The King of the Iron Fist tournament has held a place in my heart for a very long time, but I still can’t say I’ve taken the game very seriously. Tekken 7 aims to remedy that, as Bandai Namco is retooling the franchise to make it more accessible to their less hardcore audience. This includes changing the hit-sparks (the special effects created by contact between the two characters on screen) to make the game more visually appealing, adding armored moves (abilities that allow the player to ignore one instance of being hit, which allows for one player’s moves to push through their opponent’s.) and what are essentially Super Arts from Street Fighter, which are now called Rage Arts. All together these changes seem to be leading towards a more casual friendly Tekken, without sacrificing what makes Tekken a great competitive 3D fighting game.
One of the biggest problems with the Tekken series in the eyes of every non-Tekken fan is the lack of audience appeal. Some of the most technically flawed fighting games on the EVO circuit (the most popular fighting game tournament in the world) also happen to draw the most competitors and stream viewers (*cough* Marvel 3 *cough*). This isn’t an accident. Games like Marvel make up for a majority of their problems in the public’s eye by putting on one hell of a show at high level tournaments. Bandai Namco is using Tekken 7 as a chance to rekindle the FGC’s (Fighting Game Community) interest in the series as a spectator sport by improving the graphics and giving the game a more cinematic feel. For example, the hit sparks in Tekken 7 have gone through an overhaul, changing them from being awkward 2D splotches of color to explosions of light and special effects.
This may not seem like a big deal, as hit sparks don’t actually affect the gameplay in any way, but it will do wonders for Bandai Namco’s marketing. A big part of fighting game marketing comes from Youtube videos and streaming from sites like Twitch and Hitbox. If a non-fighting game player comes across a Tekken 7 tournament, the more obvious expression of gameplay through improved hit sparks and cinematic Rage Arts will help them better understand what is happening on screen and give them more incentive to research the game further. In the world of “hype” a little change can go a long way towards helping audiences get more into a competitive fighting game.
Bandai Namco isn’t only changing the aesthetics of Tekken, however. Rage Arts, Power Crush Arts and the removal of Bound moves should help in easing new players into the world of the Iron Fist. At its most basic level, Tekken is a game about timing and spacing. Spacial awareness is something most players above a reasonable age will be able to comprehend, i.e. if an opponent’s kick move reaching across one quarter of the screen, then one should stand at one quarter of the screens distance away from one’s opponent so as to avoid getting hit, but timing is a much harder concept to comprehend. In Tekken, as is the case in most fighting games, each move has a certain number of start up frames (literally the amount of frames that the animation takes before the move actually “comes out”), followed by a certain number of active frames (the frames within which the move will make contact) and then followed again by a certain number of recovery frames (the amount of frames needed for the character to recover from the move). The timing aspect of Tekken is simple once you understand how frame-counting works; if an opponent uses a move with 8 frames of start-up, then you could use a move with 6 frames of start-up 1 frame after they unleash their move to knock them out of it. This happens because your move finishes its start-up frames first and makes contact with your opponent before they are able to finish the start-up frames of their move. Power Crush moves will help new players by giving them an opportunity to metaphorically table flip the meta-game of counting frames. Power Crush moves simply allow a player to avoid the next instance of getting hit (going into what fighting game players call “hit stun”). This means that if a player throws out an 8 frame Power Crush against an opponent’s 6 frame normal move, the normal move will hit first, but the properties of the Power Crush move will allow the first player to continue going through with their 8 frame move. Power Crush arts are not Invincible moves, however, as they do not ignore damage, but they will do a great job in spicing up the traditional spacing and timing meta-games of Tekken.
While it may seem that giving each player a near invincible move would ruin the competitive viability of Tekken, Bandai Namco is already a mile ahead, as Power Crush arts are vulnerable to low hitting normal moves. This gives smart players an out against players who would rather mash out their Power Crush move than learn how to time their moves more carefully.
The removal of the Bound mechanic also seems to aid towards making Tekken 7 a more accessible game, as it lead to very long combo strings and juggles, is counter-intuitive to new players (i.e. why can I not doing anything while being combo’d?) and represents a steep learning curve for anyone wanting to deal optimal damage in a combo.
If the news pouring out of the Tekken 7 Location Tests are true, it seems that Bandai Namco is doing everything in its power to make the Tekken series a more accessible, audience friendly triple-A competitive fighting game. For a franchise with releases numbering in the double digits, it is a pleasant surprise to see that Tekken is willing to change for what seems to be the better. The next step in the development process lies with the players, however, as Bandai Namco needs to hear their audience’s opinions of the Location Tests to make sure that Tekken 7 is the best entry in the series yet. If you want to see more Tekken 7 action, feel free to check out the playlist below from Level Up Your Game.