The Video Gamer’s Experience – Tekken 7 Review

When the original Playstation was released in stores the opportunity to test out the somewhat budding genre of 3D fighting games started with a pair of games, “Battle Arena Toshinden” and “Tekken”. Both were highly entertaining forays in this mostly unique world for a gamer like yours truly who had gone out of his way to play the best of the best (and the worst of the worst) fighting games available. “Tekken 2” truly made me a fan of the franchise, but it wasn’t until “Tekken 3” did I truly start investing my time and learning how to play a game closer to “Virtua Fighter” (another historic 3D fighting game) than “Street Fighter”. “Tekken 4” felt like a step back while “Tekken 5” proved to be a return to form while setting the foundation for some of the offline features seen in the franchise’s future iterations. Skipping “Tekken 6” and only partially playing “Tekken Tag Tournament 2”, my fandom for the series had really waned. After two years of testing it out in arcades amongst some of the best gamers on the eastern hemisphere, “Tekken 7” finally got its console release – making it one of the few 3D fighters to drop on eighth generation consoles. With mixed reviews starting to pour out in regards to everything but the actual fighting, I came into my first “Tekken” game in five years optimistic that the gameplay wouldn’t let me down, but wondering whether or not it could keep me invested as much as “Tekken 5” did over a decade ago.


Did I Complete “Tekken 7”?


Considering the time-consuming nature of “Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s” achievement/trophy list, I came into “Tekken 7” with no real intentions of completing the franchise’s latest iteration. But “Tekken 7” actually features a ridiculously easy achievement/trophy list that has requirements such as winning one Ranked match online and finishing the game’s story mode. Even some of the more difficult achievements/trophies like winning the special matches against Akuma can be attained after a few attempts. Barely fifteen hours of unfocused effort passed before I buckled down and produced 50000 points worth of damage to the AI in Practice mode (not in one sitting, mind you) to gain the trophy associated with my action and the subsequent platinum trophy.




Did “Tekken 7” Live Up to the Hype?


The minds at Namco (now “Bandai Namco”) did an excellent job over twenty years ago in creating a foundation for a fighting game that hasn’t needed many alterations, just improvements in regards to character balancing and ensuring almost anyone can pick up and play the game without much practice while giving a gamer the incentive to improve with their character of choice. Rather than sticking with the prototypical “light” or “strong” strikes, “Tekken” maps the strike buttons to each limb such as the square/X button corresponding to a left punch. Specific strike buttons pressed together can create combo opportunities, the ability to throw a nearby opponent, and even switch stances with the intent of unleashing a powered attack. Movement is essential in “Tekken” courtesy of full directional movement including sidestepping. By pushing the directional pad/analog stick in different directions while tapping the strike buttons allows characters to pull off various maneuvers from simple jabs & front kicks to sick grapples and opponent launching uppercuts that, once again, can be turned into combos that could end a fight incredibly fast if someone isn’t careful. Every character (including ten new fighters with a pair – both connected to their namesakes – having styles similar to previous characters seen through the series) has similar base abilities when it comes to striking, but everything else is incredibly different due to a mixture of in-depth move/combo lists based on various fighting styles (both real and fictionalized), physical attributes, and, in the case of someone like guest star Akuma, even projectiles that, while powerful, can easily be sidestepped.



There are major additions to the gameplay options in “Tekken 7”, specifically “Rage Mode”. When a fighter is down to about thirty percent health, that character will start flashing red alongside the health bar. With the tap of the right bumper/R1, the player of this hurt character can pull off a “Rage Art” attack – an impressive looking series of strikes that can cut down a lot of the winning opponent’s health if it connects. Alongside Rage Art is “Rage Drive”. By hitting a specific button sequence while in Rage Mode, the player can land an attack that can turn into a lengthy combo if the player is properly prepared rather than just being a “one-hit” sequence like Rage Art attacks. Thankfully Rage Art and Rage Drive attacks can be blocked by the patient & aware; leaving the failed fighter open to punishment that will most likely end the fight in favor of the defensive player. Rage Mode is really an unnecessary addition (especially for old school “Tekken” players), but is implemented in an intelligent fashion that doesn’t hinder the overall experience during the various fights. There are also “Power Crush” attacks that allows a character to absorb strikes before dishing out a devastating counterstrike (low strikes & throws can stop these), and “Screw Attack” maneuvers (replacing the “Bound” system from the last two games) that can leave a struck opponent spinning into the air for one of those lengthy airborne combos (though it can be difficult to pull off sometimes without a wall to help keep the opponent in midair).

