Tekken 8 Review: A knockout blend of accessibility and depth


Tekken 8 key art.
Credit: Bandai Namco

Tekken always intimidated me. Watching my fighting game-savvy friends effortlessly combo me into oblivion left me feeling more pummeled than engaged, leaving me wary of ever returning to the fighting game genre. Even the game's storied legacy felt like an insurmountable wall. But then came Tekken 8, a game that surprised me with its welcoming arms and had me glued to the screen for hours on end.

Despite being a newbie, the game provided ample space to learn its intricacies without feeling overbearing. It even inspired me to improve my skills and actively explore the diverse fighting styles of its impressive 32-character roster.

Tekken 8's commitment to both casual and veteran players shines through its varied modes and new mechanics. The beginner-friendly Special Style control scheme lets you pull off flashy combos with simple button presses, while the innovative Ghost Battle challenges seasoned players to push their limits. Tekken 8 endeavours to be an experience for all.

Robust single-player modes

Taking on the mantle of the longest-running storyline in video games according to Guinness World Records, I found the weight of Tekken's legacy to be extremely daunting. Thankfully, Tekken 8 offers a helping hand with its Gallery, housing concise movie summaries for each major instalment, which eases newcomers into the story while providing veterans with a quick refresher.

For those eager to jump right in, Tekken 8's Story Mode throws you headfirst into the action, forgoing lengthy expositions and character introductions. The opening scene pits the protagonist, Jin Kazama, against his power-hungry father, Kazuya Mishima, in a heart-pounding brawl that establishes the stakes: the annihilation of the world.

A screenshot from the Tekken 8 opening movie.
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Credit: Bandai Namco

The narrative unfolds seamlessly through interactions between characters and natural transitions into battles. This immersive flow of events allowed me to quickly grasp the game's rich backstory without having first watched the "digest movies". A standout feature is the Special Style control scheme, which streamlines Tekken 8's otherwise complex controls. This not only benefits new players by aiding them in mastering spacing and timing, but also serves as a valuable tool for anyone who wants to enjoy the story and effortlessly smash through battles.

As an anime-lover and JRPG enthusiast, I found Tekken 8's single-player story mode, "The Dark Awakens", to be a treat to watch unfold. The masterfully animated, over-the-top action is paired with the story's reflective and emotional tones, complete with absurd power scaling, epic fights between sworn enemies, and grandiose action sequences. Condensed into just four or five hours, the epic clash between father and son never felt drawn out, keeping me on the edge of my seat the entire time!

Yet, the fight extends beyond the family feud. As the story progresses, you'll encounter a host of vibrant characters, each driven by their distinct fighting style and unwavering motives. After completing the main story, you can delve deeper into each character through their individual Character Episodes, forging a connection with your favourite Tekken fighters on a whole new level!

A screenshot from the Tekken 8 - Overview Trailer | gamescom 2023.
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Credit: Bandai Namco

On the flip side, there's a visually distinctive single-player mode called Arcade Quest. Designed to serve as an introductory platform for newcomers to grasp the intricacies of Tekken 8's gameplay, Arcade Quest fittingly recreates the classic arcade experience, where many veteran players first honed their skills.

In Arcade Quest, you customise your own Mii-style avatars and embark on a journey with Max, your mentor, who guides you through the fundamentals of Tekken 8's mechanics. By defeating other computer-controlled contenders, you embark on a climb through the ranks of various arcades with the ultimate goal of securing the coveted championship title.

In this mode, you can observe demonstrations to gain a visual understanding of the combat techniques being taught, and then practice them at your own pace, ensuring a personalised and effective learning process!

A screenshot from the Tekken 8 - Overview Trailer | gamescom 2023.
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Credit: Bandai Namco

This irrefutably charming setting transforms the intimidating world of fighting games into an accessible experience. Armed with an arsenal of moves, I found myself eager to return for new challenges in the virtual arcades. I believe Arcade Quest is a compelling way for newer and older players to engage with Tekken 8, rather than simply resorting to a series of offline battles one after another.

Beyond its role as a training ground, Arcade Quest also serves as a heartfelt homage to Tekken's arcade roots. For veteran players, the mode aims to evoke a sense of nostalgia, transporting you back to the era when arcades acted as the epicentres of gaming communities. For those who missed out on the quintessential arcade experience, like me, Arcade Quest offers a glimpse into this vibrant era, allowing you to experience the thrill of competing in tournaments alongside fellow players!

