Since I first played Tekken 3 way back in the bygone year of 2000, I have been a diehard fan. Beating my first arcade ladder as King was an experience unlike any other. The goofy cutscene followed by the announcement that I had unlocked a new character filled my heart with the wonder and astonishment that forms lifelong nostalgia. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked.
Having played every entry that has subsequently released, I feel a connection to the Tekken series that has only grown stronger with age. Though the consoles and my main character choices have changed, my love for these games hasn’t wavered in the slightest. When Tekken 8 was announced in September of 2022, that wonder filled my soul again as I daydreamed of what the new entry would have to offer.
Tekken 7‘s console port was close to perfection in my eyes, so the series could only go up from there. Needless to say it’s been a long time coming, and my expectations have been exceeded. Tekken 8 takes what makes the series great, turns it up to 11, and sends the series flying into the stratosphere. The wait has been well worth it, and now I’m addicted. Get ready for the next battle!
Tekken 8’s story, The Dark Awakens, picks up six months after the events of the last game. Heihachi Mishima is dead, and Kazuya is fully embracing the evil within him as he hosts the King of the Iron Fist Tournament. This time around, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, as contestants fight for the survival of their countries. Jin Kazama, Kazuya’s own son, is on a mission to destroy his evil father. His end goal now is to put an end to the evil legacy that is the Mishima family lineage. The story sees great (and not so great) alliances made, and it takes the storytelling of the Tekken series to another level entirely. From writing to presentation, this is by far one of the best Tekken stories ever, and a huge step up from the previous entry.
But How Does it Play?
Unlike the entry that came before it, Tekken 8 tells its story in a much more cinematic fashion. Gone are the slideshow style cutscenes that were simply divided by fights. Now each cutscene feels more like a movie, with amazing framing and camera angles. Fights are no longer cut and dry, either. Some go on for a while, with scenes showing the progression of the conflict between “rounds”. The intro fight alone is a work of art, with both Jin and Kazuya’s forms evolving as the fight goes on. This scene is showcased in the Tekken 8 demo, and it really paints an accurate picture of what to expect from this mode. If you haven’t yet, I’d recommend checking it out! It holds up on it’s own, but the gameplay makes it hundreds of times better.
Throwing Hands: the Gameplay
Let’s get one thing straight: this isn’t exactly your daddy’s Tekken game. While the mechanics and move sets have always been complex, Tekken 8 manages to both add to the complexity and simplify what makes the series so grand.
Tekken follows in the previous title’s footsteps in making sure the barrier for entry isn’t as scary as a new player seeing 100+ moves may think. This is where simplification is done right, making sure to not take away from the experience in the slightest. If you’re new to the game or just a bit rusty, you can use a moveset called Special Style. It breaks down moves and some combos into a handful of simpler button presses.
Much like Street Fighter 6’s modern controls, it serves as a guide to what is possible in the world of Tekken. Unlike modern controls, however, they can be turned on and off mid-match, similar to Tekken 7’s easy specials. Just press L1, and a set of easy to use moves become available immediately. And if you have no use for this option, you can simply remap the button for something a little more useful!
The Art of War: Mechanics
Fighting game players are no stranger to super and special meters in their games. Just as much as you must focus on finding an opening and predicting your opponent, you’re usually also tasked with managing an array of meters. Street Fighter 6 has the drive gauge and super meters, and Mortal Kombat 1 has the breaker meter. These usually allow players to supe up their special moves and attacks. Tekken 8, however, does things its own way. Rather than build up a bar over a match, teetering between losing it all and gaining it back from your opponent, Tekken 8 gives you your full bar up front. Only thing is, you can only use it once per round.
First Line of Offense and Last Ditch Efforts
Enter the Heat Gauge, a meter that lets you gain a decent advantage during a round. As well as enabling chip damage on a blocking opponent, it gives you access to several powerful moves per round. Every character has a selection of moves that allow them to do various special grabs or rush down attacks on their opponent. Your main Heat move, the Heat Smash, works like a Rage Art in nearly every way. It’s a great way to start the round off strong, or keep your opponent at bay later on. Don’t worry about saving it until you’re close to defeat though, as Rage Arts and Rage Drives are still a big part of the combat.
For the uninitiated, the Rage mechanic is a damage buff that activates when a player is low on health. When in this state, all attacks deal an extra 10% of damage. Alongside the buff, there are character specific moves that are made available when in this mode. These moves do massive damage and can bring your opponent back down to your level if needed. Think Fatal Blows in the MK series. However, if you use said attacks, you will lose all buffs and be left to fend for yourself.
Every little detail and caveat is meticulously built to ensure balance, and man does it work. At no point did I feel over or underpowered, a huge testament to the amount of work and detail that Arika and Bandai Namco Studios has put into this title. The modes that are available from launch are just as impressive and plentiful, too!
