Fighter games are nice, simple, and oh-so challenging because of the ‘skill’ factor. To decimate your opponent’s health bar, you need skill in reading character animation to know what move your opponent is triggering so you can counter or defend.
There is skill in punching the correct buttons, in the correct order, at the correct time to trigger a combo successfully. And, for Tekken, you need one hell of a memory to remember the insane amounts of combos. It is a lot of information, but it is simple… and in its simplicity, it is constraining.
When creating a new installment in such a franchise, how do you innovate and change the experience? I was curious to see how Tekken 8 would do it, and I had lots of questions. So, I downloaded the demo to answer them.
The Expectations And Challenges Of The Fighter Genre
Let’s be fair- the fighting genre does see innovations. Between story, weaponry and even cool set-ups, studios add innovative elements. Sclash, a recent notable indie game, innovated by changing the set-up and goal for the fight. It was more about timing your strike since it feeds off a stamina bar rather than having unlimited moves, like Tekken.
Each new title in a game franchise makes the best of the technology currently available. They update the fundamental elements of the game, design, and art. Combat is updated with new animation and moves. Designers even experiment with new special attacks or systems.
Of the dominant franchises, Tekken has the most detailed combos that tie into very detailed (and accurate) martial arts styles used by the characters. Each attack or combo, or each style, has to have a damage rating, as well as a potential counter-move/dodge or defense in the opponent’s styles. Art and performance upgrades are clearly a big way these games start to keep things fresh.
And Tekken 8 does it fairly well.
How Tekken 8 Keeps It Fresh For Returning AND New Players
For Returning Players – Building The Mythos
The story mode starts with a massive clash between Jin and Kazuya, a culmination of events from the saga. Their fight punches through the city, destroying buildings and laying waste to the land while Jin tries to keep Kazuya Mishima from hurting the masses.
The fluidity of the animation and particle effects is a great showcase of what current-generation technology is capable of. It carries into the fight too; splashes of light and clean, quick animations encourage you to pay attention if you want to have any hope of defeating Kazuya.
The ongoing story is one of the ways the game keeps returning players hooked. Tekken went from a light story surrounding a tournament to a family saga for the ages. There is enough angst, anger, and world politics in the games to make each of the characters interesting. It is how the game gets the players to choose who to play.
Tekken’s characters are all the more interesting because of their combat styles, making each one unique and increasing the base challenge of this game. This is because each one of the featured martial arts has distinctly different moves. It makes it harder to remember all the variations.
For Returning Players – Increasing Complexity And Challenge
Designers add different combinations and power systems to each game to challenge the player to try something new. Right out of the gate in the story mode, you need to master that and learn how to use and trigger the new special ‘Heat’ and ‘Rage’ systems.
When activated, it increases the damage of base attacks and gives the player access to new high-damage combos for a short period. It is a fun, interesting, and flashy way in which to engage player skill.
For Returning Players – Super Ghost Battle Mode To Hone Skill
In the past, the old ghost systems were basically arcade battles against the game AI. It was a way to grind the game and get better at using the various combos in the game. Knowing the combos is only half the battle though. The other half is reading the screen. And what better way than to learn your partner’s fighting style? This is where Tekken 8’s Super Ghost Battle mode is genius.
As you play the game mode, the AI learns your fighting style and creates a ghost player. The more you play, the more accurate it gets, allowing your friends to truly practice for a fight against you when they play against your ghost. This mode can and will change up the challenge in live matches as you make friends and expand your playgroup.
For New Players – Creating A Robust Onboarding System
Nothing beats a stellar tutorial because it is that key element that dictates if you can make a fan out of a new player. Every one of the franchises has been killing it when it comes to tutorials and staggered learning. The tutorial in Tekken 8 is through the Arcade Quest mode.
It’s a really cute experience where you play as chibi players trying to dominate at an Arcade Tekken competition. Here, you are a new player, learning about Tekken. At each arcade, you find ‘players’ that will teach you about one specific type of combat set. As you explore the world, you unlock arcades that present you with CPU matches and challenges until you finally meet and play against the world champ — A Chibi Kazuya.
Yeah… I laughed… a lot… it was great.
This structured way of learning and building up experience is an amazing tutorial because Tekken has such a steep learning curve. The combos and actions need very careful and timely inputs from the player. The only thing that will get you to the end line is practice.
What It Can Mean For Future Installments… aka… Will Tekken Die?
If Tekken maintains this structured method of onboarding and developing skill, the franchise is likely to stay successful for a while. But that initial concern of mine remains- how long can it stick around before it becomes too repetitive? They were able to save themselves with the release of Tekken 6 and Tag tournament.
Will Bandai Namco keep it engaging and fresh in Tekken 8? I am waiting for the answer as the game nears release. I am waiting to be surprised.