This review was handled by Ry, you can reach him through twitter @sabao72
I’m no FGC guy, but it seems to me like it’s a pretty good time to be a fighting game fan right now and it’s only been getting better. Capcom’s Street Fighter V (Check out our review here!) had a rocky start but has slowly improved over time and their upcoming Marvel vs Capcom Infinite is slowly shaping up to be a real crowd pleaser. Arc System Works is killing it with Guilty Gear Xrd & Blazblue: Central Fiction and now they’re building hype for the recently-announced Dragon Ball FighterZ and Blazblue Cross Tag Battle. Not to be outdone, Namco has finally released Tekken 7 for home consoles and PC and it’s a great fighter for casuals & Tekken vets alike and a beautiful love letter to the franchise’s rich history. I
Production (4.5 / 5)
Every iteration of Tekken has boasted great visuals for its generation, and the latest in the series is no slouch. Tekken 7 looks gorgeous. Character models and animations are about as detailed and as fluid as you’d expect a current-gen Tekken title ought to be. Environments are even more elaborate, with some stages having walls and floors that can be broken through to take the fight to different parts of the arena. Camera effects like zooms, slowdowns, dynamic angles and other similar flourishes happen during fights that not only heightens tension for players, but also makes for a thrilling viewing experience for anyone else in the room watching. This has little to no gameplay value, but with the rise of e-sports, making a game look and feel good not just for the players but also the audience is important.
The much talked about Mishima Saga which is the game’s story mode obviously took notes from recent titles like Street Fighter V and Injustice 2. Actual gameplay takes a backseat here for cinematics as the entire two-three hours of the mode is probably 80% cutscene. It’s not a good story by any measure, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be. This is Tekken, after all, with its playable boxing kangaroos and and farting dinosaurs. Kazuya and Heihachi’s blood feud demands a certain amount of gravitas, but it’s not difficult to imagine that the producers are aware of how ridiculous and over the top the world they’ve built actually is, and this is very likely why we have this guy jammed in the middle of everything:
Akuma of Street Fighter fame—a fighting game franchise by a completely different studio—not only gets a guest spot in Tekken 7’s playable roster, but is actually embedded into the game’s lore. The Mishima Saga’s crossing into fanfic territory tells me that if the producers think playing fast and loose with the plot can make it a vehicle for a visual pop, then they’ll probably do it. Spectacle is the mode’s driving force.
I don’t main Kazuya or Heihachi, whom you’ll be playing most of the time in this mode, but I slogged through the Mishima Saga for the spectacle. Watching Heihachi go through an army of armed guards, Kazuya drop a freaking satellite, or even any of the well-choreographed one-on-one fight cutscenes actually felt rewarding enough for me to forget that I hated playing as Heihachi. And the fight scenes with Akuma? Fanboy gold. Cinematics in crossover games like Street Fighter x Tekken or Marvel vs Capcom only have enough time to tease bits of these dream matchups. Tekken 7 fed us the whole damned brawl. Two of them, in fact.
If I had to dock points for presentation, It would have to be for the atrocious voicework by the story mode’s primary narrator, the Reporter. Or the whole Reporter as Audience Surrogate angle in general. Also, I know this is a Tekken thing and I really appreciate that Namco has these characters speak in their native tongue, but it strikes me as weird when I hear Nina bark commands at her Zaibatsu goons in English and said goons respond in Japanese and both seem to understand each other just fine. Is ‘Cunning Linguist’ a necessary skill when applying for a job at the Mishima Zaibatsu? Does Heihachi study English and Italian when he’s not busy throwing his children off of cliffs?
It’s odd that Josie Rizal speaks English. Could they not find a voice actor that could speak Filipino? I think it would be adorable if she spoke in a local language that isn’t Filipino. Ilonggo, maybe?
Mechanics (5 / 5)
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What’s comforting about Tekken is if the last one I played was Tekken 3 for the PSX, I could probably pick this game up today and know what to expect. Barring a few changes in how hits behave, the game plays pretty much the same. Each limb is still designated a button instead of the traditional strong punch, weak punch input most traditional fighters go for. The executed attack changes depending on a number of factors including the direction button pressed in conjunction with the attack button, the player’s position relative to their opponent, or the stance the player is assuming.
Stringing these attacks together in the form of combos is given greater emphasis in combat as opposed to special moves, meaning you don’t have to explain to your newbie friend what a quarter circle or charge back-forward are. This is key to Tekken’s success: its simple input scheme rewards players with various flashy moves even for the most casual button-masher, but at the same time its vast arsenal of attacks for each character ensures enough technical nuance in its gameplay for anyone who really wants to sink their teeth into the game.
A noteworthy addition to gameplay are Power Crushes, moves that still absorb damage from mid or high attacks but are uninterruptible. High-level play will likely see a lot of use out of these moves as they’re very handy for interrupting enemy attack and getting your own offense going. Maybe even an EVO Moment 37.