Beyond the actual gameplay are the various modes including the much to do about practically nothing in the main story mode, “The Mishima Saga”. What initially appeared to be a retelling of the entire Heihachi & Kazuya Mishima feud that has become the lore’s backbone is nothing but a lackluster continuation of the events seen in “Tekken 6’s” story topped off by a bit of fighting between the father & son pair as well as flashbacks to lazily explain the origins of the infamous “Devil Gene” (something that has been retconned multiple times). While the cutscenes are nice to look at, it really isn’t until the last twenty minutes or so of a two and a half to three hour mode before “The Mishima Saga” reaches its stride and feels satisfying. Add that to the fact very few characters are given a spotlight in the main story mode with those individuals relegated to one-fight story missions (“Character Episodes”) that provide the typical character endings usually seen when playing through “Tekken’s” “Arcade Mode” (a mode that is provided in the game, but for some reason isn’t attached to the character endings as per the norm). Arcade Mode was usually a great way to learn new characters in a short period of time while completing the game in the process, but not this time around.



The real bread & butter of offline play is “Treasure Battle”. By picking a specific character, the player can do battle with numerous fighters decked out in the various items one will gain while playing the mode that can be equipped to make every fight mostly look unique. This character customization option – something introduced in “Tekken 5” – is lackluster, too. A majority of the human characters have the same clothing options with only a few getting the special items treatment like long-time favorites such as King & Heihachi. It’s the oddball characters players can really deck out including Yoshimitsu. Unlike “Injustice 2”, the costume adjustments are mostly for cosmetic purposes only and have no bearing on the actual gameplay other than a few slow projectiles like a pizza pan the player can throw. With each battle won in “Tekken 7” comes the awarding of coins that can be used to purchase clothing items and, most interestingly, almost all the full motion videos, cutscenes, & art work from all the “Tekken” games courtesy of “Gallery” mode. There’s also a “Jukebox” mode featuring all the music from the “Tekken” games – making both additions big pluses, but don’t improve or degrade the game’s overall quality for people who just want to fight.

More than likely “just fighting” for “Tekken” players is dedicated to the quality of its online functionality. Sadly, “Tekken 7” online is an inconsistent experience. Though not as bad now as it was immediately following the game’s release thanks to a couple of updates, “Tekken 7” online is still rough around the edges. The wait to get a game started in the three online modes – “Ranked”, “Player” & “Tournament” – can range from anywhere between a couple of minutes to ten minutes if the game fails to connect after the players accept a fight. This is made even worse by the game’s long loading times (a problem both online & offline). And there’s no guarantee even if you get into a game it will stay stable long enough for the players to determine who’s the best. But when all the stars align and connectivity issues & quality are up to par, “Tekken 7” online is a blast to play even if you’re getting beaten down by a much more experienced player (and you can also have a rematch with any player courtesy of the “Revenge Match” option if you lose as long as they accept). Thanks to the lack of offline modes to really keep a player coming back for more, “Tekken 7” is going to live & die on the quality of its online functionality. Hopefully Bandai Namco continues to improve upon the foundation it already has set in place that allows gamers to come together and have some incredible fun from around the globe by getting the online functionality to work as flawless as its contemporaries like “Injustice 2”.



The basis of “Tekken’s” gameplay is just as strong as ever with “Tekken 7” – it does just enough to remind gamers 3D fighters can still be done in a fantastic manner without going out of its way to revolutionize the genre like it did three times over two gaming generations. Unfortunately, “Tekken 7” suffers from various problems outside of the actual fighting thanks to the lacking modes both offline & online, online functionality being hit & miss, and the character customization not being as robust as it could’ve been considering the variety of characters involved in this iteration. While it won’t be heralded as the standard of all 3D fighters or even the standard of all “Tekken” games, “Tekken 7” still ranks high compared to its predecessors on the strength of its gameplay alone.


Should You Play “Tekken 7”?


“Tekken 7” is such a mixed bag it’s almost unbelievable that this is what came from two-plus years of testing, hard work & apparent planning (an argument can be made in regards to the latter). From a gameplay perspective this is still the same old great “Tekken” with a few additions and subtractions that actually makes this iteration feel closer to a step forward thanks to proper character balancing and blocking windows for the new gameplay additions like Rage Mode. Beyond the gameplay is where things get rough. Online is finicky at best no matter the connection qualities of players. The offline modes are both disappointing (the story mode and handling of character endings) and highly entertaining while lacking as well (Treasure Battle & local versus mode not having any type of customization options other than round lengths for the latter). The other fluffy stuff such as aesthetic customizations and Gallery Mode’s qualities will vary from player to player, but really don’t add much to the game’s overall value. If you only care about what happens from round to round, “Tekken 7” truly delivers offline and mostly online. If simply seeing who is “The King of Iron Fist” isn’t enough to keep you interested, “Tekken 7” might be something you’d want to wait & pick up in a few months or during a sale, or maybe go with the NetherRealm Studio games such as the recently released “Injustice 2” or “Mortal Kombat XL”.


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