Another lifecycle of systems, another Tekken game.
Although it’s been eight years since the last mainline Tekken was released, Bandai Namco wasn’t going to overlook PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as new platforms for the fighting series to take life on. This time around, they spared no expense when it came to delivering the franchise’s usual over-the-top storyline, impressive roster of playable characters, and oodles of fun customization options. However, how good can a seventh entry be? While fighting games typically stick to a strict play style and aesthetic, they do bring up the conversation of “when is enough enough?” With the first Tekken game released over 20 years ago, do the small changes introduced in Tekken 7 do enough to make it feel worthwhile for the die-hard fighting game followers? The simple answer: Yes. It succeeds in delivering a classic arcade fighting experience, but for those looking for the next evolution of fighting games, they won’t find it here.
As with previous Tekken games, the experience is divided into different modes of play, including a main story mode, multiplayer battles, random arcade encounters, and practice sessions. Thankfully, the developers didn’t skimp when it came to the core of what makes Tekken a fun and lasting experience: the fighting. For those that love a good one-on-one 3D fighter, Tekken 7 still delivers the same repetitive, but addictive, gameplay we’ve all come to know and love from the series. Because the genre is built on mastering a character’s movepool, Bandai Namco continues to offer a huge selection of playable characters to choose from and become the expert of, which ensures low odds of running into another person who solely plays Heihachi, for example. If you do, that’s okay too, as seeing who’s the better master of that character is its own interesting style of play.
Tekken 7 introduces two new in-battle components known as Rage Drives and Story Assist, which all contribute to more fluid access to powerful moves for each character. Story Assist allows for first-time players to try out the more complicated combos a character has with the push of just one button, while the Rage Drive is a hidden stamina bar that fills once the character goes below a certain amount of health, allowing them to unleash a powerful super move of sorts. The great aspect to both of these additions is they don’t break the game or allow for spamming from less experienced players taking on a seasoned pro. The Rage Drive only becomes an option once the character is at a low enough health to need a little push to not die instantly; it’s a last ditch effort to try to regain the round, but it doesn’t feel overpowered or cheap for either player. Story Assist also falls in line with this fairness, as it only allows a certain selection of combos to be sampled, and ultimately encourages the player to learn how to unleash the string of hits naturally.
There are over 30 colorful characters to choose from, including guest character Akuma, from Street Fighter, and the first DLC option, Eliza, who is a stylish vampire with no sense of shyness. There’s also plenty of old favorites returning, like high-stepping Eddy Gordo, King, Jin Kazama (and his devil form), and the adorable Panda to name a few. And speaking of color, customization options are, once again, available for each character. Players can change several physical details of the characters using unlockable accessories, such as hats, make-up, bags, costumes, uniforms, and so much more. While this seems a tad superfluous for a 1-vs-1 experience, there’s something magical about heading into a fight with a completely customized Yoshimitsu to intimidate the other player. These fun add-ons prove Tekken 7 holds onto its root ability to balance tongue-in-cheek and serious martial arts as a tone that can kick anyone in the face. Unfortunately, the story shoots for—and fails to hit—an attempt at recreating that balance.
The soap opera that is the Tekken series continues in all of its melodramatic glory, with an interesting mechanic to lay out the events between the Mishima Zaibatsu and G Corporation. The game’s main story opens with a voiceover by a soft-spoken, unnamed man describing his love for his family, which is a surprisingly understated moment for a fighting game. Tekken titles have used voiceover narration in the past, but this is a clear attempt at a serious, less jovial voice this time around. This narrator, who we learn later is a journalist, drives most of the plot for the game, as we switch back-and-forth between his storyboard-driven recollections of the Mishima bloodlines’ final chapter and real-time cinematic events. This is where the story goes a bit off the rails, as the quiet and thoughtful narration that sets the tone of the story is replaced with over-the-top Hollywood-esque cutscenes. These intense and over-the-top moments aren’t foreign to the series, but in this incarnation, where we’re supposed to be understanding how the effects of a family dispute have led to a social collapse across the world, each scene feels too far removed from the emotion. However, at times, Tekken 7 redeems itself with flashback clips and pictures appearing during battle, which actually obscures the player’s view in order to remind them of how important the fight at hand is. It’s a mechanic that would have benefitted from being sprinkled throughout the entire story mode to more closely tie the strong emotional threads together. As is, it’s a small tool the game uses to remind the players of the emotional complexity of the battle, but it works well in balancing out the somber tones with the action.
While there are options to raise the difficulty level for the story mode, it feels unnecessary to go back after one playthrough because the different battles aren’t interesting enough to take on. Well, except for the final fight, which out of nowhere becomes frustratingly hard. The story mode sadly feels tacked on and not as emotionally important as it should be. Questions are answered and a bow is put on top of the Mishima storyline, but after several main entries of prolonged storytelling, it abruptly ends with a snap of a finger.
As for its place in the modern age, each entry in the franchise has introduced little changes to the overall format, whether it’s visual upgrades due to advanced hardware or new characters to spice up gameplay. With VR now accessible to consumers, a good number of PlayStation titles are taking advantage of immersing the player into a new, more vivid experience. For games like Resident Evil 7, immersion is a highly effective tool to give a fresh update to the survival horror genre, but for fighting games like Tekken 7, VR doesn’t seem to have a purpose yet. To put it simply, the VR experience on the PS4 is unnecessary here. Perhaps the most that could be done with a virtual experience in a fighting game would be a first-person view, where the player can truly feel like they’re dodging punches and kicks head-on, but the third-person view we’re given in Tekken 7 does little to differentiate from just playing normally. It feels more like a gimmick or selling point than an actual feature in the game. Overall this isn’t a terrible thing, but it seems there needs to be more expansion on what VR can do before genres like fighting can embrace it completely.
Of course, the Tekken franchise has never been about telling a well-constructed narrative. That’s mostly true for its genre as a whole, as the most important aspect comes down to how the actual fighting gameplay works. Most players will spend their time in Arcade mode or multiplayer, and Tekken 7 does both of those staples very well. However, even in terms of expanding its presence in the genre, the game doesn’t introduce enough to set itself apart from the rest of its franchise, or even fighting games with stronger narrative presences. The few new in-battle mechanics are enjoyable and will give slight variation to players familiar with the Tekken franchise, but they don’t revolutionize or stack up against what’s come before. In turn, it becomes just another option for fighting fans to play on the latest consoles but doesn’t leave anyone asking for what’s next.
Tekken 7, the latest entry in the long-running franchise, delivers what fighting genre fans love about multiplayer battles, but there isn’t enough new material to make it truly stand out from the increasingly competitive options in the fighting genre.
Bandai Namco Studios
Bandai Namco Entertainment
T - Teen
|Tekken 7 is available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of one to five stars.|