I used to subscribe to the idea that fighting games shouldn’t worry so much about the single-player side of things. It always baffled me when people would be upset at the lack of solo options. That opinion has changed dramatically since experiencing the wonders of Tekken 8. In my first day with the game, I found myself playing through the single-player modes and having the best time I’ve had in a long while. Between ghost battles, the Arcade Quest, and everything in between, I couldn’t pull myself away. I eventually forgot that I wasn’t playing with real people. I even got lost for a few hours messing around in Tekken Ball, a mode that I plan on covering in a separate article.
Tekken 8’s Arcade Quest functions similar to Street Fighter 6 ‘s World Tour mode. You take a custom made avatar and play through a story centered around you, all the while learning the ins and outs of the game’s mechanics. Unlike World Tour, it works more like a fighting game community simulator. You will visit arcades and play against others on cabinets; leveling up in ranks and taking part in tournaments. You’ll make friends, form rivalries, and fight to become the best Tekken player in the world. I found this mode to be extremely enjoyable, and it makes learning the game even more entertaining. Within this mode you’ll also learn about the newly updated ghost battles.
You Look Like You’ve Seen a Ghost (Battle)
Introduced in Tekken 6, Ghost Battles are fights against AI that’s programmed to behave like a real player. In Tekken 8, this has been revamped and made more advanced, as it’s no longer a set number of players. Instead, it learns from players in real time. Whether you want to train against a friend, one of the pros, or even yourself, you have that option in Ghost Battles. It’s also a great option if you want to try online play but are too intimidated to jump right in.
Thanks to the behavior of the AI, I found myself playing this as if I were online (which helped with the rough WiFi that I had where I was at). It’s an addition I gladly welcome, and can’t get enough of. If it’s a more classic solo mode you’re looking for, there’s still the typical arcade mode which speaks for itself. The multiplayer side is equally fleshed out, and it’s been given just as much love and care.
Fun With Others: Multiplayer
All modes on offer are your standard fighting game affair. Both ranked and casual modes are present, along with the online version of Arcade Quest that works just like Street Fighter 6’s Battle Hub. All this is held together with some impressive net code and options to tweak your search for a match. You can aim for a perfect connection with people in a similar rank to you, or you can choose to take on any connection strength with whatever players are available, regardless of rank. Alongside those options is the ability to change how the game’s rollback functions. You can choose to focus on frame fluidity or input responsiveness, both with their own pros and cons.
In my time online, I never had trouble finding a match, and the matches I found had buttery smooth performance. And thanks to the new addition of cross-play, I was able to face off against my PC playing friends. It really helps build a strong sense of community between players of all platforms, and helped us spar when we weren’t having our local couch matches.
Graphics and Sound
With all the fun modes available, the amazing graphics and sound design on display really round out the experience. First of all, the game is freaking gorgeous. Running on Unreal Engine 5, Tekken 8 showcases just how great a game, let alone a fighting game, can look on the engine. Particle effects, detailed backgrounds, and pristine character models round out a wonderful looking game, and really capture the attention of players and onlookers alike. Tekken 8 really does the most with the PS5‘s hardware, and I’m glad to hear witness.
The sound design is equally impressive, as it takes everything that made previous games stand out and adds to it. Punches have more weight to them and sound more meaty, while tages have their share of unique sounds to add to the atmosphere. The soundtrack is phenomenal, as well. It features some classic Tekken tunes reimagined for story mode, and the most anime-esque intro song I’ve ever heard (which is in no way a bad thing). If the new soundtrack isn’t for you, you can easily change it to any of the previous OST’s. If you can’t decide, you can pick your favorite tracks from all of them for a custom playlist. The options are limitless. And while we’re on the topic of customization…
Complete Control: Customization
Tekken 7 was well known for all of its options to make the game your own. All 32 character’s costumes are customizable like in the last entry, but with a few more options this time around. For example, you can alter dimensions on most of your accessories, as well as change their placement. For some that may not seem like a big deal, but being able to put a flower behind an ear instead of sprouting from the scalp is a huge improvement to me. You can edit everything to your liking, and that is quite literal. Oh, and none of it is done with microtransactions (looking at you Capcom and Netherrealm Studios). You buy everything with currency you can earn by simply playing. Yet another reason this is true modern fighting game perfection.
My final verdict after nearly 10 hours is this is easily a 10/10. There’s so many single player modes, the story mode is great, and the ghost fights are great for training. Plus, no microtransactions. If you like Tekken 7 and you’re debating on getting 8, do it. It’s literally perfect. For the first time in 20 plus years, I felt the same feeling I had when I played Tekken 3 for the first time. Tekken 8 is officially my favorite fighting game, and I will be stuck on this for a long time.
- Amazing graphics and sound design
- Near perfect net-code
- Near limitless customization
- Fun, satisfying combat
- Game modes for days
- Large roster
- Tekken Ball
- Awesome and engaging story mode
- I had to wait for this game to release
- Eddy Gordo is missing from the base roster