“A little more than kin, and less than kind.”
“The following is a guest post by The Evergreen Sage Mage.”
This game has taken forever to make its way to our homes.
Tekken 7 was first released in arcades in 2015 in East Asia, then an updated version, Tekken 7: Fated Retribution, dropped just a year later. Yes, arcades still exist, but in lands far, far away! Us, depraved Tekken fanatics in the “West”, couldn’t help but be a bit more than jealous of this. Our only respite was to play Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on our underpowered PS3’s up until this month, June of 2017, when the home version of Tekken 7 came into our lives and washed away the the pain. I cheated just a bit though; I vacationed in South Korea last summer and got to play Tekken 7: FR in the arcades, as a side-mission. Read about it here, if you are so inclined.
But, let’s turn back the sands of time for just a moment before the 8-bit review, to when the universe was covered in red ticket dispensing arcade games and plastic-grassed put-put golf terrain, when the smell of peach rings and popcorn filled the air, and the sounds of Dhalsim’s elephants trumpeted shrilly out of the din of lasers, laughter and shouting.
These damn elephants
I was in middle school when I was first introduced to the Tekken series at the local arcade, which just so happened to be the size of an entire warehouse. I loved fighting games, probably because I was good at them. In the real world, I was an anxious, nerdy, lanky kid with weird hair, at the arcade on the other hand I was, well, still an anxious, nerdy, lanky kid with weird hair, but I was also a warrior, looked up to by my bepimpled peers. Yes, for a glimmer of my childhood, I was the local arcade prodigy who could in almost any fighting game best any opponent if I put my mind to it. Any game excepting Tekken 2.
My first main was Paul. Rrrrrraaahhhh!
Tekken 2 was hard and unwieldy to play if you haven’t gotten a little coaching. It seemed over the top in its seriousness of gameplay and its blocky polygonal aesthetic didn’t help either. The truth was, I didn’t get it. It’s a game that “older” people were playing more. By older I mean high schoolers and twenty-somethings. Wanting to be a bit like the cooler kids, Tekken 2 was quietly calling my name from all the way over by the ticket counter where it stood patiently like a sentinel, guarding the fighting game section of the arcade. One fateful day after school, having sold some Mortal Kombat II codes to some kid from another class for $5, I was rolling in the quarters and was itching to play when I saw there was to be a Tekken 2 tournament the following week. Having already been crowned the champ of MKII, my pubescent flaring ego took its peach-fuzzed face to get a closer look at the poster. Next Saturday it was!
Has anybody heard the phrase: “When the student is ready, the right teacher will appear”? Now you might think this is cheesy, but what I’m saying, well, is all true… essentially. There was a mysterious Japanese exchange student who saw me playing that day and for some reason or another, he decided to take me under his wing to show me the ropes. I can still see him with this short haircut parted down the middle and his dark blue jean jacket. He taught me almost only by showing me and then making me mirror his actions. He stood about 10 feet tall and when his fingers moved over the plastic buttons, I swear I could see lighting come out. He taught me what the button inputs meant, what ‘while standing’ moves were, how to punish with a throw as the opponent was getting off the ground. He taught me to jab the air to create space and throw out baiting moves to get the opponent to come into your traps. All this in a week.
When the tournament finally came around and having begged my mom with a new level of desperate groveling I didn’t know I had in me, I got $5 to enter the tournament, and 5 more to play with. My mom was actually supportive of my gaming enthusiasms from time to time. Bless her for eternity! My memory is a bit foggy about how the tourney went exactly, but I do remember that the brackets were set up on paper and, thank the stars, I didn’t have to face my mentor in my first match. Another peon kid from my middle school had the wherewithal to think he could enter the tournament. I mopped him up… like someone who has actually held and used a mop before!
None of my friends were there to cheer me on… it was a true test of my gaming mettle and my only teacher was now my foe, or so I thought. I had made it up the ranks of the tournament (of around 20 people) when I saw my mentor lose against some person I’ve never seen at our arcade before. Some older white guy …with a mustache! Mentor-san lost against him, but turned to me, with a wry smile on his face, like he was Obi Wan, and gestured me over to the machine for the final showdown. He wasn’t much for talking.
