Tekken 8 Should Be Your First Fighting Game
The redheaded stepchild deserves better.
Tekken deserves better. The redheaded stepchild of what most would consider the ‘Big 3’ fighting games here in the US, it’s often played third fiddle to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Where the other two are simpler (thanks to their 2D nature) and more recognizable (thanks to crossovers with big comic book and movie franchises), Tekken is complex and offbeat. It crosses over with more cult-aligned properties compared to DC or Marvel, like The Walking Dead. It’s 3D instead of 2D. Characters have dozens more moves than just about any other fighting game. The point is, Tekken’s not begging to be a cultural juggernaut with blockbuster appeal at the box office or skins in Fortnite — nor should it — but you owe it to yourself to give Tekken 8 a shot not despite its stepchild status, but because of it.
Take it from an all-but newbie. Sure, I’ve dabbled in Tekken games in the past (mostly in passing at my school’s FGC club when I was in college) but I hadn’t tried to actually get into Tekken until I booted up Tekken 8 for the first time. I was determined to play it. Not just pick it up and play it, but pick it up, pull it apart, and then put it back together. That might seem like a daunting task to anyone familiar with Tekken’s reputation for being especially tough to comprehend. Myself included.
Thankfully, Tekken 8 welcomes newcomers with open arms. Boasting multiple avenues to ease you into Tekken’s fancy hand-throwing, the developers at The Tekken Project took great pains to cater to a variety of audiences. People unfamiliar with Tekken’s highly unique combat loop and combo system can try out the Arcade Quest Mode, which slowly teaches you the fighting game basics like blocking, movement, punishes, and grabs before delving into the stuff that makes Tekken Tekken, like moving in 3D. Layering a few solid training mode offerings on top of that makes for a smooth transition into more intermediate play, with higher-level combo trials and AI ghosts trained on your own gameplay offering something for even the most seasoned Tekken heads. I had a few Tekken-player friends over to try out Harada & Co’s latest gem, and watching them notice and appreciate the subtle ways 8 clears up the foggy minutiae keeping you from mastering your character spoke volumes about how dedicated Tekken 8 is to encouraging you to play at your absolute best.
In bringing down its barriers to entry, Tekken 8 becomes easier to engage with at a deeper level. As you flounder less with the controls, you get to appreciate stuff you might not notice as you slip into a flow state, like the UFOs kidnapping alpacas in the background of Azucena’s stage in Peru, or Alisa’s hilarious, head-throwing animations in a long string highlight a comic tone at Tekken’s core. Just look at Brian Cox’s tongue-in-cheek recap of the series’ story thus far; Mishima family drama manifests through dropping father figures off of cliffs and into volcanoes. The game’s story is mostly silly camp; the kind you’d expect from a side story in the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series. It’s gleefully silly in a way that many people who like the series don’t seem to talk about or highlight that much. Hell, look at the interactions between Kuma and Panda before a battle between the two! It’s some exceptionally funny stuff. Small moments like these add cosmic degrees of personality and charm to Tekken beyond the appeal of its polished combat.
The Tekken franchise has so much to offer and I’m glad I finally jumped on the train at 8. This entry emphasizes a clear and concerted effort on the development team’s behalf to not just bring, but welcome new players into the fold. Tekken 8 is constantly proving to its players and itself that there’s never been a better time to get into the series — or fighting games as a whole — than right now.
Tekken 8 launches on January 26 for PS5, Xbox Series X and S, and PC.
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