For almost 20 years, I’ve adored the Tekken franchise – Tekken 5 being responsible for my appreciation of the fighting game genre. Over the years, I’ve grown an appreciation and understanding for what makes Tekken such a successful franchise. Unfortunately, with recent Tekken titles, my excitement has slightly diminished: I felt nostalgia could partially be blinding me in terms of playing Tekken (watching it, on the other hand, has always been satisfying!). Tekken 8 has amazingly made me track back on that statement, feeling incredible to explore. A plethora of content alongside stunning graphics and solid gameplay hasn’t for a second made me think twice about buying and agreeing to review it.
Allow me to introduce the review by discussing Tekken 8’s Opening Movie. Just wow! Prior to the game’s release, I must’ve watched the opening movie 20 times, indulging in the world and stakes set up in just over two minutes. It’s comparable to Tekken 5 in relation to style, which isn’t a bad place to take influence from.
‘My Last Stand’ – used in the Opening Movie – is representative of Tekken 8’s soundtrack: atmospheric and intense to the core. Other fantastic tracks include ‘Storm Rising’, alongside ‘Rude and Reckless’. But what if – unlike me – you’re not the biggest fan of this soundtrack? That’s okay because the Jukebox returns, allowing you to select the tracks you want for every stage and every menu! I love bringing in the Tekken 5 soundtrack occasionally.
Going back to the opening movie, a high quality for cinematic visuals is established straightaway and maintained. Tekken is a fine example, anyway, for the evolution of gaming visuals. In terms of cutscenes, Tekken 8 has immensely improved over its predecessor. I wasn’t particularly fond of Tekken 7’s art direction, whereas here I’m stunned by the immense quality Bandai Namco has evidenced in each cutscene. They’ve done a superb job utilising current hardware, each character and location having more personality than ever.
There’s plenty to consume in the form of cutscenes here too, which delights me. Possibly my biggest quarrel with Tekken 7 was its lack of cutscenes for individual characters, having an interaction with another character and the end of a single battle being all. Here, all 32 characters have an intro dialogue and an individual cutscene, even those who play integral roles in The Dark Awakens, Tekken 8’s primary story mode.
Bandai Namco haven’t put all their budget into the cutscenes, fortunately. Visuals within matches are incredible too, each feeling vibrant with an abundance of detail. From Yakushima to Ortiz Farm, to Into the Stratosphere, most stages in Tekken 8 are impressive, to say the least. Although, I must say that we could do with a couple more, especially with two versions of Arena and Urban Square occupying a staggering quarter of Tekken 8’s stage slots.
Not only do stages impress visually, but in gameplay, they’re plentiful in depth. Hitting opponents against walls to extend combos is, again, an integral asset to gameplay. Alongside stages changing depending on circumstance, they feel dynamic! It’s actively incentivised to utilise walls to trap opponents. The difficulty can sometimes be in execution, with having full knowledge of your character being obviously advantageous. Smacking opponents into walls is but one mere component of Tekken 8’s gameplay. Matches themselves are significantly more multilayered than this.
There’s something so satisfying about playing matches in Tekken 8. Comparing directly to Mortal Kombat 1, gameplay here is a breath of fresh air! Everything feels so smooth, so swift in its execution. Matches are played at a breakneck pace: reducing health, increasing damage and adding the heat system contribute to this. Innovation is at the heart of Tekken 8 thanks to the Heat System, which actively encourages aggressive play thanks to a short window to utilise this. Health regeneration also encourages this, gaining health following succesful offense.
Rage Art also returns, emphasising a need for any player to remain alert. Successful execution of rage really brings the losing player back into the game, so blocking and dodging is more important than ever. This is also true in relation to the ever-growing importance of launching your opponent. Once you’re in the air, you cannot block your opponent’s attacks, thus making it integral to avoid launches. If you’re not alert, most of your health – if not all – is lost to a single extensive combo. No pressure for new players!
One of my highest compliments to Tekken 8 goes to accessibility. Special Style’s inclusion is almost perfect, allowing the casual player to have access to some flashy moves and combos. Tekken 8’s Special Style feature allows a player to use any character and have some competence. King is a perfect example for this due to his many grapples and professional wrestling moves rather than simple combos, unlike Hwoarang, for example. An experienced player will require some thought to beat a newer Tekken player, although due to the rightly limited nature of Special Style, experienced players will still have a significant edge. More importantly though, this means I’ll be able to play against friends who rarely – if ever – play Tekken and still have a blast!
