Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
Rating: T for Teen
Price: $59.99 (console), $49.99 (PC)
I have been playing the Tekken series since its debut on the PSX in 1995. In fact, I could write a longform essay on the topic of my experiences as I came to know the ways of the game from a filthy casual amateur to…an otherwise mediocre player who plays an unorthodox character very well.
As someone who considers themselves to have been playing serious “seriously” since Tekken 3, lurking Tekken Ziabatsu since its founding, scrimmaging in my college days against a few who fancy themselves as “pros” and would travel to Atlanta to compete in fighting game tournaments before online became a standard, I was anticipating Tekken 7 with relish, especially because I have never been a fan of the Tekken Tag Tournament games.
Violence: Tekken 7 is a fighting game. Therefore, the object of the game is for one combatant to beat his or her opponent into oblivion—or just until their health meter is depleted. Punches and kicks are the primary means of executing this, but a few characters such as Yoshimitsu and Master Raven possess weapons that are sparingly used with the exception of special (unblockable) attacks. Some throws feature the sound effects of popping bones, tendons, and ligaments, but gamers are spared the x-ray visuals as seen in Mortal Kombat. Overall, Tekken 7 is incrementally more violent than Super Mario Smash Bros.
Language: Vocabulary violations are mild, and do not exceed what might be heard in a PG movie. Therefore, “darn” and “butt” are euphemisms for what might be heard, in addition to the accusation of one’s fatherless heredity.
Alcohol: Tekken 7 is alcohol-free.
Sexuality: With the Dead or Alive franchise playing more dead than alive, it appears that Bandai Namco has elected to bear the burden of providing eye-candy for the lustful. The breasts of every single female character in the game jiggle, and this is especially conspicuous when the camera shifts from one character to another during pre- and post-match animations. Gender-exclusive treatment ends there, for custom clothes fit snugly on men and women alike, highlighting the muscle definition of perfectly-crafted bodies. Some closing options provide minimal coverage, leaving little to the imagination as men can rock nothing but short-shorts that function more like boxer briefs, and women sport their custom bikinis. Katarina Alves, seemingly the replacement for Christie Monteiro, is so well-endowed that there is spillage. In fact, one of her bikini bottoms is so inadequate that booty crack is visible (yes, that compound word is good usage).
Lastly, the gender identity of Eleonore “Leo” Kliesen has been in flux since being introduced in Tekken 5, when the ambiguous character was introduced female. Tekken 7 refers to Leo using the male pronoun, and can only be assigned male clothing. In other words, while Poision of Capcom lore is officially M2F transgender, Leo might be gaming’s most infamous F2M.
Spirituality: An ongoing plot point of the Tekken series concerns what is called the “devil gene,” an affliction or gift, depending on fandom perspective, which enables series staples, Kazuya Mishima and his son Jin Kazama, to be possessed by or summon the power of the devil to enhance their fighting prowess. Bandai Namco has added to the roster Kazumi, Kazuya’s mother and Jin’s grandmother, who also sports the devil gene. Guest character Akuma from the Street Fighter series also makes an appearance; fans know of his history as embracer of the Satusi no Hado, or “Surge of Murderous Intent,” which can corrupt those under its power to the point of deforming them into an oni, or demon. Therefore, Tekken 7 revolves around the clash of demons for dominance.
One of the most attractive qualities of the Tekken franchise is its commitment to continuity, a trait that other franchises such as Mortal Kombat violated with frequent retcons, while a franchise such as Street Fighter completely neglected. Unfortunately, the Tekken 7 does both. Like SF, it belittles the fact that characters outside of the Mishima bloodline exist by providing measly one-mission scenarios for them. In the meantime, Bandai Namco defiles the long-established canon that the evil Heihachi Mishima, thinking his son weak, throws Kazuya off a mountain as a test of strength; should he demonstrate capability of scaling the mountain, then he would be considered worthy; in the face of death, the devil propositions Kazuya with a deal: his soul in exchange for power that will aid him in attaining vengeance.
Tekken 7 rewrites history by placing Heihachi rather than Kazuya or Jin as the game’s protagonist. Yes, the same Heihachi who pines after world domination and harnessing the power of the devil for himself is now portrayed as a hero who had always sought to contain the devil. Realizing that said devil trait is hereditary, and therefore contradicting over 20 years of Tekken cannon, he sires a bastard, Lars Alexandersson, to reassure himself that the devil gene is not from the Mishima clan, but from the Hachijo clan bearing the surname of his wife, Tekken 7 newcomer Kazumi. Thus, Heihachi is now characterized as an (anti)hero who always had the best interests of the world at heart, making it his personal mission to purge the world of his evil descendants. Despite all of this plot buildup that is obscenely disrespectful toward loyal Tekken fans, I found the integration of Akuma into the narrative prudent, and the ending satisfying even though it baits for a sequel. Shamefully, I am hoping for DLC so that we need not wait another two years for further resolution.
