine 4 definitely put to good use. Simple but stylish visuals ensure the game runs at a crisp 60 fps, and it’s very nice to see developers not focus on visuals at the cost of performance. The environments are varied and whacky, while also having some serious stages in the mix too. My two favourites are the Kinder Gym and the Devil’s Pit stages. The latter was one that was selected very often during my time playing the game and the Duel of Fates score from Star Wars fits it perfectly. Another notable stage was Infinite Azure which reminded me of the Moonside Lake in Bloodborne. Soundtrack-wise, the new songs definitely fit the style of game, but it’s nothing to rave about. My favourite part of Tekken 7’s soundtrack is the introduction of the Jukebox which allows you to play the soundtracks of previous Tekken games; letting me play Tekken 7 with Tekken 3’s music is pure awesome.
I really enjoyed Tekken 7. It captures some of the best elements of its predecessors while mixing it up to remain relevant to newer audiences. While it does sort of go back to its roots and rights the wrongs of some of its predecessors (mainly Tekken 6), it does leave a little to be desired from a story point of view, and the rage system feels more like an adaptation of systems from other fighters instead of a new system to help make the game feel unique in the genre. While its solid fighting system and varied mechanics mean there’s a lot to dive into with Tekken 7 from a purely technical perspective, if you’re looking for a single-player experience and don’t care too much for the online multiplayer you might be left a little wanting.
Reviewed on PS4