Tekken 7 Works Despite Itself

The game's strong fundamentals ultimately overpower its many missteps

Tekken 7 released worldwide on June 2nd for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and on Windows through Steam. It was previously as an arcade exclusive in March of 2015. This gap in time has led to the release of an amazingly balanced and deep fighting game that I would guess will stay on the tournament scene for a very long time.

Within in the last few weeks, we’ve had the release of Injustice 2, Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers for the Nintendo Switch, and the release of a major patch for Street Fighter V that added a new playable character in “Ed.” We are also getting the release of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite in September. So where does Tekken 7 stand among all of these fighting games?

Right off the bat, if you are interested in the fighting game genre at all you need to check this game out. It’s fun and different and contains so much on the disc. It’s the last 3D fighter left, and you can tell why it has stood the test of time while other series did not.

If you remember Tekken games from the past, then you should be familiar with the formula of the arcade mode story telling device. In previous Tekken’s and most arcade fighting games, you would select a character and get a short story introduction to what their motivation for fighting is and then when you beat arcade mode after 8 or so fights you get a nice cinematic of the character completing their goal. Tekken 7, however, doesn’t give that to you. It does have an arcade mode unlike other games (Street Fighter V), but there is no story telling bookends. In this post-Mortal Kombat 9 world, fighting game stories must have their mode, and within the story, you get to play many different characters while the entire game’s story plays out.

NRS (NetherRealm Studios) has cornered the market of good fighting game story modes, with their releases of Mortal Kombat 9, Mortal Kombat X, Injustice, and Injustice 2. Tekken 7 makes an attempt at a similar style of storytelling with their story mode, but it failed to capture my attention through poor writing, poor voice acting, and a silly story of global war.

The story focuses on the Mishima family, “Heihachi” and “Kazuya” and their ongoing war. It takes place through the eyes of a reporter, and you get to play a small portion of the 37 fighter-cast during it. If you are interested in the Tekken story, this is an important one to play as it resolves a seven-game story arc, but if not I don’t feel it offers much value.

In place of the typical arcade mode story telling the cast members that you don’t get to play have what the game calls “Character Episodes.” They open with a few paragraphs of the story explaining what they are currently doing and why they are going to fight in the 7th “King of Iron Fist Tournament.” You fight one battle and then get a short cutscene. It feels very lackluster compared the old way of doing things with the arcade mode. I don’t know if it’s that the stories are worse or the single fight mode doesn’t lend to any buildup or anticipation but either way it does not feel as rewarding.

But the single player content is not why you should be interested in this game. The multiplayer in this fighting game is outstanding and such a step above its competition. Because the game was in arcades for over two years before making it to household consoles, it has been tweaked and balanced to the point of near perfection.

Every character is completely viable. There is no number 1 must pick character and no trash character that players must avoid at all costs. The net code is magnificent from what I’ve played (about 10-15 hours of play over its launch weekend). I’ve only had minor hiccups in some matches within the US, and I’ve played against people in Germany, Japan, and Korea and those had a bit more than a few hiccups, but that is to be expected. I also sought those players out; I wasn’t matched against anyone who wasn’t based in my region.

The features online are great as well. You can set up a private or public lobby that has a king of the hill system where the winner stays on, and everyone else watches the fight with only a few seconds of delay. This game mode, with a party of friends, leads to lots of shouting followed by another round of screaming 2 seconds later and lots of hilarity and trash talk. You can also participate in or host tournaments, you use fight money to host or enter a competition, and a bracket is made, and matches for each round are played simultaneously. Leading to smooth and little wait time tournament play with a reward at the end in fight money.

You earn the fight money after every match, and you get it in droves. The PlayStation Store doesn’t currently have it listed for purchase, so I don’t know if you will be able to pay real money to get it in the game or not, but even if you could, you won’t have to. The money is for customizing your characters and your play screen. You can add custom life bars, titles, and online profile designs. You get so much fight money that even with the extraordinary amount of buyable items within the game you won’t run out.

The character customization is insane. There isn’t any other way to put it. If you want your fighter to have a set of flapping pixie wings and a stack of Jenga blocks (that gradually fall off during the fight) on their head you can. You can even put a running shower coming off their back that will rain water down all match long. It gets ridiculous and hilarious.

Two of my favorite features in the game that make it feel like a love letter to Tekken fans are the Gallery and the Jukebox. Through the jukebox, you can change the game’s soundtrack to any previous Tekken game. There is ten games worth of soundtracks when you include the Tag Tournament spin-off series as well as well as Tekken Revolution, the PS3 free to play game. You can make custom playlists or just play with any previous Tekken soundtrack.

In the gallery, you can watch every cutscene from every past Tekken game. This is a fantastic feature that I’m not sure I’ve seen before, especially in a game series as old as Tekken. The nostalgia it brings back is immense for me, and I enjoyed re-watching some of the old games. It can also help catch you up on the crazy story that has been running for seven games now if you’re interested.

With a game like this, it’s easy to recommend you at least try it if you’re interested in the genre. I would recommend renting it if possible if you aren’t sure about multiplayer as the single player options are not worth $60. If you are enjoying this current golden age of fighting games and want to add another one to your collection, then this is a no-brainer. It’s the only 3D fighting game left, and it’s an incredible package of customization and nostalgia with some of the best balance I’ve seen in a fighting game. It’s a must buy for Tekken fans and competitive fighting game fans alike.