When it comes to fighting games, fans can wait many years for a new iteration to be released. This is usually because the previous version has been given an “enhanced” release or supported through DLC over the past generation but even then for Tekken fans it feels like the wait for Tekken 8 has been quite some time. This is likely because it has been nearly seven years since Tekken 7 released on consoles and showed that the 3D fighting scene is alive and well. Now, with fans eager to see what a new iteration has to offer in terms of combat as well as perhaps seeing just where the story will go after the events of 7, has Bandai Namco managed to pull off a near perfect victory here in Tekken 8?
While we won’t go too into detail about Tekken 8’s story mode “The Dark Awakens,” it does follow the events that happened at the end of the previous game with Jin Kazama still struggling to control his new abilities while Kazuya is in full control of his, capable of unleashing so much destruction at once that he brings the world to its knees and announces a new King of Iron Fist Tournament where entire countries will select fighters to represent them, the winners being rewarded and the losers severely punished. As such, Jin must grapple with his abilities while the various forces of the world, both good and evil, begin to move in response to Kazuya’s threats.
The entire storyline is dripping with seriousness despite the absurdity of some of the situations that play out. The cliche elements are worn openly and almost reveled in at times and the twists that are mostly obvious are still treated as major reveals and, perhaps due to the way it is handled by the writers, feels all the better for it. The over-the-top nature, the reveals, all of these elements make Tekken 8’s core storyline a bombastic tale that is as delightful as ever, especially for longtime fans and the newcomer characters being added into it, including a certain extremely familiar seeming girl.
It is worth noting that those who want to see a bit more of their favorite character’s storylines, who may end up getting only a brief appearance or lackluster showing in the core story can still enjoy some extra content in the form of the game’s Character Episodes that allow every character to have a unique ending of their very own alongside specialized fights for them. These work in a similar manner to arcade endings but are a delight nonetheless when paired with the high quality presentation of the main story. There is also “Arcade Quest” which serves as a tutorial and lets players take control of their own created avatar to play the freshly released Tekken 8 in arcades against other people as if it were the real world. This mode is simple at best and mostly seen as a tutorial but it does have some fun jokes from time to time, especially in a meta type of way.
The Tekken series has almost always felt like a game where defense is key to victory. The ability to properly space your character, side-step incoming attacks, crouch or avoid a powerful blow and then unleash a powerful punishing counter-attack that could lead into a juggling nightmare for your opponent were some of the key elements to succeeding against more difficult opponents. Sure, certain fighters benefited from a more active fighting style and putting the pressure on your opponent is always a good thing, but managing to punish a whiffed move could easily swing the fight in your favor or doom you to a nightmarish juggle if you play poorly. You see, despite the fairly simplistic control scheme offered by Tekken’s four-button attack system, every fighter in the game has dozens if not over a hundred different moves that they can unleash and choosing when to properly use these moves, the proper timing of combos, and which moves to chain together has always made Tekken a game that is a delightfully challenging fighter to master but one that has always been enjoyable thanks to the options it provides.
Now in Tekken 8 things haven’t been changed much as it is still as combo and air-juggle heavy as ever but a few new mechanics have been added to make fights more aggressive and reward this type of play. This comes in the form of the Heat System and recoverable health. As players take damage usually, their health bar will decrease but if they manage to find themselves getting juggled in the air or blocking special attacks, their health will still decrease but show a grayed out portion. This portion can be recovered should the player take an aggressive stance and start dealing damage to their opponent instead, giving them a chance to recover a bit of their health lost when they were punished by an air juggle or suffered through a crushing attack. This means that simply dodging left or right or simply blocking isn’t enough to recover, aggression is rewarded.
