Tekken 7 came out last month, but a mixture of E3 and an incorrect mailing address means I didn’t get my copy until much later. I’ve finally had some time to pour into the massive fighter from Bandai Namco, and all I want to do is keep playing it. From the unapologetic soap-opera story, and its twists on longstanding gameplay, to the presentation of its fights; Tekken 7 is the best entry to date.
The Tekken franchise has had a long and muddled history; not just stretching across console and arcade-board generations, it also saw portable-only editions, and a handful of non-canonical offshoots. So the idea that the team wanted to tackle the dense story with a fully-fledged campaign is brave – especially living in a post NetherRealm world, which has set the standard for story modes in fighting games.
The story focuses on wrapping up the feud between long-standing characters Heihachi and Kazuya. It makes good on the twenty-odd years of built up lore by embedding the occasional FMV from previous games. It doesn’t come across as cheap either – there’s a reverence here, a respect for the series’ legacy. Tekken 7’s story mode pays homage to its roots by surrounding itself in the ridiculousness of its universe; people are thrown into volcanoes, turned into demons, and thrown into volcanoes again. It’s nonsense, and it embraces that.
Not all elements fit though. Plodding interstitial scenes try to pull the story threads together from the perspective of a journalist. The line-readings here sound stilted and phonetic, like a non-native English speaker is working through the script. The scenes are boring, and interrupt the breakneck speed of the story.
If you’ve played any Tekken game since launch, then the fundamentals are the same. It’s a four-button fighter, with each input representing a different limb. Unlike other games in the genre however, you’ll rarely be inserting quarter-circle motions to throw fireballs; Tekken is about complex combo strings. To that end, there isn’t a spectrum of accessibility here – it’s completely binary. You won’t need a fight-stick to bust out some simple combos and have fun with friends, but don’t expect those tactics to work in ranked play.
If you’re a fair-weather fan, the game does provide simplified inputs for the story mode. If you’re serious about competing online though, you’ll just have to hit the dojo.
The training mode has enough tools to keep you busy if you’re comfortable with fighting games. You can configure enemies to respond in different ways, so you can practice your bread-and-butter combos under a range of different scenarios. If you’re inexperienced and looking to grow however, your options are limited. Thankfully there are some tools in place, like musical-chimes that play in-step with a combo so you can properly learn its timing, or deciding which side of the screen you’d prefer to battle on.
Tekken 7 has also increased its complexity with the introduction of two new systems. Rage Arts are supers that can be executed when you’re low on health, adding a layer of mind-games to the action. Then there are Power Crushes; moves that effectively grant armour against hits. Both mechanics transform the series’ combat into something faster, and more aggressive.
Alongside these, Bandai Namco have also amped up the presentation of the fights. One of my favourite parts of a match in any fighting game is when the outcome is unknown – when both characters are on a sliver of health. Tekken 7 revels in this by applying some fuzzy logic; when both players throw out a fist that could finish the match, the action slows right down and zooms in. Either of you could land the winning hit, or both could miss, forcing you back into the fight. It’s a celebration of those moments of tension in small living-room battles with friends, or large-scale tournaments.
That presentation also trickles down to the character customisation. There’s a wealth of clothes and accessories on offer, to help transform your favourite fighters into something truly unique. You can also gain these through the Treasure Battle mode, which has you face off against endless waves of opponents. For each one you defeat, you’ll gain more cosmetics and Fight Money. The mode also provides a nice way to decompress from heated online battles, or if you just want to relax and expand your wardrobe.
Tekken 7 is a culmination of many things. It’s decades worth of unabashed soap-opera storytelling. It’s years of mechanical complexity, honed to a keen edge. It’s a celebration of the clutch moments that make fighting games what they are. Tekken 7 is the pinnacle of the franchise, and one of the best fighting games on the market.
Keith received a physical copy of Tekken 7 from Bandai Namco for review.