The Tekken series has always put a strong emphasis on its presentation and outrageous style alongside the incredibly solid gameplay, and Tekken 7 is the latest example of this. The fighting that fans have loved over the last two decades continues to provide endless hours of competitive fun while adding even more layers to an already deep system. And yet a few poor decisions within the game’s story and extra content outside of the fighting hold Tekken 7 back from being a near perfect contender. Even the greatest of fighters don’t always go on without bearing a few marks to show their age.
The story mode of Tekken 7 will be the most divisive amongst fans. With the 20th anniversary of the Tekken series, Tekken 7 looks to bring a conclusion to the ongoing feud between Heihachi, Kazuya Mishima and the Mishima bloodline. Since the very beginning of the franchise, the battle between father and son has been a cornerstone of every Tekken game with every other character storyline revolving around it. Yet as epic and important this feud is to the series as a whole, its conclusion in Tekken 7 ends with a thud rather than a big blowout. If you were hoping for a grand finale, than you’re going to be very disappointed by the time everything wraps up.
Tekken 7’s plot suffers from having too many events happen concurrently and too many jumps between perspectives. The story begins with Heihachi and Kazuya’s conflict and then abruptly shifts focus to a random narrator viewing everything from the outside. Some moments between characters feel random and unrelated to the greater narrative, while others just aren’t given enough time to become something bigger to the story. Most characters in Tekken 7’s roster don’t appear in the story mode and are instead given smaller Character Stories that offer little to no details about them in relation to the plot, making their inclusion seem almost irrelevant.
From time to time we learn about how the battle within the Mishima Zaibatsu has affected normal people, but nothing has a solid payoff by the story’s conclusion. It doesn’t help either when the style of cutscenes is constantly changing from, jumping between in-game scene and still images frequently. It almost feels like there were multiple directions being decided on during the development of Tekken 7 and nothing could be agreed upon. More than likely a classic and disappointing case of way too many cooks in the kitchen.
But is the fighting of Tekken 7 still great to play? Absolutely, especially for those who are new to the franchise and never played a Tekken game before. Whether you’re playing on a controller or arcade stick, it still feels amazing to execute a tough combo during a matchup. You have all of the combos, special moves from previous games, like the Rage Arts for each character on the roster, updated across the board. Tekken 7 has a smaller roster size than the last few games, but each fighter has a wide assortment of attacks and combos that make them feel different and balanced amongst the cast.
The special guest character, Akuma from the Street Fighter series, fits surprisingly well with everyone despite being born within a classic 2D fighting franchise. Many of his combos and special moves translate well into Tekken’s fighting system and button layout. It may be a small cameo, but can hopefully lead to other cross-overs (maybe more Street Fighter characters?) in the future.
Multiplayer is the bread and butter of playing Tekken, and Tekken 7 doesn’t disappoint at all with its local and online multiplayer features. Offline Versus and Arcade Mode provide fun offline with friends or computer opponents, but the online multiplayer modes offer a solid experience against others around the world.
Ranked Battles help you place on leaderboards and obtain individual ranks for each character you play on the roster, while Tournaments and Player Matches have lobbies than are easy to set up and fun to be part of. Depending on your connection, matches online can be very smooth and hardly suffer from latency issues that impact the quality of fighting over the internet.
Later iterations of Tekken always had lots of extra content and customization options, and Tekken 7 has plenty to explore. Every fight gives you Fight Money to spend on items and clothing to equip onto each character on the roster, adding a unique style to your fighters you can share online.
Each fighter has their own unique items that can be unlocked and modified to your leisure, more of which can be obtained by playing Treasure Battle and winning matches for even more items and fight money. It doesn’t take long to unlock a plethora of equipment, but you’ll definitely be playing for a long time to unlock every item.
In addition, Tekken 7 has an abundance of unlockable movies and concept art that spans across the entire franchise. You can unlock ending movies from previous Tekken games to view in the Gallery, which is super helpful when for getting caught up with the franchise. Never saw the original Tekken arcade endings for the original eight fighters of the franchise? You can unlock all of them! Didn’t know about the Tekken Pachinko machine cutscenes from Japanese arcades? You can unlock those too!
However, a huge disappointment is the video quality for the unlockable Gallery movies. Almost every cutscene suffers from heavily pixelated and compressed video that looks lower quality than their original releases. The PlayStation 1 era Tekken cutscenes suffer the most from this, making a few videos from those early games barely viewable. Hopefully an update is done to make these videos from Tekken’s history beautiful again.
Tekken 7 is an imperfect love letter to the franchise and its fans. Even after 20 years, it’s still a whole lot of fun to battle your friends within beautiful 3D rendered environments using outrageous styles of martial arts. All of the crazy style and flair still has what it takes to charm us into having fun, despite the game’s few shortcomings. The story of Tekken 7 may not be a historic conclusion to the rivalry between its premiere fighters, but the solid online game modes and a myriad of extras will please veterans and newcomers alike.
This review was based on a digital review code of Tekken 7 for the PlayStation 4, provided by Bandai Namco.