Gaming

Tekken 8 review: a wickedly fun story worth fighting for

Kuma roaring during his stage entrance in Tekken 8

“Tekken 8 doesn’t quite land a perfect combo, but its strong enough to be a champion.”

Pros

  • Tight fighting controls
  • Impactful new systems
  • Beautiful visuals
  • Great online experience
  • Excellent story mode

Cons

  • Slim side modes
  • Arcade quest is a slog
  • Character stories are short

Whenever I jump into a new, highly anticipated fighting game, all I want to see is tight combat. Things were no different with Tekken 8. After interviewing the game’s director, Katsuhiro Harada, I expected Tekken 8 to wow me mechanically. What I didn’t expect is that I’d enjoy a fighting game story mode in today’s genre landscape as much as I did when Mortal Kombat 9 revolutionized the genre in 2011. And I certainly didn’t expect that from Tekken.

That’s what Tekken 8 is all about: There are surprises around every corner. Characters I never cared about ended up being my favorites. Gameplay mechanics I felt might be too overtuned actually brought even more depth to the series. And the only thing I can say about its wildly entertaining story is to let out a positive, “bruh.” Though a few bum modes weigh down the package, Tekken 8 is another victory for the long-running series.

Another heavy-hitting home run

Tekken 8 is a standard 3D fighting game — and a brilliant one at that. It follows all the usual rules of the series. There are two punch buttons, two kicks, a grab, Rage arts, and many complex systems to master. As always, wavedashing, Korean backdashing, and every other deep mechanic that makes it a high-level competitive game return here. This time, these classic features are joined by a very welcome addition to the series: the Heat system.

Tekken 8 keeps up the series’ streak of being welcoming to all kinds of players.

Heat is broken up into four parts: engagers, burst, dashes, and smashes. Engagers and Bursts are attacks that can activate Heat mode. Once in Heat (yes, I get how that sounds), attacks can chip through blocks and characters can spend it all to execute a powerful move. They also get access to Heat Dashes, which allow for dash follow-ups to specific attacks, and Heat Smash, a mini-super move similar to Rage Arts.

Together, all of these mechanics put Tekken right back into the simple-to-pick-up, hard-to-master category. When I jumped into the game, I thought the implementation of each of these mechanics would feel cut-and-dried, but that’s not the case. Like Rage Arts, Heat is only available once per round, meaning the way you use it needs to be perfect unless you want to waste it. Other times, you’ll go out of your way to use it in what feels like the perfect moment, only to later see a golden opportunity where you could have spent it. Patience is the most important skill you’ll learn here.

King's Tekken 8 victory pose
Namco Bandai

Tekken 8 keeps up the series’ streak of being welcoming to all kinds of players without alienating anyone. With the addition of Special Styles, an alternate control scheme that can be toggled on with the press of a button in the middle of a match, players can easily perform auto-combos and access hard to use mechanics. In the same vein, hardcore players who love the grind can ignore that altogether and look to master each of the present mechanics in a new Tekken experience. It’s a win-win.

Final Fantasy in my Tekken

Tekken 8 comes with a handful of modes outside of its standard brawls, but the highlight here is its masterful story mode. The tale begins with the heroes of the story, Jin Kazama and the rest of his allies, looking to take down Kazuya Mishima and his G-Force army after the world-changing patricide of Tekken 7. The last we left him, Kazuya (and the Devil within him) was continuing his search for ultimate power and world domination. Throughout the brief story, we follow the escalation of his corruption, all while watching Jin accept his inner Devil, past sins, and friendships to defeat him.

It’s a thrilling story filled with godly fights, cameos fans will love, and a mysterious new character that adds a whole lot of intrigue to the saga. It’s a soap opera crossed with a visually dazzling anime — and I absolutely love it. At times, it feels more like a Final Fantasy spinoff. Even better, its a cogent and coherent narrative; even players who have no clue what happened in past games can likely jump in and enjoy the dramatic story. Should they want to go visit the past, they can go right to the gallery and watch retellings of each past game to catch up. The Tekken team knows its doing something special here with its approach to fighting game narratives and it doesn’t want anyone to miss it.

Lee fighting G-Force armies in Tekken 8 story mode.
Namco Bandai

It’s a lovingly crafted story mode, top to bottom. Battles are perfectly placed between cinematics, even more so than in Mortal Kombat. Characters will occasionally drop a line of dialogue when taking a counter hit, making battles feel like a reactive part of the story rather than something players have to do to get to the next scene. There are also a few narrative twists that change up the gameplay. A mid-story tournament has players picking different characters in bracket matchups to shake up the gameplay. Best of all is a surprise beat ’em up chapter that calls back to Tekken Force, a beloved minigame from Tekken 3.

And that’s not even the best part. Just know that this is a story mode you don’t want to miss out on, Tekken fan or not.

The rest is a mixed bag

While Tekken 8 delivers in its two core modes, the rest is hit-and-miss. Other than story mode, practice, Arcade mode, and your usual online play (which features stable netcode on par with Tekken 7) and offline battles, the other included modes are Character Episodes, Tekken Ball, and Arcade Quest.

Character Episodes are basically mini-arcade modes. You select a character and play through a “What if?” scenario leading up to the next King of Iron Fist Tournament. Upon finishing, you get a beautifully animated, and sometimes hysterical, ending. If you want a good episode to start with, try Kuma’s for a tale of intergalactic bear love. It’s a great stand-in for a traditional Arcade mode; if you’re not in the mood to play a full arcade run, it’s great to sit back and play through this short 5-match mode for that same thrill.

Tekken Ball is a case of “What you see is what you get.” It’s the return of the classic volleyball minigame where you use attacks to bounce the ball back and forth. It’s harmless fun for friends to goof around with, but there’s not much to speak on there.

Reina hitting Kazuya with a beach ball in Tekken 8 Tekken Ball.
Bandai Namco

Where Tekken 8 really underdelivers is in its meta Arcade Quest mode. Here, players create an Xbox 360-style avatar and fight to become an arcade legend. The mode has players traveling to different arcades around the world and taking down opponents on Tekken cabinets. It’s a cute idea in theory, especially in the wake of anime and manga like Hi-Score Girl. In practice, though, it falls flat.

For starters, it’s an absolute slog in its early hours. This is meant to function as an interactive tutorial mode, so early matches are preceded by long demonstrations of fighting techniques. I found it much easier to just go into the menus and learn there.

In Arcade Quest, each mechanic is dissected so slowly that it’ll put you to sleep. Or, at least it would if your NPC pal would stop critiquing your play after every match and telling you what you should have done after losing. I hate when real people do that to me, so why would I want to hear it in a game? It’s the only mode that I found zero enjoyment in, which is a shame considering that its the second-biggest piece of the package. There is a great way to do this kind of interactive teaching, as seen in Street Fighter 6. This just isn’t it.

Despite missing on a major mode, Tekken 8 is another great entry in one of the fighting genre’s best series. Whether you come for the story or just the core brawling, the team at Bandai Namco makes sure there’s something everyone can enjoy here. It’s a tight package that loads a lot of surprises into every corner and another fighting game that’s very much worth your time in a true golden age for the genre.

Tekken 8 was reviewed on Xbox Series X.

Editors’ Recommendations






Courtesy by: Digital Trends

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