It took over two years, but it’s finally here. The long-awaited home console and PC release of Tekken 7 is in our hands and we can safely say that it’s worth the wait. The seventh King of Iron Fist Tournament is back to keep your fingers busy as you dive right back into its tried-and-tested 3D fighting mechanics that you’ve come to know and love. As for players just getting into the series now, there hasn’t been a better time to get started.
Tekken 7 marks the end of the long-running, father-son conflict between Heihachi and Kazuya Mishima. This is all chronicled in the game’s main story, dubbed “The Mishima Saga”. Taking a cue from NetherRealm Studios’ recent string of releases, Tekken 7’s story mode is a mix of cutscenes strung together and punctuated with fights with varying battle conditions. For those following the series since its earlier days, the story, though still a bit weirdly written in places, provides ample closure on this chapter of the Tekken series. For newer players, the game does its best to get everyone up to speed, and does its job to varying degrees of success.
If you’re wondering where the rest of the cast went, characters not directly involved in the main plotline are given individual “episodes” which are accessible within the Story Mode submenu. In a change from your usual arcade mode, these episodes consist of a text intro, a single fight against a designated rival, and a short pre-rendered cutscene. On one hand, we’d totally understand if you’d feel shortchanged with this kind of setup. On the other hand, this also takes out having to slog through arcade mode just to get to each character’s ending.
Speaking of character endings, Tekken 7 boasts an extensive gallery mode that lets you unlock movies and artwork from throughout the series. Want to see the original lineup of the first game rendered in glorious standard definition, mid-90s CG? Just unlock and play the intro movie for the very first Tekken game. All items here are purchasable through the in-game currency, save for Tekken 7’s which require you to clear each individual episode.
So what about the fighting? People are here for the fighting. Ah yes, let’s get to that. Despite the switch to Unreal Engine from whatever in-house tech Bandai Namco was using in previous games, we can proudly say this is definitely Tekken through-and-through. That familiar mix of 3D movement, high-mid-low mixups, and an emphasis on juggle combos is here in full force, along with a couple of new elements and tweaks to keep things fresh. First off, the Rage state can now be spent to power Rage Arts and Rage Drives. The former being a type of super move that does damage inversely proportional to how much health you have left, and the latter, an enhanced version of an existing move with additional properties like being safe on block or stronger knockback, allowing for better wall carry. Much of your success in the closing seconds of each round depends on how you decide to utilize your Rage state, so choose wisely. Power Crushes are moves that let you absorb incoming hits, save for low attacks and throws, and are mostly used for creating space between you and an opponent. And finally, there’s the Screw attack, which sends foes into a tailspin mid-combo, allowing you to follow up with more attacks or an ender. This last one replaces the Bound mechanic from Tekken 6 and Tag 2, and requires a little bit more getting used to due to the need to dash forward to an opponent hit with it.
The game’s cast, while not as sprawling as Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s, still remains impressive. If you’ve gotten spoiled by the wealth of options and fan favorites, in Tag 2, you might feel a little disappointed. Still, the new additions to the cast adequately compensate for some glaring absences, which, by the way, should show up sooner or later in the form of future DLC. The new fighters bring both new and familiar elements to the table, such as Filipina model/kickboxer Josie’s similarities to series veteran Bruce and Claudio Serafino’s collection of moves that require hit confirming. Most notably, however, is the inclusion of Akuma from the Street Fighter series, super meter and all. Anyone familiar with his moveset from his native game will feel right at home pitting him against the Tekken cast, and Bandai Namco have done a lovely job of converting his gameplay into a 3D space.
Character customization returns, with room for zanier or cooler combinations, depending on which aesthetic route you want to take. While most of the items are easily unlocked with in-game gold, you’ll have to fight through Treasure Battle to earn some of the rarer items up for grabs. Your mileage may vary, depending on your tolerance for random drops and rewards. Some classic outfits return, too, like Jin’s Tekken 4 tracksuit, King’s Tekken 2 outfit, and Xiaoyu’s pink dress from Tekken 4.
Now that you’re done playing dress-up with your fighter of choice, it’s time to go online and fight. Fortunately, as of this writing, a post-release patch released by the devs has ironed out the online experience, and getting into ranked matches has become a much less frustrating experience. There’s also Tournament and Session modes, both of which let you set invite friends for some stakes-free brawling. In our experience, fights have been pretty smooth even at a three-bar connection. However, it truly shines when you manage to get a five-bar to five-bar fight going. It’s almost like you’re playing in the same room.
Tekken 7 has easily cemented its position as one of 2017’s best fighting games, and the total package does not disappoint. We’re still a little sore over the lack of other fun, diversionary modes like Tekken Force and Tekken Bowl, but those are really just minor nitpicks in an otherwise excellent release. The King of Iron Fist Tournament is back, and it hits harder than ever.