Tekken 7 is a promising fighting game with balanced mechanics and seamless transitions. Despite its arcade roots, Namco Bandai are attempting to rebrand the image of story mode in fighting games, featuring one with epic battles and cutscenes that seamlessly transition to gameplay. Stevivor was invited to preview the first eight chapters of the game’s story mode, speaking with the series creator and game director, Katsuhiro Harada.
According to Harada, Tekken 7‘s arc has “evolved throughout the series,” much like the value of a narrative.
“Tekken has always had an emphasis on story more than other fighting franchises,” he told Stevivor. “Starting with the original game, an opening movie and character endings portrayed why they’re fighting.”
“[Tekken 7’s story raises] questions both long-term fans and newcomers share,” he continued. “The story is designed so that even if you’re a newcomer, you’ll understand what’s going on.”
These questions stem from Tekken 7’s main narrative: the conflict between the Mishima family and father and son, Heihachi and Kazuya. Throughout the story, you play as the two, gathering teams of fighters from around the world to rival one another for an intense final showdown. Character models look and move natural – even given their stylish attacks and poses – and the game seamlessly transitions between in-game cutscenes and combat.
As Heihachi and Kazuya, you’ll meet a variety of interesting and charismatic characters, and engage with powerful warriors in epic and fast-paced action. Street Fighter’s Akuma is one such character.
“We wanted to include him not as a guest character, but as someone who plays a heavy role in the story,” he said. “When thinking of a formidable foe and one that matches with Tekken’s atmosphere, the idea of Akuma came to us right away. He’s a very formidable enemy you would want to defeat, and Street Fighter is the Godfather of fighting games.”
Namco Bandai recently announced two more guest characters will be available as downloadable content post-launch. Harada asked fans on Twitter who they’d like to see – I suggested Saitama from One Punch Man – but says there’s a lot of factors that play into the decision.
“[I] have to keep in mind whether the fighting community will welcome that sort of character or if it will broaden the game’s audience and introduce the game to someone who hasn’t played it before,” he said. “Akuma’s a different case because he’s a character that would have a lot of impact but won’t bring in Street Fighter fans or isn’t someone fans have been asking for for a long time.”
Tekken is a 22-year-old series and yet, Harada was surprised to hear it described as a pillar of the fighting game genre.
“[I] didn’t think it would continue as long as it has,” he said. “The first two instalments weren’t really looked at as a fighting game. Namco [Bandai] was leading the pact of polygon technology at the time, so fans saw Tekken as a tech demo.”
According to Harada, the third instalment of a game or film series was usually the breaking point, where a game would fail miserably and cease to continue. However, Tekken 3 was released on the PlayStation in 1997, breaking that cycle.
“With Tekken 3, I felt success,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it sold a lot at that point but I [saw] advertisements and the game liked by the mainstream community, and the marketing power of Sony. When doing research for Tekken 6, we looked up sales numbers for all of the different fighting game franchises, and realised that Tekken was at the top. That was the first time I thought, ‘oh wow, Tekken sold a lot!’”
“As we kept developing Tekken games, the player base became more hardcore and skill levels increased,” he continued. “If [we] design the game totally towards them it would become a niche title.”
In this way, Tekken 7 is designed with newcomers in mind, and with more accessible mechanics. Optional abilities like Rage Arts – cinematic high-damage dealing attacks – make battles against AI easier. Whether this will extend to the competitive scene and when versing human players is unclear, but Namco Bandai is trying to build a newcomer-friendly fighter.
“We revisited the gameplay, taking some of the complex elements and streamlined them,” said Harada. “We added more accessible mechanics like Rage Arts and Rage Drives to attract newcomers to the series. The main design philosophy for Tekken 7 is a game that’s interesting to watch but also fun to play, even as a newcomer.”
Despite only experiencing the game’ story, Tekken 7 is the first mainstream fighting game that has felt both accessible and enjoyable to play. The story mode is a series of chaotically flashy events and how Akuma is revealed in the game is really impressive. Long-term fans will be reassured knowing that even with the more accessible mechanics, this is still traditional Tekken; only with smoother animations, more dynamic menus and a greater story.
Tekken 7 punches its way to the PS4, Xbox One and Windows PC on 2 June.