The dust has settled and the haze has cleared. After nearly a decade of hype matches, underdog triumphs, the shocking rise and dominance of the Pakistan community, and lots of noise, Tekken 7 gets laid to rest. We now find ourselves entering the era of ‘aggression’, a brand new Tekken game with exciting yet scary new mechanics and features that have been built atop one of the most storied foundations in fighting games.
To ring in the next generation, we sat down with a group of big names Tekken and the fighting game community (FGC) in general:
- Team Liquid’s own professional Tekken player, and one of NA’s best, Marquis “Shadow20z” Jordan
- Two legendary Tekken World Tour commentators in Michael “Thenameismyk” Kwon and Reepal “Rip” Parbhoo
- Multi fighting game champion and content creator Kennan ‘KizzieKay’ Kizzie
We picked their brains about the gameplay changes, new training tools, the new roster, and most importantly, why you should play Tekken.
The Elevator Pitch
To start things out, we asked for an ‘elevator pitch,’ because now more than ever, the FGC is spoiled for choice. Between the new Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Granblue — and all the old games with updated online play — why should you pick Tekken 8?
Rip and Kizzie are quick to highlight the unique aesthetic and vibe of Tekken. For nearly two decades, Tekken has somehow managed to blend an aesthetic core of a grounded, visceral martial arts competition with some of the most bizarre character choices and creative decisions in gaming. And it works, because who doesn’t want to watch a Polish Prime Minister karate kick a photo-realistic kodiak bear, while bass drops and sirens blasts in the background?
(Many people would die for this bear.)
Kizzie: “Look, martial arts are awesome, people like to watch other’s fight and Tekken is one of those games that will get your blood flowing, to hit buttons and FIGHT. The music and the atmosphere of Tekken is next level, you’re punching people, flying off the stages, crashing through floors, it’s martial arts but anime!”
Rip: “Tekken is the last 3D fighter standing for a reason. Incredibly hype, high level real time chess with no projectile zoning to deal with, and lots of actual martial arts represented. Plus bears, robots, devils and ninjas.”
Shadow20z: “It looks amazing & it's the most fun game I’ve ever played.”
Bringing the HEAT
Many of us have been eagerly awaiting the new Tekken to drop so the question isn’t so much “Why play?” But rather, “What’s new?” As so many fighting games recently have completely revamped their gameplay and features in their new releases.
For Tekken 8, the big change is the HEAT system, a brand new mechanic built into the framework of Tekken 8 that really drives the aggression. The HEAT system improves old moves, adds new ones, adds chip damage,and recovers health. This is quite a paradigm shift as chip damage (aka damage taken while blocking) and recoverable health are brand new to Tekken entirely. So, HEAT offers a universal ‘meter’ mechanic not typically seen in this franchise, which will completely change the fundamental strategies and approach to neutral.
That’s a lot of change. How do our resident pros, who have played Tekken games for years and enjoyed a sense of ‘consistency’ between games, feel about this massive shakeup?
Rip: “As a competitor I’m nervous about all of them! Tekken has never had chip damage/recoverable health as a core mechanic… I have confidence the game will be fun for casuals though and that the game will be patched well this first year.”
MYK: “With the HEAT stuff, you can do some robbery, especially early on… the low heat smashes seem really strong [due to] being a baked in mixup between a strong mid heat dash launcher or low heat smash. Very simple and very effective. That’s just really strong, especially after hitting a heat engager, you’re mad plus right in their face & they just gotta hold it if you wanna run your mix.’’
Shadow20z: “I’m interested the most in how people handle their heat engagers, do they use them early or save them for later? How do they spend their meter, to extend combos or threaten in neutral? There are so many ways to use it.”
Ghosts, takeovers, and new ways to train
A new meter mechanic and aggressive new moves aren’t the only things added to Tekken 8. The series is also expanding their robust training tools. A much improved ‘Ghost’ system, that allows you to download anyone’s ‘AI Ghost’, a CPU that is algorithmically trained off their own gameplay and a brand new replay takeover feature that allows you to download anyone’s match history and “take over” their game at any point to train specific situations. These two new tools could create a new way of effective training that may have larger implications to not only how pro players can train, but also how they ‘hide’ tech, or use smurf accounts.
Shadow20z: "In my opinion from the demo, the ghosts are really good. As you fight, your ghost keeps getting progressively better and better & it will replicate how you play. So if you play your own ghost, you can find little pot holes in your gameplay to learn what you can do better which is very important. I think it could lead to some players smurfing and me personally, I wouldn’t want people being able to always just download and play my ghost, but oh well, because I could do the same to them. The [replay takeover] feature is really healthy because Tekken is a game with a lot of situations you can’t really recreate so being able to load a replay and redo those situations is really good and will allow people to find solutions and be more prepared. "
(Anakin, one of NA’s best players, getting toasted by his own ghost.)
Rip: "I have limited experience with [Ghosts] but the neutral of the player doesn’t carry over well. It will still be way better to play ghosts than generic AI though. For most players though, this is as close as you will get to actually playing some of these top tournament players. It's a great feature, especially for players who are intimidated by online play."