Tekken 7’s most significant addition is likely Rage Mode, which is a state characters enter when below 25% health. While in Rage Mode, players can either execute special combos called Rage Drives, or special cinematic moves called Rage Arts that deal damage inversely proportional to their remaining health. While Rage Drive may require more familiarity of each character, Rage Arts are designed to be accessible with a single button press, making it a viable option for players across all skill ranges. Much like Power Crushes, Rage Mode is designed to help shift the momentum of battle but are only useable once per round. Players in Rage Mode must decide when to best use their emergency moves and those facing down an opponent in said mode are kept on their toes.
Content (5 / 5)
Tekken 7 features a cast of 36 playable characters out of the box with two more (Eliza from Tag Tournament 2 and the incoming Geese Howard from SNK’s Fatal Fury) as DLC. Series stalwarts like Lei Wulong, Julia/Michelle Chang and Anna Williams are conspicuously absent, which is unfortunate. This feels like a misstep for an installment that’s celebrating its history, but with a character pool of 38, players aren’t exactly going to be starved for options. Series veterans are also in for a treat since out of those 38 characters, 10 are new and all of them (with the exception of the still unreleased Geese) bring something different to the table.
Since Tekken 5 and Soul Calibur III, Namco’s fighters have stood above all other modern fighting games when it comes to personalization and Tekken 7 is no exception. Returning from previous installments is the customization suite, where players can customize UI graphics like life bars and their player tags or edit their favorite character’s appearance using items that can either be unlocked in different game modes or purchased using Fight Money earned from playing.
Tekken 7 provides hundreds of unlockable equipment to mix and match guaranteeing thousands of possibilities to turn your favorite fighter into your own. Whether it’s turning Lucky Chloe into a magical fairy, Asuka into a Bullet Club Stan or King into a piledriving Hatoful Boyfriend, playing dress-up in the customization mode has become equally as entertaining as the fighting itself.
Also notable is that the Gallery section has a collection of every cutscene, promotional video, and Pachinko visuals of the series since the very first game. The only two videos that appear to be missing is the animated OVA and the trainwreck that was the live action adaptation. Likewise, the Jukebox has all every soundtrack of every Tekken game, and you can set these to replace Tekken 7’s standard playlist.
Features (4 / 5)
Despite all the wonderful content Tekken 7 has out of the box, some things feel lacking. Most recent fighting games have very extensive tutorial modes to teach new players its many complex mechanics, but Tekken 7 does not have one. This is a strange omission, considering Tekken Tag Tournament 2 already had such a feature in the form of the Fight Lab mode. Other fighters have taken great pains to make their games’ mechanics more transparent for first timers in the hopes of getting more players into competitive shape. While certain design decisions in Tekken 7 certainly feel like they were meant to make the game more inclusive of players of different skill levels, the lack of a more comprehensive tutorial mode is a curious design choice.
Speaking of inclusivity, let me circle back to the Mishima Saga for a bit. I am so glad they included Story Assist. Story Assists are shortcut inputs for special attacks exclusive to this mode. I’m no Heihachi player, and any stage where I had to play Grandpa Mishima would have stalled my progress significantly had I not been able to get through these fights with these attacks. Still, they didn’t feel like too much of a cheat. Fights still turned out to be plenty challenging even in Normal, but that could be just because I suck at this.
I’d comment more on online play, but I did very little of that and spent a lot more time in the lobby. I set connection preference to ‘4 and Above’ on Quick Play & Ranked, and it takes a while to find an opponent. Whenever it does find one, it can’t seem to connect to them. I think I may have spent a full hour trying to get into a match, and I only actually managed to get into one. It was stable enough to be playable, and we even had a rematch (I got my butt kicked both times). Still, it took forever to find this one match. I could have been doing better things, and by better things, I mean Treasure Battle.
Treasure Battle is basically an endless arcade mode where players are awarded Fight Money and Chests. Chest types vary in rarity and can either contain more Fight Money or new customization items. It’s a simple concept, but it feels really nice when you unlock a chest that has neat new gear for your favorite character. I’ve already lost hours of my life trying to unlock Lucky Chloe’s Lucky Witch outfit.
Tekken 7 has additional item/costume DLC, which is pretty normal these days, I suppose? Also as DLC, there’s Eliza and the upcoming Geese Howard from Fatal Fury. Oh, and Tekken Bowl. I have issues with having to purchase additional characters and a mini-game as DLC, but for Geese and Tekken Bowl (TEKKEN BOWL), I’m willing to make exceptions.
Overall (4.5 / 5)
Tekken 7 is a great port of an already excellent arcade game and is a beautiful homage to the franchise and its characters. The version-exclusive Mishima Saga, while far from perfect, was an entertaining enough distraction and a bittersweet sendoff(?) for one of the franchise’s key characters. But while Tekken 7 dedicates much of its content to the franchise’s rich history, its introduction of new combat mechanics and a hefty 10 new characters (11 if you count Jack-7) tells me that the franchise has its eyes set on the future. Tekken’s here to stay, and no lava pit is going to change that.
Tekken 7 on the PlayStation 4 juggles a victorious 4.6 / 5. This title is available on PS4, XBox One and PC.