Our review of Tekken 8, developed by Bandai Namco Studios and Arika. Available now for PS5 (reviewed), Xbox X/S, and Windows.
WHAT IS IT?
Pandas vs. grizzly bears, the video game.
IS IT GOOD?
It’s a wonderful and welcoming entry in the fighting genre.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
Those with fond memories of plunking quarter after quarter into Tekken 3 arcade machines.
THE MOTHER OF ALL FIGHTING GAMES
The thing that first struck me about Tekken 8 is how fair it is.
There are few, if any, obviously “cheap” fighters or tactics. Computer AI is tough but never inhuman, even at the higher settings. Everything, from air juggling to the new “Heat” system, can be easily learned, so that no one player ever feels at a complete disadvantage, regardless of skill or experience. Sure, Tekken 8 will take you hours and days and months to master, particularly as you take your combat skills online, but there’s a low barrier to entry and a high reward for learning the ropes.
While Nina Williams or Jin Kazama may not be quite the household names as Ryu or Chun-Li, this long-running series remains one of the highlights of the fighting genre.
THE DARK AWAKENS
For those keeping track, Tekken 8 picks up where its predecessor, Tekken 7, left off, that is, following the [SPOILERS!] death of series mainstay Heihachi, the diabolical villain best (and hilariously) known for once having tossed his son Kazuya into an active volcano.
Don’t worry, Kazuya got better. In fact, he’s the antagonist in this new game.
So what can you expect with Tekken 8, especially if it’s been a few years since you last set foot in an arcade?
The most interesting thing about Tekken is that combat is set in a 2.5D plane. So while attacks only happen left-to-right, Street Fighter style, it’s also possible to side-step towards or away from the camera, evading attacks or interrupting combos. It’s a system rife for abuse – older Tekken titles could descend into virtual riverdances, as expert players slipped in and out of frame – but in T8 it works admirably well, adding a welcome layer of strategy.
T8 amateurs (like this writer) will likely be most invested in the question of character design. Tekken 8 has some of the best characters – both in terms of aesthetics and combat style – of any modern video game. Among others…
Jin Kazama, son of Kazuya (the one who survived the volcano) is back as de facto protagonist, the T8 equivalent of Street Fighter‘s Ryu in the accessibility of his combat style.
Panda (a panda bear) and Kuma (a grizzly) are here in fine, ridiculous form, reminding us that video games are allowed to have a sense of humour about themselves. Speaking of returning favourites, Tekken‘s Bruce Lee analogue, Marshall Law, is thankfully here (meanwhile his Capcom counterpart remains noticeably absent from the recent Street Fighter entries!), as are merc-for-hire Nina Williams and long-running fighter Paul Phoenix.
New character Reina is a slick, mysterious fighter with intriguing links to the Jin / Kazuya family. Joining her are Peruvian MMA fighter Azucena, who is a joy to use with her properly street fighting style. Finally, evil French spy Victor Chevalier combines fancy gadgets with a rough, up-close melee style.
The most exciting addition to Tekken 8 is the “Heat” mechanic, which gives your character a temporary boost with the tap of a button, but can only be used once per match. It’s fascinating to see the way some players will launch it early in a fight, trying to gain an early lead, while others will hold onto it for use as a final blow. Heat not only makes you stronger, it also guarantees a minor amount of damage even when your opponent is blocking. Simply as a way to make new players feel powerful, it’s great that T8 has this mechanism which guarantees damage on every hit.
T8‘s other new piece, Arcade Quest, is a far lamer addition, trying but failing to recreate the comically bizarre World Tour mode of Street Fighter 6 by putting you in the digital shoes of a Mii-like avatar in a series of combat challenges in a virtual arcade. Sure, it’s a fun way to learn the base mechanics of T8, but it’s nothing special. The main fun remains in multiplayer and in the game’s robust main campaign mode.
That said, Tekken 8‘s character customization options are fantastic; ignore that avatar and go straight to redesigning Jin to look like Super Mario or Nina Williams as Aerith Gainsborough. And with dozens of characters to choose from and hundreds of hours of story and online matches waiting for you, Tekken 8 is definitely a strong competitor for the fighting game crown of 2024.
Final score: 9/10 ursa majors.
Visit the official website for Tekken 8 here.