Along these same lines the Heat system is now a massive mechanic that can factor heavily into how a player wants to handle their character. Every round each fighter has a full Heat meter and can trigger it at any time and provide a wealth of benefits while it is active. Entering Heat mode can be done automatically simply through the press of a button or by unleashing a move that is usually one of the player’s current character’s more powerful attacks. Once in Heat mode, their Heat Gauge will begin to deplete and every single attack they will do, even if blocked, will deal chip damage to the opponent. At the same time, they will also quickly regain any of their recoverable health that might be available. Alongside these already useful benefits of being in Heat mode characters will also be able to use a number of special new attacks for every character, including a powerful Heat finisher that will end their Heat mode instantly but deal a ton of damage if it lands properly.
As mentioned before, every round this Heat gauge is restored, meaning players are encouraged to use it to make sure they win a round. Of course, when to trigger this can play a heavy factor in actually winning a match depending on the opponent… do you save your heat gauge to restore health because you ended up on the wrong-side of a whiffed punish or do you trigger the Heat mode and unleash a myriad of attacks capable of air juggling an opponent into near oblivion if done right or even take advantage of chip damage to wear down an opponent. For example, Aliza’s chainsaw attacks can deal plenty of damage to a defending opponent through chip damage alone, combining that with her abilities to air juggle make her a dangerous threat. Along these same lines, King and his powerful grapples can feel deadlier than ever if players play their cards right and trigger his command grabs alongside his combos properly.
If this sounds a bit challenging to learn, it is because it can be, but Tekken 8 has made the best effort we’ve seen in a fighting game to try and give players the tools to learn their favorite fighters and even how to fix their mistakes. Tekken 8 supports the most extensive training modes around with every character having combo challenges, training on when to punish an opponent, certain moves that work best in specific situations, and more. This is incredibly helpful since Tekken characters generally have a massive amount of moves available to them, usually far more than a standard fighting game and while players don’t need to know their favorite character’s every move, this makes doing so far easier. This is simply through training mode as well as the game’s Arcade Quest, a single player storyline involving the player’s created little character learning the ropes of the freshly released Tekken 8 in the arcade scene by slowly introducing mechanics and ramping up the difficulty to match the player’s current Quest ranking.
To take things a step even further, while replays in most fighting games can be recorded simply to relish in the player beating a challenging opponent or executing a “Perfect” victory, this time around replays have an actual real purpose. Players can record their replays automatically or save them manually as they fight against others and even view and download the replays of other online players but the catch here is, the player can actually pause the replay and take control of either character at any time they wish. This means that they can replay a challenging fight over and over again, trying to figure out the best way that they could have avoided losing or landing that combo they were aiming for. Even taking your skills against someone else’s online replays can be a learning tool even if it often can see players trying to punch far above their weight.
For players who want to play with style but also be far more limited, there is also a new control scheme accessible at any time during a match called Special Style. Similar to some other recent games, Special Style makes every character far simpler to control by making a menu appear in the bottom corner and automatically triggering their character’s special attacks, Heat moves, specific juggle combos, grapples, and more. This will allow players to pull off some flashy combos with ease and have fun, but it also cuts their move list down considerably. This means that while Special Style is fun to use and a great way to begin learning a character, truly mastering a fighter requires actually playing with their usual fighting style. Even basic things like unleashing Aliza’s chainsaws or triggering most of King’s command grapples, and even most of Reina’s familiar and intriguing move-set are unavailable in Special Style, so it is far more limiting than one would expect as a “New Player” friendly option and is meant as a teaching tool rather than a proper control method, though that doesn’t mean it can’t be pulled out in the middle of a match as a potential crutch.
Tekken 8 has launched with an impressive thirty two fighters available to choose from, and while a few longtime favorites may not have made the initial cut, with the likes of Eddy Gordo already being announced as DLC, or not hinted at all (my previous favorite Lucky Chloe) this roster features a number of characters for any type of fighting game player. Be it a rushdown fighter, grappler, defensive specialist, heavy hitter, nearly every type of playstyle can be found here and then some and thanks to all of the aforementioned training modes and ways to learn about a character’s moveset, Tekken 8‘s roster is truly impressive here. It is also fun to note that every single fighter has been released with a variety of different costumes to choose from, be it a classic outfit similar to what fans are usually familiar with or their new look. It is also worth noting that literally every character can be customized heavily with currency earned simply by playing the game. This currency isn’t hard to earn by any means and players can easily unlock multiple costume pieces for their favorite fighter and put their own unique twist on the character as they play either offline through the game’s single player offerings or taking their skills online.
