Tekken’s fate unknown after milestone entry
Tekken is about a certain substance and style. The fighting engine is so deep in Tekken that if you’re just starting with the seventh game, you’re at an immediate disadvantage because you’re behind. Way behind. Story-wise, you’re behind, too. There’s so much going on with the Mishima clan that you’re bound to be asking the question: Why now? Tekken isn’t just answering that; it’s posing the question of what’s next?
For the Mishima clan — and Tekken’s roster at large — the future is the question on everyone’s mind, but to get there, Tekken 7 stakes its ambitions on looking back to tell the story of the future. Spoiler alert: With Heihachi gone, there’s only Kazuya and Jin left to carry on the blood feud of the clan. The surrounding entities are on either side of the conflict between father and son, and there will be casualties. But that isn’t Tekken 7’s main story to tell. Really, it’s two questions: How did Kazuya become enmeshed in the devil gene foolishness, and how is Heihachi entangled in that as well? The answers lay with new character Kazumi Mishima, Kazuya’s mother and Heihachi’s wife. She plays a central role in unraveling the mystery of Kazuya’s transformation using the devil gene and why Heihachi threw his child off a cliff more than 40 years before.
While Bandai Namco is setting up the payoff, look around. You’re in a Tekken game and many things will be true at once: The sound will be phenomenal, and the graphics will be stunning. After all, this is a Tekken title; the King of the Iron Fist tournament does not slouch. What’s striking is, this is a four-year-old game and it still looks decent. Tekken has never been one to hold back when it comes to looks, and even with the upgraded PlayStation 4 Pro, it’s still a good-looking game. Tekken 7 could look worse with the benefit of more processing power, and some sections do show the age of the game. However, it’s minimal as far as Tekken is concerned, and Tekken 7 is still a powerhouse when compared to everything else on the market.
The soundtrack is excellent, though I wanted a little more from it. I realize that not every Tekken soundtrack is going to be the first Tag, where every track was a banger. However, this is Tekken, and a certain bar has been set by past games that current games must live up to. There are some bangers here, but not nearly enough. For reference, I have every Tekken soundtrack ever released, arcade and home versions. For the first four games, I have the entire soundtrack saved on my iPod. As the series progressed, I had fewer songs from each soundtrack. As of Tekken 7, I have two tracks. It’s a good soundtrack, but it just isn’t anything I haven’t heard before in a Tekken game. Tekken 8, or whatever it will be called, will have to step things up in the sound department.
As far as Tekken’s playability, I can’t really attest to it on a hands-on level. Full disclosure: I’m not a good Tekken player. That said, however, I find it a little easier to pick up Tekken and play with the new features added in the arcade mode. I really like that there’s an easy combo assist feature. It makes it far less frustrating to learn the combo system, and it makes it much easier for beginners to understand how moves flow together.
Tekken, despite having only four attack buttons, has always been about depth, and that’s scary for the uninitiated like myself. With the assist feature, I’m more inclined to take the time to learn and dig just a little deeper with the series. It’s a fantastic addition that needs to stick around in future entries.
The character customization mode also deserves some praise as it’s coming along nicely. It’s been around now for at least three games, and it’s gotten better each iteration. This is part of the depth of Tekken — along with its engine and combo system — that makes it such a great series. Tekken 7 takes care of the details, and the obvious love and care put into the customization system gives the game continued life, even as it gets a little long in the tooth. The fact that new characters and upgrades are still being released is fantastic considering the game’s age.
With the storyline dictating growth and the graphics engine needing to catch up to other fighting game darlings, Tekken has its work cut out in keeping up with the surrounding competition. Tekken 7 does an admirable job demonstrating its stability and ability to lead the pack as the King of the Iron Fist, and its longevity and intuitive features continue to make it an attractive option for those needing a fix from Mishima and Co. Tekken 7 is good enough to keep its crown and can probably shrug off new challenges for the throne until its time for the eighth go-round. Long live the king.