MYK: "I was thinking pros playing on smurfs could happen more or playing intentionally bad sometimes to make their ghost worse than it should be. Personally, if I’m a top competitor, I don’t want any of my tech getting out there, I’m turning that feature off (if possible)… I don’t want my ghost giving away my setups etc., Although I think having access to all this information is better in the long run. It’s not the old days anymore where you can just hide tech and save it for nationals, now you just have to play at your best all the time."
Kizzie: "I’m one of those players that thinks that anything that’s not organic is [not] going to get you ready for the real thing, especially in fighting games. At the end of the day, it’s still a CPU, that’s going to have access to input reading etc., but I do think it will be helpful for new players. I also think it could lead to more smurfing because it makes sense for them to smurf too right, like I don’t know who you are, you can watch me play, but you aren’t gonna play me unless you’re playing me, you know?"
New and old faces
Some things don’t ever seem to change, though. Whether you’re a casual or a pro, newcomer or veteran, you should know that every new Tekken sparks endless discussion about which character should or shouldn’t make it into the roster. This is more true than ever because Tekken 7 made some of the most controversial (and left-field) roster moves ever seen in a fighting game.
Tekken 7 was loaded with guest characters from other media and the choices were completely shocking and in some cases, impossible to balance: Akuma, Geese Howard, Noctis (from Final Fantasy), and Negan (yes, the Walking Dead character) all entered the game. Geese and Akuma were particularly (and uniquely) frustrating to play against due to their “2D” jump attacks, traditional projectiles, and super meter that gave unique access to mind blowing damage. In turn, one of Tekken 8’s most anticipated features was “No more 2D characters” (AKA Geese and Akuma.
(Mind blowing damage indeed.)
Thus far, Tekken 8 has taken a muted approach. The initial Tekken 8 roster is rich with legacy fan favorites and some exciting newcomers that round out a whopping 32 character starting roster, which is currently, absent any guest characters. So we wanted to find out who our panel would bring back as DLC, who can ‘stay gone’ and how they would shake things up with guest characters.
Shadow: “I’d personally love to see Anna return, I think she’d fit in really well with the new aggressive mechanics but who I’d like to stay gone? Well there’s two actually, Julia and Armour King, I do not like either one of them! I get if you like them, that’s cool but it’s just NOT fun fighting against them (laughs).”
Rip: “We need Lei Wulong back. I appreciate the martial arts over the anime characters in Tekken, so Lei has to come back. Bruce would be a sick return too. Katarina, Josie, Miguel, and Bob can stay gone.”
MYK: “Lei Wulong. I personally don’t like playing against this character [because] everyone who plays him, plays him so damn weird but he is very cool & unique. I don’t think any character has been designed with this much love for who they’re supposed to be [Jackie Chan] so for me, it’s Lei. Now, I have a few who I don’t want to see come back (laughs), Kunimitsu, the character is ridiculous… Katarina, I think she’s just very dry and then Marduk and Anna.”
Kizzie: “I started training in Muay Thai recently, so man… I’d love to see me some Bruce! I’m tired of seeing ‘Bruce-like’ characters, I want to see Bruce himself!”
Things got wild when we went to the guest characters as Tekken as a franchise has one of the most diverse and weird rosters of all time. From robots to ninjas to dinosaurs to kangaroos to bears to television shows, nothing is off limits and you never know who will show up.
Rip:“The craziest guest character I want is still Shang Tsung (Mortal Kombat) since we still don't have Mokujin! His rage art could just steal souls, so it doesnt need to be gory and could fit right in!”
Shadow20z: “Given the route they’re going with tekken 8 and how it’s more flashy and anime, I’d like to see a character from the FATE anime, like how Sabre was added to Melty Blood, or Hayabusa from Dead or Alive.”
MYK: “Right now, because I just finished Resident Evil 4, I’d pick Ada Wong, we already have Victor and Nina with a gun, just put in Ada with a gun!”
Kizzie:“You know I’m a Jujutsu Kaisen lover so I’m going Satoru Gojo, you think people complained about Geese and Akuma? Just wait until you hear ‘DOMAIN EXPANSION’ and they’re put into the infinity void (laughs).”
Advice for the newcomers
After diving into new mechanics, new tools, and the new roster, we wanted to end on words of wisdom to new players that may be embarking on their first fighting game journey. Everyone interviewed here is a veteran of the scene, all leaving their marks on it in different ways. They’ve seen a lot of fighting games come and go and have stayed through the changes largely,as you’ll read, by finding the fun.
Rip: “Take your time and learn at your own pace. Have fun with the game in your own way because fun is most important.”
MYK: “Don’t just focus on the wins, that can lead to some ego issues. Losing is a big part of the process so don’t be afraid to lose, if you’re afraid to lose, you’re never going to win.”
(Polygon’s Pat Gill has a great guide on how to get started in fighting games too.)
Shadow20z: “Obviously it’s not an option for every person, but travel as much as you can even if it’s just locally to your local scene or to a nearby state for a tournament. It’s really important because you meet a lot of people and learn from a lot of players. It’s just really healthy for the whole community.”
Kizzie: “Alright new players, I know that fighting games are hard and in life it’s ok for things to be hard. What’s important is giving things a try that you’re interested in. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid or anything, because I’ll be looking stupid right there with you learning the game. The only thing I ask of you is to try and have as much fun as possible”.