As mentioned earlier, the game features an impressive cinematic story mode that features a variety of fights throughout the storyline and while players don’t really have much choice in the storyline, it is a solid gameplay mode. Those looking to see more of their favorite characters will find their aforementioned Character Stories far more entertaining as it provides extra details about their favorite characters and special endings for each one. There is also the standard arcade mode, versus modes, even Tekken Ball though the ball in this mode seems to really have a life of its own at times, with it acting incredibly strangely at times when struck. As mentioned before, the Arcade Quest serves as a mini-character created story that is simple and designed like a full-length tutorial to learn the game’s elements and a new Ghost Battle that allows players to download the “Ghosts” of other players and fight against a computer that will simulate their moves. Players can even choose to train their own ghosts by fighting against a variety of characters and see how well they can train their very own CPU fighter, though obviously playing online to test your skills is the way to go.
Online players will find that the Tekken Fight Lounge serves as the primary battle hub where players can take their customized avatar to run around and interact with other fighters as well as queue up for Ranked Matches, Quick Matches, create a Custom Room or just a Room for random players to join and test their skills and more. The lounge is a bit simpler than some may hope for when compared to some other fighting games recently released but it is still fairly nicely designed, though players can just search for matches directly from the online menu should they choose. As for the actual netcode, Tekken 8 is far better than its previous iteration with nearly all of the matches being handled quite well even when playing against fighters in other countries or even cross-pay. It isn’t quite as perfect as we have seen recently, as some matches did experience severe lag and even a few disconnects here and there, which I doubt were rage quits given the opponent had a round up at the time. These cases are few and far between however as the netcode does seem to work well more often than not and the rollback does come with some extra customization, just don’t expect the best netcode around at the moment.
Audio & Visuals
Tekken 8 marks the first time that the series has appeared in any way on the current generation of consoles and PC and has not limited itself to past consoles in any way. This has allowed the developers to take full advantage of the current consoles by offering incredibly detailed looking stages for players to battle on, including a number of which with destructible environments and different levels players can break through and that says nothing about the fighter models themselves. Every single fighter has been lovingly crafted to look as impressive as possible in motion with some truly outstanding looking animations to their movesets and, as mentioned before, every fighter has a variety of costumes immediately available for use. The in-game cutscenes shown during the main story mode are incredibly impressive and flow fairly well into the fights themselves while Arcade Quest’s simple design feels intentional but a bit lacking in comparison.
This entry continues the franchise tradition of every character in the roster being able to speak every language possible, including animals. This is because, even in story cutscenes, characters will only ever speak in their native tongue, meaning a French character will speak French to a Japanese fighter and be completely understood and even responded to in Japanese. This has always been a bit of cheeky fun with the Tekken series and that remains true here. The soundtrack consists of some incredible background music throughout all of the game modes and there is even a Jukebox option for players to select music from past games in the Tekken series to enjoy should they choose.
It was going to take a lot to impress fans after such a long period of time between releases and Tekken 8 has done a near perfect job doing so here. The amount of single player content available is a delight while the online mode is the best it has ever been in the franchise even if it still has some hiccups all while looking like a masterpiece in motion. Fights flow wonderfully as players take advantage of the new learning mechanics to master their favorite characters in an impressive roster of fighters that has something for everyone. There are some niggling issues here and there, mostly with Arcade Quest and some lingering online issues, but Tekken 8 impresses nearly through and through, showing that this franchise has reached new heights all while being as approachable as ever for newcomers and incredibly deep for longtime fans looking to dive into the new mechanics.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.