It’s hard to imagine that the last King of Iron Fist Tournament came out on consoles in 2009. Yes, I know we’ve had a Tag Tournament since then, but they’re fantasy matches. Fighting games have had a major resurgence since then, yet Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 were plagued with poor net-code for online matches and were nowhere near as fondly remembered as most of the older titles. Tekken 7 not only concludes the Mishima Zaibatsu rivalry, but also proves why Tekken was essential.
To understand why this is the case, you only need to dive into any of the offline modes to see a roster of 36 characters (including the DLC character Eliza), made up of a range of new and old characters each with their own styles. The key here is that there are very few that truly play the same and while it’s tempting to play as old favourites, the new characters fit nicely within the Tekken cast – for the most part.
I say that because for me, the likes of Akuma and Eliza with their use of Street Fighter motions feel rather imprecise. On a controller, you may find you have an easier time with some of the directional inputs required to perform a Gohadoken. However, Street Fighter always had a bit of leeway when inputting using an arcade stick for Shoryuken so that the Hadoken doesn’t come out instead. This isn’t the case with Tekken 7, meaning that it had mis-read inputs that cost me matches.
Gameplay for each fight isn’t too drastically different from likes of Tekken 5, or even Tekken 3 to a certain extent. You still execute button combinations with each button linked to a limb, but with Tekken 6 they decided to create comeback mechanic with Rage that dealt more damage to foes per hit the lower you are on health.
In Tekken 7, this has been bolstered with Rage Drive, a one-use move that cancels the Rage state to perform a quick attack that leaves foes vulnerable to juggle combos, and Rage Arts, a super move that also cancels the Rage state upon completion, but has armour before you hit foes with a devastating combination.
As far as the impact in matches for each of those attacks goes, the Rage Arts may be a bit too much. It isn’t necessarily the attack itself that’s the problem, but the armour beforehand that can make all but lethal blows essentially pointless, setting opponents up for a KO if the Rage Art connects. Rage Drive, if used in the right circumstance can definitely work, but it’s easily prevented. Both techniques can be blocked, except for Akuma’s Rage Art which is the Raging Demon found in Street Fighter.
Like more recent Tekken games, the arenas you fight in are self-contained stages that you are free to roam around and break parts of the terrain to take the fight into newer areas. Each one has a unique feel, some with great stage transitions for new parts of the same locale. While the presentation is stunning, the loading times can be somewhat excessive, though they are at the very least not as long as Tekken 6 loading times were.
Tekken games have historically had a host of modes that range from the Streets of Rage-esque Tekken Force in Tekken 3 or the wonder that is Tekken Ball. All of that is gone, making way for the ridiculous Story: “The Mishima Saga” mode that features multi-match segments in each chapter. You play as a bunch of characters as the story progresses – a number of them have side stories – and if things are too easy or difficult for you, you can change the difficulty on the fly, with an extra difficulty unlocked post-completion.
As for the story mode itself, I generally enjoyed where things were headed once they got going. A few points, such as how Akuma fits into the proceedings, felt extremely forced and a couple of plot holes surface for the stories of previous games, most notably how Jinpachi Mishima’s appearance in Tekken 5 now makes no sense. Yet despite that, it’s still a fitting conclusion.
Customisation options have dominated the Tekken games for a while now and Tekken 7 is no different. Treasure Mode is where you can spend a lot of time unlocking new costume parts for the roster, some of which are unique to specific characters. Each fight gives you a chest containing a piece of gear, though in-game currency can also unlock gear. Occasionally matches that amp up damage or speed will occur, as well as Special Matches against one of the handful of boss characters.
The temptation is just to include all of the bizarre stuff from before, which includes things like a hammerhead shark head, but there’s also some genuinely pleasing additions. The inclusion of New Japan Pro Wrestling gear is ironically a fitting cross-promotion and can be combined with almost every other item.
Other modes are minimal compared to previous Tekken games and while I was unable to test the PSVR exclusive VR Mode, the general consensus from other reviews is that it’s a nauseating mess and rather insubstantial. You do have plenty to keep you occupied such as the five stage Arcade mode, versus mode, practice mode and a host of online modes that include Ranked mode, player lobbies, and tournament modes with in-built fighting game competition brackets.
Among the things you can unlock with in-game currency are both the artwork and ending movies for every character throughout the franchise. While their inclusion seems to be primarily to give canon summaries to support the story mode, the throwbacks that go right back to the PS1 era are a nice touch. The only missing ending is the endless loop for Gon in Tekken 3, though it’s easily found on YouTube so won’t be greatly missed.
In the PS4 version, things get even more nostalgic as every soundtrack for every Tekken game has its own playlist to replace the Tekken 7 soundtrack should you wish. You also have the opportunity to make your own custom playlist for every stage and mode, mixing and matching between them. While I did try Tekken 7’s soundtrack out for a while, the call for a mix between Tekken 3 and Tekken 5’s soundtrack, with elements of other games thrown in for good measure, was just too great.
I will say that those looking to get competitive should hold off on Tekken 7 until it has been patched. Online is currently a bit of a mixed bag. When it works, it can provide games with minimal lag and a generally fun time, but when it goes wrong, it can range from very choppy frame rates to simply being unable to connect. Note that the loading time issues are somewhat exacerbated online, at least for the PS4 version.
Tekken 7 is a phenomenal fighting game experience and one I’d highly recommend. It’s by no means perfect, as the game is not without a few technical issues online, some long loading times, and minor continuity errors, yet as far as most people will be concerned, it delivers a stunning, up-to-date fighting game experience from one of the masters of arcade fighting games. A solid return to form.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4