Now what happened in this last match, I’m not exactly proud of… but I did win. I mean, I’m not proud now, because back in middle school, we didn’t have fully developed morals. Back then, I was happy as could be to win. What was it, you ask, that went down? Well, I beat this guy in the cheapest way possible when I realized that I was going to lose if I fought him straight. I saw a weakness that I could exploit in his play style. I could get him every time, with throws on the wake-up. Rather than feeling like I was in control, it felt like my fingers did all the work as I watched the screen of a middle-schooler throwing a 20-year-old guy over and over and over and over, until the 2 matches were over. The guy was smashing the buttons like a maniac and cursing as he didn’t know how to counter what I was doing. When it was all over, he stormed off. I got the first place pot and the second place money was kept by the arcade workers, for some reason, instead of giving it to me! I saw my mentor smiling awkwardly at me, a smile mixed with embarrassment and pride. He didn’t seem 10 feet tall anymore, but more like a nerdy, anxious, Japanese high school kid. He still had on a pretty cool jean jacket though and I’ll never forget him.
Since then, the Tekken series has been a special part of my life. It just so happens that I lived in Korea for 6 years, and for the uninitiated, Korea is like the Mecca of Tekken. I had plenty of people who coached me over there, and plenty of guys who simply wanted the joy of crushing a foreigner at something. Both types taught me all sorts lessons, and ultimately how to get good. At one point, in my 4th year in Korea I was invited to join a competitive Korean Tekken team, but had to decline because I didn’t have time to be a teacher, date my wife-to-be, travel and be a pro-aspiring player. Plus, I didn’t really think I had it in me. Oddly enough, at one point in my time in Korea, I even lived about a 10-minute walk from the infamous “Green Tekken Arcade” where some world renowned Tekken players trained. That was the most humbling experience yet in my Tekken “career” as these guys were on a whole ‘nother level of expertise. I got thrashed every time I went there and cherished each win I could carve out. Anyhow anyhow, all this is to say its been a long journey.
Now, as I play Tekken 7 in the luxury of my own home on my PC, beating faceless players online, or getting beat up, there seems to be something missing. I miss the human relational aspect of it all. I miss the wincing faces, the anger, the joy, the trash talking and the mix-coffee that the “auntie” would bring to us at the Korean arcade as we played. I miss the invasive noise of being surrounded by arcade machines blaring away, the in-person community, the coaching, the rivalries and the drama. At this point, I know I can only play for fun, as I won’t be a pro or anything like that, but I’d like to be able to do my part and share my knowledge and experience with others. I’m proud that this game is so well-made, despite, because of, its painfully long wait-time to drop into our homes.
There are other things on the horizon though. As I play, I run into Twitch streamers who are building community around them. Just last night I played against someone named KawaiiFaceMiles. I thought this person is too good, so I did a quick googley search to look him up and he… was a she. Props. She beat me without mercy and she did it fair and square. She’s really trying to make her way to EVO, arguably the biggest fighting game tournament in the world! Here’s a link to her channel if you are interested. Give her a follow. Of course, she’s not the only one making content. There’s a ton of people building community online now, through Twitch, Reddit, YouTube and other social media. It’s a braver new world of competitive video gaming than back in my formative years. Although things are a-changin’, I’m still hopeful.
Anyhow, that’s my little snippet of Tekken history for you. If you dare to join into this legacy of gaming, I’m happy to be a friend/rival/coach or just someone who has some words of encouragement if you’re doing a bit of struggling. It’s a tough game, but who knows though, you could be the next EVO champ and win yourself a big pile of that sweet sweet cash!
Footage from last year’s EVO grand finals -both Korean players- ‘Saint’ vs ‘Knee’ -(Green Tekken Arcade player/beast)
The 8-bit Review
This game is amazingly beautiful, especially on a GTX 1070 graphics card. It’s all I could hope for and at this point I can’t really care if it gets better than this in future iterations of Tekken. It crossed some magic line in my mind to where I was like “they did it”. I know it could be better, it can always be better, but it has gone into the threshold of awesomeness for me.
