Within the first few minutes of Tekken 8’s story mode, I was whooping at the screen as I watched the iconic Jin Kazama sprout wings, throw three cars at his dad with his mind and then proceed to body slam him through a skyscraper. I knew that if the game has started on this foot, I was in a for a good time. Tekken 8 is a rambunctious, over-the-top, callback to the absurdity of the likes of Tekken 3, and you’re going to absolutely love it.
Tekken 8‘s story mode follows Jin Kazama’s journey to take down his father, Kazuya Mishima, who is once again hosting a tournament to find the world’s greatest fighter. Contestants from countries all over the world will compete, and those that fail will face horrible consequences unless Jin puts a stop to his antics, all the while fighting to rediscover his own devilish powers. There is more to this story, of course, but one that you’ll absolutely want to experience for yourself. Don’t worry, if you’re not up to date with the story so far, Tekken 8 offers a series of short videos that’ll catch you up on the main plot.
A combination of 32 old and new characters grace the roster this time; the Mishima family is out in force, capers between Paul Phoenix and Marshall Law are plentiful, and Kuma and Yoshimitsu are here to respectfully squeeze and slash their foes to pieces. Tekken 8 also introduces the dazzling Peruvian MMA fighter Azucena, the sleek leader of the UN independent forces Victor Chevalier, and the fierce Reina, with mysterious ties to the Mishima family fighting style. It’s the perfect combination of recognizable personalities to ease lapsed players back in, standing alongside exciting new options that slot brilliantly into Tekken 8‘s explosive narrative.
On top of the main Story mode, each playable fighter has their own Character Episode, a digestible session consisting of five fights that rewards you with a short cutscene about what they’ve been up to surrounding the events of Tekken 8. This is an excellent return to the silliness of older Tekken instalments; watching these characters indulge in their own wacky escapades outside of the Mishima conflict is infinitely joyous. Spoiling any of these cutscenes would be a disservice to the discerning Tekken fan, so I’ll let you discover them, but I’d recommend you make a beeline for Law’s for a taste of how wacky it can get.
Stepping back into a fighting stance can feel daunting, especially to someone that hasn’t played Tekken for a long time (myself included), but Tekken 8‘s controls are built to feel intuitive and comfortable for every type of player. The first few fights with Jin felt like stepping into an old pair of shoes; familiar moves and combos flew from the deepest recesses of my mind and landed with crystal clarity like I’d never been away. If you don’t have that basic familiarity, the new Special Style Mode is here to support newcomers and returning players one step further – pressing LB switches your controls to a much simpler style, and allows your character to perform complex, powerful moves with less need to memorize and hit the right buttons, which is a massive, welcome win for accessibility.
While a robust single-player experience has been offered up, it’s Tekken 8‘s multiplayer and competitive modes that will entice many players. The online area feels like a whole new game in itself – you’ll need to create a custom cartoon avatar before heading to an online plaza. Here, you’ll find Arcade Quest, a hybrid of tutorial and challenge that pits you against increasingly difficult computer-controlled foes, while the new Super Ghost Battle mode lets you take on fights against an AI that will replicate your playstyle in order to help you improve. Tekken has a highly competitive multiplayer scene, so this addition makes for a nice entry into online play for the uninitiated.
Once you’re ready to take on the world, those hunting for a simple PvP experience can head over to a set of different arcade machines; two players can sit down opposite each other and engage in a three-round fight, with options to rematch, switch characters or simply wander off after a shameful defeat. It’s a sleek, interactive system that replicates the feel of hanging out in a real arcade, rather than sitting in a static menu waiting for a match. If a player quits, you’re left to practise your moves until you’re matched with another player. In-between matches, you can explore the plaza, spectate other battles, or spend a little time customizing your avatar or Tekken fighters.
A familiar mode also makes its return – Tekken Ball. First introduced in Tekken 3, the object of the mini-game is to defeat your opponent by thwacking a big ball towards them, using your regular moves to power up the impact of the hit. It feels exactly as I remember it; and its inclusion feels like yet another nod back to classic Tekken.
The Tekken team has built an incredible step up for this iconic series, and it’s the perfect time to jump back in. Committed players will find more of the game they love; a belting story, stylish and fulfilling combat, wrapped up in a number of breathtaking settings and stages. This is Tekken at its very best; high-voltage, endlessly enjoyable and pushed to the absolute limit of its own rampant silliness.
But Tekken 8 also has its eyes on the back of the room, the lapsed fans and the retired fighters. One particular battle in the Story Mode hits a crescendo as the electrifying riffs of Jin’s theme, first heard in Tekken 3, erupt into the arena. If you’re a long-time fan, or a casual onlooker from the ringside, Tekken 8 sees you, and it’s saying ‘welcome home.’
Fist Meets Fate on January 26. Tekken 8 is available on Xbox Series X|S.
Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc.
The TEKKEN series is breaking into a new era!
The longest-running story in a video game franchise is coming back with state-of-the-art graphics and powerful new rivalries.
Stay tuned for TEKKEN 8!