Also On: Xbox Series X, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
The Fighting Game Community (FGC) is eating well this past year, players had a plethora of new titles to spend their time with. Capcom led off with Street Fighter 6, Netherrealm restarted their continuity with Mortal Kombat, French Bread threw a bunch of words together with their latest effort in UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH II Sys: Celes. Not to be outdone by his contemporaries, General Manager of Bandai Namco, proprietor of a bar in an undisclosed location in Tokyo Katsuhiro Harada and his team at Bandai Namco has uncorked their latest masterpiece, Tekken 8!
With that previous statement, you kind of have an idea what our thoughts on the title are, but please don’t scroll to the bottom immediately to look at the number assigned, because as fully fleshed as this package is there’s definitely some stuff I wish could’ve been different!
Tekken has always been the tale of the Mishima bloodline. For a majority of the franchise the big bad was the patriarch Heihachi. Throughout the years he has been deposed by his son Kazuya, but managed to claw his way back to the pinnacle, Tekken 8 tweaks the formula on its head and as of release the uniquely coiffed martial artist nee business man is nowhere to be seen. Instead this entry’s focus is on the conflict between another father and son duo in this accursed bloodline.
In Tekken 6, Jin Kazama inexplicably initiated a global conflict in perhaps the most out of character behavior. Throughout the story we learn this was done to lure out and destroy an ancient evil (bruh…there has to be a slightly better way!). Jin accomplishes his mission and seemingly disappears. Despite accomplishing his goal, the global conflict he initiated continues unabated, with a returning Heihachi taking Jin’s place to oppose Kazuya and his corporate backer G-Corporation. Kazuya outlasts his father AND a combatant from a different franchise to become the last man standing. Jin returns and informs the rebellion that he has returned to stop the conflict he started.
Dark Awaken is Tekken 8’s story mode which chronicles Jin’s quest to find redemption. The mode starts off with a monumental clash in New York’s Time Square (probably one of the finest depictions of that area in video game history) and Jin’s confrontation with his father doesn’t end in the way he wants it to, leading to a case of self doubt culminating with his inability to access his devil power.Throughout the course of the mode he seemingly “gets his groove back” and has a climatic finale that felt more like a Shonen Anime than the grounded (ok, as grounded as Tekken can be) Tekken plots we generally have.
I commend Dark Awaken as a story mode in the sense it knows the story it wants to tell and makes no attempt to cram every character in the roster into it. They do manage to integrate the 3 new characters with varying success. I buy Victor as the commander of the UN Forces, Azucena’s place in the plot is outright perplexing, and the promotional campaign for the game somewhat diminishes Reina’s impact on the plot by revealing too much information about her pre-launch.
Dark Awaken assumes you are a seasoned player and makes no effort to tutorialize any of the changes that have been made in this iteration, instead a new mode is introduced to integrate newer players into the fold. Arcade Quest has you creating an avatar, and traveling to various arcades in an attempt to make the main stage of the Tekken World Tour, an actual tournament series hosted by the company. The avatars have the same fidelity as the ones utilized by Microsoft during the Xbox 360 era. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the monstrosities that can be made in Street Fighter’s 6’s avatar system, but Tekken’s avatar system is pretty pedestrian, which is ironic cause the game has a pretty robust customization system for its fighters. The arcades you visit are these magical places that only have Tekken 8 available, classic namco arcade titles exist, but they don’t exist for you to play as a break from all that good ass Tekken. I feel like Tekken could’ve taken a hint from SF6’s battle up with a rotation of Namco arcade classics available to play.
Nitpicking aside, the mode acted as a great refresher for the title’s mechanics and in hindsight I wish I completed first instead of diving feet first into Dark Awaken. I also enjoyed how the ending of mode segues perfectly into an invite to the player to partake in the Tekken Lounge, the game’s online lobby.
This is the old man yelling at cloud’s in me, but I love reiterating how much I hate these interactive online lobbies (the old style single screen menu with a chat window is available in the form of the player match modes) that keep popping up ever since Arc System Works started doing them in Guilty Gear. In the previous section I did describe how Street Fighter 6’s Battle Hub did things that were better, but if the Battle Hub and the Tekken Lounge were real places, I’d probably prefer to go to the Tekken Lounge. Yes, functions-wise the Tekken Lounge has less features (the customization area doesn’t even let you buy customizations, just make adjustments), but its design aesthetics are just a lad more pleasing to me.
Visually the Tekken series continues to stand out, there’s a layer of realistic grim to everyone. Details on the characters are immaculate such as the Kazuya character model that is present during the menu. The brows show individual hairs, skin has pores, veins bulge. The metal rivets in his gloves glisten in the light, the leather shows the very stitching that bonds the pieces together. It’s wild what the team has done. Visually most of the characters look fantastic. Victor looks debonair and deadly, Lili exudes an air of sophistication, Yoshimitsu continues to straddle the line between human and inhuman. Some drop the ball such as Paul (Why do all fighting games dunk on their blonde white male chara…nevermind), and Law who looks like he had his head implemented onto one of Bryan Fury’s spare mechanical bodies. With that said if you don’t like how the team designed your favorite combatant, the game’s customization mode will allow you to craft the fighter you want, so the more-fashion forward players will find more meat to chew on here than in Arcade Quest/Tekken Lounge. Also these character customizations can actually affect gameplay whereas the avatar customizations are purely cosmetic.
The combat remains accessible and in the hands of seasoned players it is really a deadly dance to see who blinks first. There are situations where my less than EVO level performance will lead me to victory or I will run into opponents who will juggle me from first hit to my doom. The former feels exhilarating and the latter doesn’t feel unfair. In fact the game’s replay mode will even provide a breakdown of what went wrong and even show you combos or strings that you can then practice to incorporate into your arsenal.
Tekken 8 continues the fine balance of pulling up newcomers while catering to seasoned players. Despite a vocal minority already raising a stink about the game’s post launch plans, Tekken 8 is a fully featured game worthy of your money. Players will not need to worry about a Tekken 8+ or a Tekken 9 coming in the near future. Harada and team have built a fine foundation and Tekken 8 will be facilitating a lot of “Good Ass Tekken” for years to come. Now if you need me I’ll be in the lab, cause newbie crushing can only be so fun for so long…maybe it’s time for me to elevate my game (well until I get the platinum trophy and move on…but at least it’ll be a fun time.)!
Note: Bandai Namco provided us with a Tekken 8 PS5 code for review purposes.