We're going to make like a Mishima, and get straight to the point. Tekken 7 is every bit the game that long-time Tekken fans have been waiting for. It offers exciting new takes on classic characters, brilliantly detailed new stages, meaningful gameplay evolutions and, most importantly, it strikes a near-perfect balance between accessibility and complexity.
Before we get into all of that, let's take a moment to talk about the story mode, which was supposed to finally draw closed the curtain on the decades-long Mishima family drama. Tekken 7's story presents a somewhat inconsistent, but ultimately satisfying, tale that spins through the lives of a disappointingly small number of characters before concluding the lethal rivalry between Kazuya and Heihachi Mishima in a way that you could probably guess right now if you tried.
The story is told through the voice and perspective of a no-name journalist whose voice actor speaks in a drifting monotone hum, as if fighting off the effects of a minor ambien overdose. The cutscenes are split between his narration passages over still images, which are dreadfully boring stretches of exposition, and CG action sequences starring our beloved roster, which for the most part are much more lively.
You'll play through most of the story as Heihachi, so you'll want to pick him up in practice mode right away and learn a few things if this is your first romp through Tekken. Fights play out throughout the narrative for one reason or another, with barely more urgency or motivation than what you'd find in a typical, campy anime series. I wasn't at all captivated by the story mode for about eight chapters, but thankfully, the closing chapters are by far the best. The final stretch unleashes some truly epic battles and drops some massive plot-twists that make up for prior fumbles. Long-time fans will be pleased -- we can tell you that much for sure.
In fact, long-time Tekken fans have so much to look forward to in Tekken 7 it's almost overwhelming. The game comes across as a massive love letter to veteran players. In the gallery you can unlock every commercial and in-game cinematic from every single Tekken game, including the slot games. A jukebox section stores the soundtracks from every game as well, and you can mix and match tracks to form your own custom playlist to play in the background, though the Tekken 7 soundtrack is phenomenal, and I expect you'll get some serious mileage out of it.
As mentioned, the story mode does eventually shed some seriously revealing light on both Heihachi and Kazuya Mishima. It reveals some shocking details about Kazuya's mother Kazumi, and Jin finds a special significance at the end of the story which, as you might expect, probably isn't the end of the story.
There are also some side story missions that focus on different characters in the roster, and they can be extremely charming (and quite funny), often telling a single short story from multiple perspectives. Check out Yoshimitsu and Leo's side stories immediately if you need a good laugh.
Yoshimitsu, by the way, sees perhaps his coolest iteration and design in Tekken 7.
If you're the type to spend countless hours designing the perfect custom character, you have plenty of props and options to work with here. For the most part the accessories and clothing feel cheap and cheesy -- it's mostly gag apparel and a lot of fluff -- but there is at least tons of it to choose from. A treasure mode will see you fight through seemingly endless bouts of special battles to unlock additional custom gear and fight money, so completionists and avid creators alike have a very long road ahead of them.
So what about accessibility and gameplay? I'm pleased to say that Tekken remains perhaps the most comprehensive fighting game in the world, and is now more approachable and competitive than it's ever been. Gone are the "bounds" which would offer veteran players opportunities to unleash incredibly long, morale-crushing combos on newer and less experienced players. Now we have Screw Attacks, which lead to shorter juggling opportunities. Screw Attacks also cannot be chained into wall combos.
Damage scaling for longer combos has also been increased significantly. The extra damage dealt by a 10-hit combo when compared to a 5-hit combo isn't negligible, but it's not going to necessarily decide the fate of a match, either. This is a most welcome change, not only because it gives newer players a fighting chance, but also because it forces long-time players to completely re-think their strategies and play more creatively. Constantly searching for those same one or two launch opportunities so you can chain together those same two long combos is no longer the most viable approach. Now you'll need to think like a fighter, looking for more opportunities to psyche out your opponent and execute shorter attacks more regularly.
Every character now has a "Power Crush" as well. These basically serve the same function as Focus Attacks in Street Fighter IV. Holding your Power Crush will allow you to absorb blows, taking minor damage, and launch a counter attack. I'm a bit iffy on this mechanic myself, and I'm afraid that it may slow down the action online once players start learning how to exploit this mechanic and get much more defensive. Even the AI tends to rely on the Power Crush to a maddeningly frustrating degree, to the point where I felt like I needed to try spamming grabs to gain any traction. It could serve as another useful tool for newer players, though, to counter the combo-happy series vets.
There's no getting around it. Tekken 7 is going to demand your patience and dedication, but if you're willing, it offers perhaps the best fighting game experience of the generation. The story mode isn't nearly as coherent or entertaining as what you'll find in Injustice 2, but it's serviceable.
In my Injustice 2 review I mentioned that the game nearly succeeds in being all things to all people. Tekken 7 doesn't do that. This is for Tekken players, and damn if it isn't the best Tekken game we could have hoped for. A few rough edges and disruptive new mechanics aside, I think this is going to go down as one of the all-time greats in the series as well as the genre. Buckle in, and buckle down; Tekken is back.
WWG's Score: 4.5 / 5