There is a certain beauty in the art of battle. Its an aesthetic that surpasses mere graphical fidelity – a medium where sport and conflict can collide. Over the years, it’s been easy to forget how much Bandai Namco’s Tekken series influenced the art of fighting games. Given how five years have passed since Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the last major iteration to hit home consoles, Tekken 7 certainly seems like a big deal. It also doesn’t hurt that Bandai Namco took two years after it released in arcades to add even more in terms of character, mechanics and features with Fated Retribution to help Tekken 7 rise even higher.
"Clocking in at three hours, the Mishima Saga still doesn’t hold a candle to Injustice 2’s story mode. It’s also a shame that you don’t get significant endings with each character like previous titles."
The Tekken games haven’t been placed on a pedestal for their stories but Tekken 7 makes a concerted effort with its campaign mode. This is a proper cinematic story dubbed the Mishima Saga and it’s focused on – you guessed it – Heihachi, his son Kazuya and grandson Jin Kazama. The three have been in a long-standing blood feud and the current story – where Heihachi regains control of the Zaibatsu, Kazuya leads the G Corporation, Jin Kazama’s supposed disappearance – has a lot going on. It’s actually narrated from the perspective of a Western-ish reporter, giving a different angle to the raging conflict and how it’s affecting the world.
As with previous Tekken games, the result is fairly bombastic with a healthy dose of anime-style schlock. From the opener where a young Kazuya fights against his father, loses and is unceremoniously dumped into a volcano to Heihachi storming the Zaibatsu, besting several soldiers before fighting Nina Williams, there’s little impact in Tekken 7‘s story. I’d probably care a lot more about what’s going on if everything wasn’t happening at such a breakneck pace.
Like Injustice 2, you’ll take control of different fighters throughout Tekken 7‘s story. Rather than throwing you in the deep end and forcing you to master each character’s move set to progress, Bandai Namco added a helpful little feature called Story Assist. Simply hold down the Left Bumper or L1, execute the corresponding face button command and you’re on your way. Even the Rage Arts are easy to activate with a simple press of Right Bumper or R1 to execute a flashy new attack.
Clocking in at three hours, the Mishima Saga still doesn’t hold a candle to Injustice 2’s story mode. It’s also a shame that you don’t get significant endings with each character like previous titles. Still, it’s nice to see these fan favourites return, ham it up in the cut scenes and swear death upon each other once more. And yes, Akuma’s appearance is pretty cool, we will admit.
"The combat system is so robust and deep that it’s a joy to play around with. Tekken 7 maintains the usual “one-button-controls-one-limb” style of combat, making it easy enough to chain combos together."
Thankfully, there’s a lot more to Tekken 7 than the average story mode. Arcade mode returns, allowing players to battle against a handful of opponents before finally facing off against some “bosses”. The new Treasure Battle mode is meant to be the standard “mission” mode for fighting game fans. It’s pretty straightforward – you’ll enter a battle with an AI opponent, usually dressed in ridiculous cosmetics like a knight helm, pizza shield or even bunny ears. Beat them and you earn a Treasure Box containing some cosmetics and currency. This goes on for several matches as you earn your promotions, progress up in rank, face tougher opponents and ideally earn more money.
Treasure Battle is a neat concept because it plays so well into Tekken 7‘s combat system. As you spend time with a certain character, learning their ins and outs, facing tougher opponents and growing as a player, you’re rewarded for your efforts. It’s an especially good feeling in the beginning though the overall variety that Treasure Battle offers is kind of lacking. If you’re looking for Smash Bros-style objectives or Injustice 2-like modifiers, you won’t find that here.
However, the combat system is so robust and deep that it’s a joy to play around with. Tekken 7 maintains the usual “one-button-controls-one-limb” style of combat, making it easy enough to chain combos together. You quickly learn to be more tactical in fights, blocking at the right times and feinting during others. Launching an opponent into the air for a quick juggle is important and while there may be combos with dozens, even a hundred different commands, you quickly learn that there’s more to the game than that.
This is thanks to the new damage cap on combos, limiting their overall effect with the more hits chained. It gives a fighting chance to players less versed in combos to capitalize on mistakes, makes veteran players who combo continuously a threat and emphasizes the new mechanics. Note that the revamped movement mechanics make side-stepping less of a crutch and more of a tactical maneuver than before.
"Regarding the characters, there’s great flow and variety all around. Some are easy to pick up but they possess tons of potential."
The new mechanics include Rage Arts. Rage Mode returns and activates when a fighter is at low health, though it’s not really as overpowered as previous titles. In fact, there’s a neat little bit of balancing where the amount of damage delivered is inversely proportional to your health. Rage Arts allow you to execute certain special moves that can deal high amounts of damage but at the cost of no increased attack when your own health is critical.
Power Crush is an attack that will ignore your enemy’s high and mid attacks, and can be great for outright surprising an opponent who’s trying to interrupt you. Power Crush attacks are peppered through the usual move sets so you’ll have to practice them enough to know when they should be activated. Unfortunately, the game’s training mode isn’t quite up to snuff for this. Tekken 7 in general takes a very “DIY” approach when it comes to learning its intricacies. Previous games didn’t do all that great a job either but it’s weird how things can take a step down from even Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
Regarding the characters, there’s great flow and variety all around. Some are easy to pick up but they possess tons of potential. Each fighter feels distinct while bringing something interesting to the table. Katarina Alves feels good for new player and has a solid set of combos, launchers and juggles that are easy to execute. Poster boy Jin Kazama has some more weight to his attacks but can effectively knock back enemies (while a fighter like Heihachi can effectively punish them on the ground). While it’s too early to discuss how balanced each fighter is against each other, everyone feels strong, distinct, easy to pick up and powerful once you really get the hang of things. That’s not an easy balance state to master but Tekken 7 makes it look easy (plus it’s tons of fun).
We’d be remiss to not mention the new cosmetics, which offer tons of customization for your character. Hair styles, accessories, full outfits, caps, shirts, pants, glasses and other outlandish items are all there for you to dress up your characters with. It also doesn’t hurt that the in-game currency can be used to purchase other things like the cut scenes from previous Tekken games (yes, all of them), concept art and much more.
"The sheer depth of its combat, the vast array of rewards and character customization, the decent if not great story and excellent roster of characters ensure Tekken 7 is a top fighter."
The online battles are an above average myriad of encounters. Getting decent matches wasn’t hard and connections felt stable. However, there would be times where connections would be poor resulting in at least one or two people dropping from matches. Even on average connections, it’s possible to have some enjoyable fights. This may not sit well for hardcore players who want the very best latency but when playing with someone in the same region, you can be assured of a relatively good experience. And kudos for finally letting me decide what side of the screen I can play on.
Even before heading into this review, I knew that Tekken 7 was a must-play for every fan of the series. The sheer depth of its combat, the vast array of rewards and character customization, the decent if not great story and excellent roster of characters ensure Tekken 7 is a top fighter. While games like Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and Injustice 2 may prevent Tekken 7 from claiming the crown of “best fighter”, it’s still a great experience with terrific combat that new players and veterans should play.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Great visuals and animation, with distinctive looks for each fighter. Combat is easy to get into but complex enough to warrant learning. New mechanics help make fights more tactical and compelling. Treasure Battle feeds into the amount of cosmetics and content to unlock. Online battles are sturdy enough as a whole.
Slight issues with weak connections at times. Story mode isn't the best and can be pretty ham-fisted for the most part. Lack of real story development for side characters. Treasure Battle doesn't serve up much variety in terms of objectives. Training mode and tutorials could have used more work.