In terms of what new elements that Tekken 7 brings to series, some lite mathematics might be necessary. Kazumi Mishima, Lucky Chloe, Katarina Alves, Claudio Serafino, Gigas, and Shaheen round out the the new characters, while Master Raven, Josie Rival, and Eddie Gordo are more-or-less palette swaps of Raven, Bruce Irving, and Christie Montero, respectively. Though I would further add that Eddie was the original capoeira master from Tekken 3 and should have never been replaced with Christie, it appears that Namco Bandai did not want to be outdone by SFV’s Laura, and “upgraded” to Katarina while replacing Eddie to avoid any redundancies.
Rage also returns to Tekken, but has been doubly modified. When near-KO with health flashing read, instead of simply providing a percentage-based damage boost, players can either perform a Rage Drive or Rage Art. Rage Drives character moves which gain unique properties, such as Lucky Chloe’s putting the recipient at a major frame disadvantage on block, or Gigas placing foes in a frustrating, nigh-unblockable 50/50 high/mid attack mixup. Almost every Rage Drive results in a juggle opportunity for major damage on hit. Rage Arts are the equivalent of super, or more appropriately, desperation attacks. Executed with a command oftentimes just as if not more simple than a Rage Drive, on hit, characters will execute an auto-combo sequence that damage nearly 50% of an opponent’s health. I *HATE* this feature, as its inclusion neutralizes rushdown playstyles by forcing the player at the advantage to play more defensively, or decidedly high risk for the reward of the last few hits; it also provides super armor during the initial wind-up and thus, will “absorb” a would-be-interrupting blow (unless that blow is fatal) as it activates. If I had instead launched someone for a juggle rather than eat a Rage Art that won the round for my opponent, I would be about four tiers higher in the online rankings.
Online is indeed Tekken 7’s showcase feature. The netcode on PC is sweeter than Jones’ Cane Sugar Cream Soda. Finding a match from game startup can be done in two minutes tops, and that is with narrowing the search to the most strict criteria of +/- within two ranks, four connection bars or better. Of course, one will find less opponents this way, so it would behoove combat-seekers to be less scrupulous with search criteria. Win or lose, players have the option to ask (or give) a revenge match, return to the search screen to find a different opponent, or warm up in a practice arena and wait for a challenger. Note that online interactions my vary: fans speculated that the PS4 would be the superior version, but as of this writing PC is the most stable followed by the Xbox One. The PS4 version of the game has recently been patched, but it has yet to be determined how effective it is.
Of course, the actual gameplay in Tekken 7 is strong. Despite any would-be tier list that players might be able to find, this is one of the most balanced out-of-the-box fighters that I have had the pleasure of playing in recent memory. It is also one of the best-looking, benefiting from the power of the Unreal Engine 4.
Where Tekken 7 falters is in lack of content. All versions of the game come equipped with a theater, likewise including every video in the entire series. Still, the game lacks Tekken Force mode and Tekken Bowl, series staples. The latter has already been announced as DLC, but this has traditionally been a free feature. Once again, the industry’s worst trend costs gamers more money than necessary. If that were not enough, newcomer Eliza remains locked behind a paywall in addition to two more guest characters that have yet to be announced. Even the cosmetics are lacking in Tekken 7; PS4 owners were treated to Tekken 4 costumes for Jin and Ling, but there is no option for Kazuya’s red demon eye, or Asuka’s traditional Judo gi; there is no telling what else is missing that used to be a staple.
PS4 owners have been blessed with exclusive access (note that the Playstation has always been Tekken‘s traditional home, so no hard feelings for the other platforms) to the jukebox, allowing gamers to customize the Tekken 7 soundtrack with music from the entire series. Even so, this game is not slacking in that department. “Desperate Struggle” evokes its namesake with the precision of its violin strokes and guitar riffs; “Devil Kazumi “Precipice of Fate (Final Round)” and “Brimstone & Fire” likewise jam hard. “Hatred“is as foreboding as it is hopeful as the chorus energetically bellows, while “Devil’s Pit (Final Round)” similarly features vocals though with increased tempo. Not all music in Tekken is so melancholy. In fact, “G. Corp Helipad (Night; Final Round)” is one of many pieces demonstrating that not all dubstep is the devil (pun intended). “Artic Snowfall (Round 1)” is probably the best dubstep song I’ve ever heard in a any video game, while “Artic Snowfall (Final Round)” gets a reward for Tekken 7‘s best song, period. I tend to be fond of in-game soundtrack “remixes,” and true to the tradition of of the franchise, Tekken 7 delivers.
I am a bit of an oddball when it comes to Tekken fans as I am fond of the overall package of Tekken 4 with its smaller roster, stages with uneven surfaces, and most importantly, Tekken Force mode. Traditionally, the odd numbered Tekken games tend to be the better ones, and Tekken 7 is no different. I unfortunately was not able to play Tekken 6 for hundreds of hours like I had done in the past with previous games, and I skipped Tekken Tag Tournament 2 altogether (I do not care for them anyway), so I am rusty. With the robust online of Tekken 7, I am never in need of competition to beat down…I mean, there are plenty of people out there willing to exploit frame data to juggle me from one end of a stage to the other. This is a game that is only as good as players are willing to invest into it.
The Bottom Line
While rocking the Unreal Engine 4, and backed with the kind of quality netcode that has yet to be seen in any other fighting game on PC, Tekken 7 is the premiere fighting game experience for those seeking an endless stream of competition.