Release Date: June 2, 2017Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PCDeveloper: Bandai Namco StudiosPublisher: Bandai Namco EntertainmentGenre: Fighting
Bandai Namco took their time with Tekken 7. The Evolution Championship Series spent two years using arcade cabinets for their Tekken 7 tournaments because there was no sign of a console release on the horizon. Considering the headaches that came with Street Fighter V’s rushjob, this was largely considered a good idea, as the game would be released when truly ready. So now that it’s finally out, was it worth the wait?
Tekken 7 is ultimately a fantastic game that’s placed in a head-scratching package. The core gameplay is as good as it ever was. If you’ve played any Tekken (not counting their initial Street Fighter crossover), you know the gist of how this is played. The smooth, four-button feel is the same, though with some added tweaks.
The biggest addition is Rage, which acts as a last-second comeback mechanic. When your character has only a little health left, their health bar will glow red. You can use this for an armored move or quick combo of moves (Rage Drive) or you can let loose with a super attack (Rage Art). Yep, Tekken has supers now. Its arrival on consoles means you can hit a Rage Art with the tap of a single button instead of a combination.
While it doesn’t affect the gameplay itself, Tekken 7 also has a neat slow motion gimmick where, if one person has minimal health and both opponents attack at the same time, everything slows down and zooms in to give you a better look at who’s winning this exchange.
So yeah, it’s good ol’ Tekken and plays as great as you’d expect. If you want to just mess around and play against other people, then you have your game of the year and you don’t have to read the rest of this review. Just get it, go online, and bust some heads.
This game does have a handful of different modes and ideas that almost work but not quite. For example, look at the arcade mode. Arcade mode has always existed as an excuse to play through with each character and get a feel for them with an ending cinematic acting as a carrot at the end of the stick. Tekken 7’s arcade mode features three regular fights, a subboss fight with Heihachi, and a final boss fight with Kazumi Mishima, who transforms into her Devil form after losing a round. Upon winning this short mode, you simply get the end credits and that’s it.
Meanwhile, the game has a gallery where you can unlock almost every single ending from the previous eight installments, reminding us of what used to be. But there’s a little bit more to why this rubs me the wrong way.
Tekken 7 has The Mishima Saga, which is the story mode. It lasts a couple hours, has some good challenges (as well as some bad ones), and even tells a pretty cool story if you’re into that kind of thing. It makes great use of what I’ll call “drama effect” in some of the later fights where a character getting launched or knocked down will cause a dramatic image and memory quote to appear on the screen, like a flashback is being inserted into the gameplay. It’s a novel concept and adds weight to these one-on-one video game battles.
At the same time, Mishima Saga suffers from being too in love with the game’s main characters. It’s all about Heihachi, Kazuya, Akuma, and a small collection of other characters. Tekken regulars are ignored completely and even most of the new faces get zero spotlight, making the loss of guys like Marduk and Lei Wulong sting just a bit more. Even Kazumi, arcade mode’s final boss – and the figure used to initially advertise Tekken 7’s existence – feels like little more than a footnote.
Akuma, meanwhile, makes the most of his guest appearance and suggests that the eventual Tekken X Street Fighter game from Bandai Namco will work out better than Capcom’s attempt.
By playing through Mishima Saga, you get to unlock extra chapters for all the other playable characters in the game. Sounds promising, but it doesn’t pay off. Each side chapter is a character’s backstory in text form followed by a single match. Then the character endings, most of which are a big pile of nothing.
I’m not the only one who thinks that’s strange, right? An arcade mode with no endings existing alongside a mode where you have one fight and get an ending?
You also get Treasure Battle, a single player mode where you fight increasingly hard opponents for the sake of unlocking loot boxes. With said loot boxes, you can customize your fighters and make them look as ridiculous or badass as the game allows. Due to a partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling (giving us an Okada alternate costume for King and Okada’s Rainmaker as a Rage Art attack), you can have your character sport a Bullet Club t-shirt, which is one of those minor things that speaks to me.
Then there’s the VR mode. When Tekken 7 was announced for PlayStation 4, Bandai Namco claimed that it would tie into the PlayStation VR. I never expected much from that because, in all honesty, what kind of experience could a fighting game offer in a VR environment? What I found was even dumber than expected. You have two options: you can look at a character model in 3D with a nonexistent background or you can do a barebones training mode. That training mode has a single background that is fully built around you, but that’s where the novelty ends.
Why does this even exist?
Tekken 7 is a fighting game that keeps the gameplay crisp and enjoyable, but takes a step back in terms of providing a full package. If you’re a fan of the series, you won’t be disappointed by the gameplay, but some of the developer’s other decisions make me shake my head because I’ve seen them do better. Then again, I’ve seen them do worse. Sorry, SoulCalibur V!
Gavin Jasper has noticed that Akuma ages really well, considering he’s roughly as old as Heihachi according to this game. Follow Gavin on Twitter!