Special Style is also fantastic for getting a feel for any Tekken 8 character. This has allowed me to find a love for the likes of Victor Chevalier and Acuzena – both new additions to the franchise. While there are some imbalances in relation to characters thus far (especially for new characters), I’ve enjoyed playing as pretty much everybody! As such, it feels as though Bandai Namco have picked a fantastic roster with no wasted spots on show.
I’m slightly disappointed relative to previous Tekken instalments that only 32 characters are in the base roster. However, when comparing to other popular fighting games, I have no right to really complain. Besides, it felt as though a few characters on Tekken 7’s base roster were uninteresting, whereas everybody here feels like a worthwhile inclusion. Although, having Eddy Gordo as DLC is cheeky from Bandai Namco, alongside Lydia, Lei, Ganryu and Bob missing from the roster.
I mentioned cutscenes previously and their contribution to cinematic storytelling in Tekken 8. The Dark Awakens is wonderful in execution due to this. At times, it feels as though I’m watching a film unfold, and given another narrative-based game mode (which we’ll discuss shortly), I’m delighted to have The Dark Awakens present in Tekken 8. With Jin as lead protagonist once again, the story itself is incredibly enjoyable to immerse myself in. What’s even better is that most of the roster is involved.
In Tekken 7 especialIy, I disliked how The Mishima Bloodline (that game’s story mode) involved less than half of the roster (especially with a lack of character endings). Having more of the roster involved in The Dark Awakens is a superb choice because most characters evolve in some way, keeping them fresh. With no spoilers, Xiaoyu, Paul and Law receive some well-deserved spotlights.
Coming away from The Dark Awakens, we have Arcade Quest acting as another narrative-driven mode. Following customising your own character, you set off on a quest to become the best Tekken player in the world, exploring locations and encountering NPC players. This story is entirely offline, but it’s a great way for players new and old to sharpen their skills, especially with Special Style and the Heat System’s introductions. Scenarios will be put before you in some matches that force you to learn the ways of Tekken 8. Otherwise, you face gradually tougher opponents on your quest.
Customisation comes into play when creating your avatar. It allows you to make your character somewhat unique (mine looks like a Pokémon trainer). Nothing mind-blowing happens in relation to this, and I can somewhat say the same for customisation outside of Arcade Quest. Each of the 32 characters also have enough options to make your character look the way you want them to. However, I do feel the likes of Tekken 5 and Tekken 7 have better, more diverse systems.
Your custom avatar made in Arcade Quest doesn’t just serve this purpose. Introducing the Tekken Fight Lounge! As your avatar, you can explore a small area and encounter other players to initiate battles. Yes, it’s simply a lobby but one with plenty of charm. The Tekken Fight Lounge makes finding online matches easier for sure, and luckily, Tekken 8‘s online play is solid. It doesn’t take too long to find a match. Most of the time, you’re also up against players with similar skill levels. Impressively, I’ve rarely encountered connection issues online throughout Tekken 8, which has been a problem in fighting games generally. Matches outside of the region haven’t had many issues either!
Tekken 8‘s package so far is already magnificent! If this isn’t enough, let me introduce Tekken Ball! For those who never played Tekken 3 or have never heard of Tekken Ball, imagine the Tekken formula mixed with beach volleyball. Tekken Ball requires something different from players. Rather than the constant close-quarters combat, Tekken Ball works at any range. Tekken Ball requires different strategies from regular Tekken matches, evolving what we already have in the form of Tekken 8’s gameplay. Tekken Ball is entertaining, making for a wonderful break from the rest of Tekken 8. Playing online too brings a smile to my face, it’s just a shame Gon isn’t a playable character. Tekken Ball more than fills the void left by Team Battle and Tekken Bowl. But could we see Team Battle and Tekken Bowl in DLC?
Bandai Namco have smashed it out of the park with Tekken 8! Whether it’s a plethora of content, further development for pretty much every character on the roster or the stunning current-gen visuals, there’s little to complain about with the newest instalment! Yes, there could be more characters, stages or customisation options – these are nitpicky complaints when compared to the positives. Did I mention that Tekken Ball is back?
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: 25th January 2024