The King of Iron First tournament is back after a long wait. Tekken 7 is the first main entry in the Tekken series since 2007. In the meantime, Bandai Namco wowed us with the supremely fun Tag Tournament 2, and its experimental free-to-play successor Tekken Revolution.
Tekken 7 meshes the lessons learned since 6 with the best bits from the whole series to create one of the most polished and controlled fighting games ever made.
Throughout all of Tekken 7’s console release, you can feel the careful, guiding hand of the developers controlling everything to be just so. Tekken 7 has been in development for a long time, and certainly hasn’t been rushed out. Bandai Namco have taken their time to make sure each element of the game is just the way they want it, tweaking it constantly from the original Arcade version over multiple builds, releasing a core package that is extremely impressive.
One of the most polished and controlled fighting games ever made.
With that said, the story mode and tutorial options do fall a little short. The story focuses on the Mishima bloodline, and the cycle of revenge between Heichachi and Kazuya. There’s also something going on with Jin, too (the grandson of the bunch), but it turns out that’s more set-up for story in the future than anything much to do with what’s going on in Tekken 7, which kind of makes some of the threads feel a bit wishy washy.
Narratively speaking, Tekken has been pretty confusing so far. Tekken 7 does manage to gracefully get around that by having the story narrated by a reporter, who fills in the backstory as he’s investigating. The gallery also includes all the cutscenes from the previous games (even both Tag Tournaments), and you start off with summary videos of the story for each game already unlocked too.
The story mode initially teaches you how to play a little bit, prompting you to press the correct attack buttons, to crouch to avoid some attacks, to move in and out of the background. You’d better like it, because it’s about the best you’re gonna get at the game teaching you beyond practice mode (which, to be fair, is pretty fully featured). There’s different difficulty modes ranging from a very easy one to a brick wall, and in the story mode only you get access to one button special moves activated by pressing a face button while holding a trigger.
You’d better like Heihachi, as you’ll be playing him throughout a large chunk of the story. Each chapter has some nicely animated cutscenes, followed by a single fight, or possibly an extra fight with some generic mooks without much health, who jump at you one by one. It’s mostly good, melodramatic fun. Some of the fights do bleed together with the cutscenes, but the transition can sometimes be a little janky.
Still, you can appreciate what the story mode is going for, and, even without much knowledge of the Mishimas’ confusing history, you can still get behind the characters’ motivations and get pumped for a fight. It’s a lot better than the story modes in some other fighting games, but a little too close to something like Injustice 2 in concept, without the same polish in execution.
Side chapters highlight some of the weird and wacky personality that’s missing from other parts of the game.
Characters not directly involved in the main story have their own side-chapters. These are, again, just single fights for each character, with a text intro explaining who they are and what they’re doing, and a (usually pretty goofy) cutscene once you beat it. It’s a nice contrast to have these mostly silly adventures against the over the top drama of the main story mode, but it kind of leaves you wanting more.
Especially for new characters, like Lucky Chloe, having basically one cutscene barely showing who they are isn’t much. These sort of replace what you’d usually get in the arcade mode, which, while present this time around, is just a series of fights and little else. It’s better that these side chapters are here than not here, but it sort of highlights some of the weird and wacky personality that’s missing from other parts of the game.
New mechanic additions give more options and possible responses than ever.
But we’re mostly here for the fighting. To be honest, the mechanic improvements made in Tekken 7 not only make it one of the best in the series, but also help to make it easier to understand for newcomers. They’ve overhauled the way Tekken works pretty significantly while, at the same time, keeping the core of Tekken intact.
On top of tweaks like easier wake up, and slimmed down (though still pretty chunky) move sets, new additions in the power crush, screw attacks, and rage arts give more options and possible responses than ever. Infinite juggles aren’t so bread and butter anymore, you can power crush through attacks when you’re being wailed on, and rage arts (simple to use, very powerful special moves you can only use on low health) raise the comeback factor through the roof. Trying to finish an opponent off can be nerve wracking when they’re ready to unleash the rage.
Tekken 7 is more than ever a game of call and response. The rounds fall away pretty quickly, but the action is rarely too fast for you to not realise what’s going on. It always feels like you have an option, or that there’s a way out of a jam if you can just think of it in time. It makes it both thrilling to play, and even thrilling to watch. Even someone who never plays games will be able to watch and appreciate what’s going on as players block and poke each other out before landing just that right hit.
Tekken 7 is more than ever a game of call and response.
Even with first to 3 rounds as standard, the matches don’t last all that long, so slick and fluid are the dances. When both players are on a slither of health, the slow-mo that kicks in when one of them is about to land a killing hit adds to the tension for both those playing and watching — fist pumping moments are plentiful.
It’s the sort of music that will make you want to get sweaty.
Some of the hypest fighting game music ever made accompanies you on your journey to become the King of Iron Fist. It’s the sort of music that will make you want to get sweaty, and push through a slew of matches in a row when you really should have stopped a while ago. Combined with the fast pace of the bouts and the approachable speed of the match back and forth, Tekken 7‘s excellent soundtrack pushes you ever onward. Final Round mixes of each stage even increase tempo to make sure the tensest matches finish with players giving it their all to the very last breath.
There’s a tonne of customisation options for all the characters in Tekken 7, ranging from awesome to hilarious. If you’ve not been playing online as Lucky Chloe with a deer head, then you’re doing it wrong. What’s especially refreshing (which is perhaps a bit sad), is that you unlock these items through treasure chests that you simply earn by playing online, or in the treasure mode. The latter is similar to arcade mode but endless, challenging you to fight against CPUs in custom gear to earn chests.
One of the most exhilarating and satisfying fighting games to date.
Online seemed to work pretty well when we tested it. The grading system seemed to match us properly to players of a similar skill level, and the frequent promotion chances were more than enough incentive to want to keep going. An especially nice touch is the option to challenge a player to a revenge match when you lose, but only the once. There’s a quiet respect from you each walking away having bested one another. There’s also a tournament mode that offers some big in-game fight money prizes. A helpful prompt also promises to punish those who disconnect from matches harshly in match-ups, which is nice to see too. Especially when some people are responsible for hosting entire tournaments.
Tekken 7 is an extremely good fighting game, wrapped up in a package that is one of the best out there for a fighting game at the moment. The only problem is, during the long time they spent polishing it in development, some other titles have released with comparatively stronger tutorials and story modes. It would have been nicer to see more done with those aspects of the game, but they’re far from bad in their current state, and don’t detract from one of the most exhilarating and satisfying fighting games to date. Tekken 7 is a must-have for anyone with a fleeting interest in the series or fighting games, and is one you’ll definitely want to watch at tournaments.