Our review of Tekken 7: Definitive Edition, developed by Bandai Namco. Available now for PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC.
WHAT IS IT?
The final (final (final)) release of Tekken 7, packaging together everything from across its five year lifespan.
IS IT GOOD?
It’s a fine, slower-paced fighting game and worthy heir to the Tekken name.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
Fighting game fans and/or furries.
A JUMP TO THE LEFT
The sidestep changed everything.
Before Tekken 3, the Tekken series was a graphically impressive 2.5D fighter best known for oddball characters like King, a pro wrestler with a tiger’s head, or Kuma, a grizzly bear. Tekken 3 introduced Kuma’s panda counterpart Panda, and, almost as importantly, the ability to step into or away from the screen. Sidestepping completely upended Tekken strategy – no longer could players spam projectiles (since their opponents were no longer restricted to a 2D plane), and sidestepping became an essential tool for combo interrupts. Coming to Tekken 7 from Street Fighter V today, the difference could not be more striking.
Some may balk at the comparison, but Street Fighter V looms large when reviewing any contemporary fighter. While SFV is the undisputed king of fighters, it’s always interesting to come across another contender, to see the niche they’ve carved out for themselves. Tekken 7 practically invites the comparison, with Street Fighter‘s Akuma appearing in this “Definitive Edition” as one of several guest stars. It’s a bold move: you don’t just bring over a Street Fighter icon unless you’re confident you’ve got something worthwhile. Happily, Tekken 7 delivers.
AND THEN A STEP TO THE RIGHT
Gamers coming to Tekken for the first (or after a long) time need to know this is a different style of fighter. It’s slower, more deliberate, though some of that may be chalked up to my obsession with Ms. Panda and Mr. Grizzly Bear. But there’s no denying Tekken is a careful, almost cautious game, each and every blow landing with consequence. Where Street Fighter‘s matches are won in the flash of epic combos and sparkly explosions, Tekken 7‘s are won in the grit and the grind.
It’s also very satisfying. Figuring out the right timing for each of your attacks, exploiting a foe overextending themselves; this is where Tekken thrives. It’s also best as a multiplayer game. Perfunctory single-player story mode aside, the meat of the game is in the clash with another person. It’s here where a keen understanding of your preferred character, right down to which direction they should sidestep, is essential.
WITH YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HIPS
Speaking of bears, Tekken 7 sees the introduction of notorious Walking Dead villain Negan. Portrayed, as on TV, by the dangerously grizzled Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Negan brings some added absurdity to a game already known for its oddball touches. In combat, Negan carries his trademark baseball bat “Lucille”, all while dealing ridiculous one-liners and Rage Attacks (the equivalent of SFV‘s Critical Arts) which recreate infamous moments from the series. If you thought that Season 7 death was controversial, wait till you see it recreated a dozen times from a panda’s eye view. Tekken, folks!
In addition to Negan and the aforementioned Akuma, Tekken 7 also boasts appearances from SNK stalwart Geese (of King of Fighters and Art of Fighting fame) and Final Fantasy XV protagonist Noctis. The rest of the roster is, shall we say, Very Tekken. The series has never had the iconic roster of its rivals, but a handful – the bizarre mask-sporting, sword-wielding Yoshimitsu (who also appears in Soulcalibur), long-time villain Heihachi, and Marshall Law, the absurdly named Bruce Lee homage – have stood the test of time. For a player like me, who really hasn’t dabbled in Tekken since the third entry, it’s nice returning to these fun and wildly different characters.
I also like Tekken‘s extensive customization options, which run the gamut from the absurd to the out-of-control. Almost everything is customizable, from the makeup on a character’s face, to their clothes, to the accessories strapped haphazardly to their back. You can even change your health bar and customize the visual effects that accompany attacks. While a more sober-minded player could probably make something cool out of all this, I’ll take my pink-furred, neckerchief-wearing Panda any day.
YOU BRING YOUR KNEES IN TIGHT
One other neat thing about Tekken: each limb on your character is independently controlled, a button mapped to the right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg. It’s the QWOP of fighting games, only, y’know, playable. It also makes for an interesting control scheme – instead of the typical weak/medium/strong attacks, you need to be aware of which side to attack from, almost like boxing. A well-timed right knee to the face can be devastating, but so too can a missed opportunity.
Tekken 7 is a fine, fun addition to a relatively quiet 3D fighting game landscape. It’s been ages since we last saw a Soulcalibur title (and longer still since we saw a decent one), and Virtua Fighter is long overdue for a new numbered entry. Tekken is unlikely to replace the Street Fighters or even the Smash Broses in your collection, but it’s different and entertaining enough to merit your attention. Panda attack!
Final score: 8/10 ailuropoda melanoleuca.
Visit the official website for Tekken 7 here.