The Tekken series has been a PlayStation mainstay since it began its home console run in 1995. Since then there have been multiple main entries and several spin-offs and mobile games released in the groundbreaking franchise. Tekken 7, released initially in arcades in 2015 and consoles in 2017, is the last entry to be ported to consoles from arcades.
While Tekken doesn’t have much similar competition since Virtua Fighter hasn’t seen a new entry in almost 2 decades, that doesn’t mean the team at Bandai Namco was slacking on this title. Quite the contrary, this entry in the series ended up becoming the second best-selling entry in the series, right behind Tekken 3. Let’s dive right into a world torn between a dark corporation and a worldwide criminal organization in our review of Tekken 7.
The story continues the Mishima saga. Heihachi Mishima is working hard on taking down his son Kazuya and the G-Corp while trying to regain control of the Mishima Zaibatsu, a worldwide criminal organization. Kazuya isn’t his only problem, as a certain character from the Street Fighter series arrives to eliminate the Mishima bloodline. The entire story is told from the perspective of a reporter whose family were killed in the midst of the ongoing war between the Mishima Zaibatsu and the G-Corp. He’s on a mission to uncover the family history behind the Mishimas and the devil gene while avenging his family.
There’s side stories as well, in the form of character episodes. These episodes tell the stories of some of the other Tekken fighters as of the 7th entry. These are typically a quick story told in a text intro followed by a fight and an arcade ending style cutscene. Most of these endings were way more light-hearted than the main story. It was a good way to break away from the primary mode for a bit after playing through multiple chapters.
But How Does Story Mode Play?
The main story mode plays out like your modern fighting game, switching between characters in between cutscenes and animated storytelling. However, Tekken 7 has one big innovation for its time. If you choose to play story mode on easy, it makes combos simpler and puts full focus on accessibility. For a game that can be as complex as Tekken, that option makes entry level play less daunting. You could play through the story mode and get by on fundamentals and the square and triangle buttons. Though it won’t make you exceptionally better at the game, it can give you a push into its world and entertainment value.
The visual storytelling is great and the cutscenes are well animated, but the lack of involvement is a glaring flaw, as is the case with most fighting game story modes. Unless you’re into the story or want to know more about your favorite characters, there’s not much here to draw you in aside from some unlockables. And at just about 3 hours and some change of playtime, the main story won’t keep you occupied for long. That’s not to say the story is terrible in any way, just that it’s a fighting game, and there’s not much to do that’s outside of the core gameplay without alienating some fans anyway. And where Tekken 7 really shines though is its gameplay, so it has a leg to stand on here.
Tekken 7 leans heavily into the spectacle of what a 3D fighting game can be. Where Virtua Fighter is a grounded martial arts tournament, Tekken is a full on martial arts movie. Every attack has a bright lightning affect that accentuates the impact of each blow that lands. It’s like a little rush of dopamine every time I hear a successful critical attack in the middle of a combo. The combat is also equally satisfying to learn, as each character has many unique attacks and stances to learn. You’ll never have to learn all 140+ moves for every character, but the feeling of getting closer to mastering one never gets old.
The Rage System returns from Tekken 6, but it’s been revamped this time around. Rage mode used to only increase your damage output once your health had dropped below a certain threshold. This time around, it gives you access to two new types of moves, rage Drives and Rage Arts. Rage Drives let you use upgraded versions of your moves, while Rage Arts are their own moves entirely. Think EX and Super moves in Street Fighter. This makes the final moments of a match a lot more intense as the comeback potential is significantly higher.
Fans of the Tekken series know what to expect from a Tekken game. Flashy hits, insane combos and air juggles, and an amazing cast of characters to choose from. You have villainous CEO’s and martial artist pop stars to robot assassins and even a bear or Negan from the Walking Dead to choose from. There’s already 36 characters in the base roster, and the DLC makes it a huge count of 51. Needless to say, the roster is extensive. This allows for plenty of playstyles and a pretty high replay value. This is extended by the game’s decent selection of modes.
Something I’ve grown to appreciate more and more with the advent of online play is the multiplayer community that fighting games cultivate. Nowadays, a fighting game worth its weight in salt has to have decent net-code and good online features. It goes without saying Tekken 7 handles this aspect of the game as well as it does the gameplay. I have had no problem finding a stable match in both ranked and casual, and there isn’t very much noticeable input delay for me. Bandai Namco knew what they were doing and they knocked it out of the park. If online multiplayer isn’t your cup of tea, you aren’t anywhere near out of luck.
If you prefer the solo fighting game experience, there’s enough here to keep you in the game for a long while. You can play through the aforementioned story mode and take part in this chapter of the Mishima saga, or play through the arcade mode to test your skills. If you find those skills need some improvement or you wanna try some stuff out, the training mode is always there. It has everything you need to know and practice. If you want to earn some goodies for customization purposes, you can play the Treasure Battle. It’s like Arcade Mode with prizes.
Tekken 7 has a pretty good grasp on player agency when customizing their experience. There’s a plethora of ways to finely tune your experience to your liking. You can change the music, create alternate character costumes, and you can even change what your opponent sees before a match. The character customization options are where you’re really given a lot of freedom. I’ve turned characters into deer assassins, a SoundCloud rapper, and complete freaks. You can use this to your advantage and design something to throw your opponent off, or focus on looking cool. There’s plenty of options, and more to unlock through the Treasure Battles!
Graphics and Sound
Fighting games have always been on the cutting edge of graphics, and Tekken 7 maintains that consistency. Textures are pretty nicely mapped out, and character animations look nice. The soundtrack is perfection, incorporating techno electronic with rock in the best way possible. And if you have a soft spot in your heart for any of the previous OST’s, you can set them to play as they would have on previous games. I love it when a game gives me this much control over the music. Being a huge Tekken 3 fan, I keep that soundtrack in rotation often here.
The sounds of the fight have a satisfying feel I can’t really describe. It’s kind of like the sound of broken glass: impactful and, in this case, satisfying. I wish I had the words to describe it. Each hit you just land gives such enjoyable feedback, and blocked attacks are dampened in a way that’s still satisfying, but you can clearly tell when a hit didn’t do damage.
My final Thoughts
Tekken has always been a series I hold dear. The solid fighting combined with the well designed and well-written characters has stayed strong after all these years. Tekken 7 proves that the team at Bandai Namco have no plans of stopping, it’s full speed ahead. It has enough to keep casual and hardcore players alike engaged well past the point of getting your money’s worth. It encapsulates a lot of what makes the series great, like its ability to be completely badass while never taking itself too seriously. Tekken has nowhere to go but up from here. And if 8 improves upon everything here, we just may have a masterpiece on our hands.
- Phenomenal mechanics
- Exhilarating matches
- Great story
- Well designed characters (51 in total)
- Amazing soundtrack
- Tons of replayability
- Can have an intimidating learning curve
- Tekken Bowling is DLC