Some people love Tekken music. I’ve never been too crazy about it. I noticed there’s a lot of “wub wub” music in this one, dubstep. Tekken games have always had upbeat electronic stuff. If you have the PS4 version, you get Tekken Tunes, which allows you to set up playlists of all the Tekken songs ever made. If you’re into that stuff and have PS4, you’ll be quite the happy camper.
If by gameplay you mean, what happens when you play, watch the video below. If you mean, how does the game play, on my machine then…the loading times are pretty decent on PC, especially if you have an SSD installed. The bugginess is really in the networking code and otherwise this game runs as smooth as butter on a hot summer slide. It runs at 60 frames per second, like any good fighting game should. The input lag is 8 frames, which is higher than usual, but at least it’s a level playing field?
This game is all about competitive play. That being said, there’s the story mode where you can play various characters and unlock their little endings. It’s been like that for ages. The difference here in Tekken 7 is there’s an extended story mode along with the side characters’ story modes. Story modes are just fights, and aren’t somehow not a fighting game.
Tekken has ridiculously over-the-top stories via cut scenes with varying levels of cheese, so its not really something that I’m too crazy about. Still, some endings might inspire a chuckle or two, and if you’re a bit of a completionist there’s always all the stories to unlock. The main story follows the Mishima family and its violent, twisted fate of being genetically mixed with devil genes and all sorts of layers of convoluted anime storyline wackiness. This video does a pretty good job outlining what its all about.
Online Play: 7/10
The community consensus is that PC has been the best online play experience so far. That is, it has suffered the least of the connectivity issues, compared with PS4. I don’t know about the Xbox One’s version. Still, I’ve been disconnected in tournaments for no good reason. There’s more players on PS4 to fight with, better connection on the PC. More like, irony fist tournament, amirite?
The tournament setup looks like this. Starts on the left and moves to the right
In online mode you can do a few different things. You can play ranked mode where you play and level up your rank. If you get a good win streak going, you can rank up pretty fast. I believe there are around 35 ‘Dans’ (or rank levels) in total. I’m around 10th Dan which is umm okay. I did get up to 11th with Alisa, but got demoted. You can also just do “quick play” which sets you up with another person, but it doesn’t count your wins or anything. Its a great way to warm-up. There are also tournaments that you can create/join that set up either single or double-elimination matches of up to 8 players. This is pretty much my fave. You can’t rank up this way though.
Yeah, there’s about three main modes online.
Oh that’s why it looked like lighting was coming out of my Japanese mentor’s fingers
It’s amazing what a joystick and four buttons can do. Since I’ve been playing Tekken, the control scheme has remained faithfully the same: octagonal joystick, left punch, right punch, left kick, right kick. Don’t let that fool you though; it’s a hard game with a difficulty curve that might defy most people’s sense of logic. Hundreds of moves are mapped to each character (and around 30 to choose from) with these modest inputs. It’s important to state that new players are going to be frustrated if they expect that they can pick up the game and win against other players online.
So there’s a vampire in this game now. Yep. Should have been Morrigan from DarkStalkers, but beggers can’t be choosers…
I was going to wait until I go the last achievement to write this, but I just couldn’t wait
Most people who buy this game, when they realize the level of commitment it takes to get good at this game, will have to make a serious choice to keep playing or just let it go. You can easily sink hundreds of hours into this game and still only be scratching the surface of what it takes to be great at it. So be forewarned, *me attempting a gruff voice* Only the strong survive in the Iron Fist Tournament.
My personal grade: 9/10
I love this game. It has its trouble spots, particularly with the networking, but I’m sure Harada (the game director) and his team(s) are gonna continue to hammer it out until it sings like no other fighting game has. Get ready for the next battle!
Aggregated score: 7.3
The Evergreen Sage Mage is whispered among the forested glades by his other name, wakalapi, and he’s a veritable guru of ludology, a teacher, instructor, and all-around excellent and personable writer. His caffeinated work will stand the test of time at wakalapi.wordpress.com.