Fight against AI "ghosts"

The chaos of battle can be overwhelming, especially for newer players like myself! Often, I found myself button-mashing through battles, barely scraping by without truly understanding the flaws in my technique. Tekken 8's Arcade Quest introduces a unique feature, Ghost Battle, that gives you the chance to confront your own "ghost", an AI-powered opponent that mirrors your playstyle.

After five encounters, your ghost will begin to replicate your moves, offering a startling glimpse into your strengths and, more importantly, your weaknesses. With this uncanny ability, your ghost might even surpass your skill level after ten or more battles.

A screenshot of Ghost Battle mode in Tekken 8.
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Credit: Bandai Namco

But Ghost Battle is more than just a humbling experience. It's a judgment-free training ground where you can hone your skills without the pressure of facing human opponents.

And the benefits extend far beyond newbie training. Veteran players can also leverage Ghost Battle to their advantage. Ghosts can be generated for every character in the game, making it significantly easier to develop effective strategies against specific opponents.

On top of that, Ghosts can learn the unique playstyles of individual players. This feature becomes particularly beneficial in competitive settings, allowing players to thoroughly prepare for specific matchups and refine their tactical approach.

A departure from facing countless static AIs to refine your skills, Ghost Battle mode gives you the chance to challenge an opponent that learns in real-time, potentially revolutionising the fighting game genre. Ghost Battle pushes you to your limits, encouraging you to confront your flaws and ascend to new heights of Tekken mastery!

Fast-paced combat

Tekken 8's combat unfolds at an exhilarating pace. Battles are a whirlwind of lightning-fast strikes and combos. The newly introduced Heat System fuels this tempo, allowing your character to "level up" mid-fight, enduring more hits and dealing devastating damage. This temporary power-up can only be activated once per round, encouraging you to play strategically and unleash it at the most opportune moment.

But the Heat System isn't the only thing that pushes the pace. The “Recoverable Health” incentive reinforces the necessity for an aggressive combat approach. Landing hits on an opponent reveals a white section in your Health Bar, which symbolises recoverable health. Damaging or hitting a blocking enemy causes this segment of health to gradually recover, with a faster recovery rate during Heat.

A screenshot from the Tekken 8 Jin Kazama Gameplay Trailer.
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Credit: Bandai Namco

Initially, I found myself adopting a defensive playstyle, often relying heavily on blocking (and the occasional strategic retreat). However, it quickly became clear that a more aggressive approach was the key to victory. Losing some health became an opportunity to regain it through aggressive play and executing stylish combos, adding a thrilling layer of risk-reward to the gameplay.

The arenas themselves become instruments in this symphony of relentless combat. Tekken 8 boasts 16 distinct stages, many featuring destructible environments and multi-tiered layouts. Shattering chandeliers and pummeling opponents into different sections of the arena adds exhilarating weight and unpredictability to every clash!

Verdict

Tekken 8 is a perfect blend of accessibility and depth, delivering a welcoming experience for newcomers while simultaneously challenging seasoned veterans. The game's depth, though initially overwhelming, becomes manageable with features like the Special Style control scheme and robust training modes.

For newcomers, Tekken 8 doesn't throw you into the deep end. The engaging Story Mode seamlessly introduces the world and characters, while Arcade Quest serves as an engaging training ground, recreating the classic arcade experience and guiding you through the game's mechanics at your own pace.

But those veterans seeking a challenge won't be left wanting. Ghost Battle mode is a game-changer, offering a dynamic AI opponent that learns your playstyle and pushes you to improve. The diverse roster and fast-paced combat, fueled by the Heat System and Recoverable Health mechanics, provide endless opportunities for mastery.

Tekken 8 is a fighting game for everyone. Its accessible features, engaging single-player modes, and innovative mechanics ensure this game always has something to offer!

Tekken 8 is a fantastic addition to the long-standing franchise that welcomes newcomers with open arms while offering tactical depth for veterans. Its diverse modes, innovative mechanics, and stunning visuals make it an accessible and unforgettable experience for all!
9 out of 10

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