Ghost moms? Devil genes? Bears? It’s all here in Tekken 8.
Here's the thing: I’ve played previous Tekken titles. But, in no way am I attending LANs or getting a perfect in online matchups. And despite my novice stature in the realm of fighting games I’ve had a blast with this Tekken installment. So, let's keep in mind throughout this Tekken 8 review that it takes all kinds and more than the FGC elite play fighting games.
However, behind all the beautifully designed Rage Art and Special Moves, lie major elements that fall as flat as a time-out loss. Even still, it's still Tekken and that comes with a pedigree in the genre matched by few others. Except for when it comes to story, because.... Boy, Tekken is just a bee's nest of ups and downs in that department.
Fighting games aren’t known for their stories or miscellaneous game modes—and believe it or not, Tekken 8 is no exception. There's a number of critiques to throw at Tekken 8, but, if the fighting works, does it matter?
Let's find out what happens when fist meets fate.
Editor's note: We were unable to fully try out online play during the embargo period and will have a review of online play post-launch.
Tekken 8 Review: There's more than a VS battle?
One of the best things about Tekken as a franchise is that it makes gameplay easier for those who aren’t the embodiment of Kuma. Tekken 8 continues this trend with the newly added Special Style--Think of it as the Modern Controls scheme from Street Fighter 6. The controller type makes feeling like a professional player possible for those who haven’t played a round in their life. But, features like this can’t save certain elements of Tekken 8 that simply feel rehashed.
And maybe it's not the game's fault. After all, the core of Tekken has changed little since 1994. But as the industry--and fighting games--evolve and level up it's hard to not feel like Tekken is behind the times. Despite that, there is some new features that hope to catch the eye of newbies.
A new element to Tekken 8 is Arcade Quest--the game's single-player feature. It's an excellent way for players to start to wrap their heads around the various Tekken 8 combos and get a feel for the game. Gamers get tossed into a Mark Zuckerberg-esque nightmare and hit up the arcade to practice Tekken within Tekken. This Mii-like experience ultimately ends up being a way to fight the ghosts of Tekken past and collect as many coins as possible in the process.
These coins go into your collection, giving you all the dosh to buy yourself something nice in the customization menu. I bought my Jack-8 a cool hat, for instance. Tekken 8’s customization has heaps of depth. In case you were wondering, you can make them all look like bougie Super Mario characters. Finally, the dream.
Tekken 8 review: What doesn't work
There's a history of fighting games failing in the story department. However, that stigma has changed in the last decade. You can thank the Injustice and Mortal Kombat franchises for that. However, the lore and canon of Tekken has always been a hot mess, but in a fun way. Like seeing a burning couch on the sidewalk after a local sports team wins the big one.
As far as fighting game stories go, Tekken 8’s single-player campaign certainly is... one of them. Throughout your sub-five-hour experience--which was supposed to be bigger than Tekken 7, but worked out to be roughly the same--you’ll fight the long list of characters in the Tekken franchise on breathtaking landscapes and encounter characters with no purpose but to set up Tekken 9.
The newest character, Reina, is a shining example of this. If you were to remove her character, the plot would likely be the exact same. Plot problems like this appear frequently throughout. We're not expecting a literary showcase or anything. It's Tekken, we get it. However, a lot of the goings on just don't make sense.
Tekken 8’s story is the plotline of almost every single shonen anime. The hero finds a hidden power through soul searching and can finally take on the big baddie threatening to do things he doesn't take too kindly. All of a sudden, characters have newly found power, thus surprising the opponent mid-battle with their strength. The circle of anime life.
Characters punch each other in the jaw at the same time, power-ups happen willy-nilly, and supporting cast members have to stall the antagonist who can decimate a whole city with a sneeze—Despite, the constant reminder that no one can stand up to him, except for the main character.
There is also a section of the story where you’re not fighting like you would in a normal Tekken title. That’s... all I’ll give away about it, and you’ll know what I mean when you get there. That whole mission is incredibly clunky and felt like filler. No more of that--thanks, Bandai.
The best parts
Gamers will play as Jin throughout the majority of the story and take on Kazuya. Both characters battle, one ultimately loses--but, survives miraculously--and they fight once again in an explosion of power and frankly beautiful art.
Rinse and repeat.
Each punch feels like it actually hits, and the dramatic explosion of vibrant colors makes combos all the more satisfying. Rage Art is phenomenal. It brings the personality of each character into their ultimate--as it should. But, the game doesn't ever overdo it with the splashes of energy and color.
Likewise, the soundtrack in Tekken 8 is beyond excellent. I left my console running to hear the main menu theme song as I was doing chores. It’s great, and I’ll hear no comments saying otherwise. If I were to base my review entirely on Tekken 8’s music, it’d be an unequivocal perfect score. This paired with the incredible arenas and locations, you’ve got great elements that work to pull you into the heat of battle.
Tekken 8 review: Does it feel like Tekken?
The fights are solid and satisfying. There's just a wonderful fluidity to the combat and it's as strong as they ever--heightened by Tekken 8’s color and pizzazz. I enjoyed hopping into a VS battle, testing out each character, and watching my opponent’s Rage Art inevitably snatch a once-thought-easy victory. That never grows old.
For those looking for a fun fighting game, Tekken 8 is going to tick the boxes. If you’re looking for a title that’s going to shake the genre to its core, you might be disappointed. But, gamers who love Tekken are going to love this installment.
Now: Bring back Alex and Roger!