Positioned as the final chapter of the incredible Tekken saga, Tekken 7 arrives to the ring right in the middle of a time where narrative driven fighting games are exchanging hard swings for the top spot. Developed and published by Bandai Namco, which is home to a few of the best story driven games including the Tales series, fellow fighter Soul Calibur, Dark Souls, & a long list of licensed franchises. Keeping longtime fans in mind, Tekken 7 maintains the core mechanics found throughout the series while tossing in a few new bells and whistles to keep things modern and exciting in the competitive scene.
The powerhouse that is Bandai Namco as it stands has no problem at all showcasing its technical prowess in the graphics area. The CGI animations give incredible value to the story telling, though quite possibly the only value (more on that later), by providing fluid mind-blowing visual magic. The cutscenes aren’t the only thing to appreciate when playing Tekken 7 however, more impressive is the pinpoint accuracy of the martial artist movement during gameplay. In a series so heavily embedded in international martial arts forms, every character stems from a different region of the country specializing in region specific martial arts form, the attention to detail is incredible. The body physics of each movement, impact on the body, and areas of exploitation mid move has to be handled carefully and using the Unreal 4 & CriWare, the Tekken team pulls it off flawlessly. When compared to games outside of the fighting genre it is clear there is still a bit more room for amazement but Tekken 7 looks exactly like it should on what should now be considered current generation consoles.
For a game toting itself as the “final chapter” in a long running series filled with incredible narratives driving the main story as well as the side stories for every character, Tekken 7 missed the mark by a long shot. The story is told through the perspective of a journalist who seemingly has been negatively impacted by the shenanigans of the Mishima family since the events of Tekken 4, as he continues to dive into the drama happening within the family and those close to it. The problem is the story provides more questions than it does answers and when it provides answers it tends to do so to either the least interesting questions or to questions most longtime fans already have the answers to. Even more disappointing is the lack of any true character development or major insight into the stories of the supporting cast. The majority of the playable characters in Tekken 7 get a single fight version of a story and none of them ever truly seem interesting, cohesive, or entirely valuable. The most painful part of it all comes in the form of the lackluster inclusion of guest fighter Akuma from Street Fighter, with even more questions being raised about how he got involved in all the action. The plot in Tekken 7 exist solely thanks to the series having built a story that needed to be completed. Did the story end? Seemingly, but was the ending good? Absolutely not.
The Tekken series has always had an incredible soundtrack and Tekken 7 incredibly raises the bar by not only having an amazing soundtrack of its own but also including the soundtrack from every game in the series. Managing to find a smooth balance of music that covers nearly every genre from heavy metal to smooth ballads to techno, the soundtrack can be used as fight music or light party ambience for any occasion. The voice acting on the other hand could definitely have taken a few steps upward, primarily during the story. Having the story narrated by one central character was already a pretty poor choice, but to have a bland uninteresting voice do the work as well seems like an intentional attempt to fail. The unknown journalist reads through the story as if he was assuming the player would be as disinterested as he is.
After nearly a decade of games Tekken 7 is the ultimate display of nearly perfect balance within a fighting game. It retains the majority of what has made the series incredible, technical, and fascinating. Newcomers unfamiliar with the series will find it very easy to grasp the concept of each face button controlling a specific limb while inputs on the directional pad alter the type of attack made. The interesting addition of the Rage Arts & Rage Drives, which can shift the balance of combat very quickly, add a new dynamic for long time veterans to enjoy mastering and understanding how to counter. The inclusion of real world martial art styles also helps to accentuate the flair and complexity of the gameplay with some characters having very defensive styles, very aggressive styles, fast styles and slow styles their are character choices for every type of player.
Tekken 7 at it’s core is a fighting game and as I always say, fighting games are fun for those who enjoy fighting games. With that said Tekken 7 is an extremely technical fighting game that is at its most fun when playing against someone of equal skill levels. The combo system is so powerful and demanding that playing against someone significantly better would be extremely boring and unexciting as the challenge can be overwhelming. The fun factor of Tekken goes above and beyond with the inclusion of character customization which allows you to dress up series favorites like Kazuya, Heihachi, and Paul Phoenix in the most ridiculous garments. Of course for those who say, love getting some decent “looks” at female characters in games, fear not as bikini costumes are available by the boatload. A few dozen arcade modes make Tekken 7 amazingly fun to play, save for the story mode of course.
As a fighting game, Tekken 7 hits the nail on the head by being a completely well-balanced technical and competitive fighter with hours upon hours worth of customizable fun. As a complete fighting game package however, Tekken 7 misses the mark significantly by providing a mediocre, bland, and incredibly disappointing narrative especially considering that; A) it was positioned as the final chapter in a series deep rooted in an incredible storyline and B) it released in a time where every game in its genre is pushing the boundary of storytelling in video games (except for Street Fighter 5, that narrative was inexcusably terrible). Tekken 7 delivers excellently for competitive fighters, but by narrative is a complete disaster.