This Father’s Day weekend, I finally got started on Tekken 7, playing through its story mode and dipping my toes into fighting online. And…this might actually be my favorite Tekken?! The fighting feels as good as ever, and the rage arts add a new twist to take into account. And, possibly the most amazing point from a personal perspective, I’m not completely embarrassing myself in ranked matches.
In all honesty, what’s really impressed me the most with Tekken 7 is the story mode. Harada had said that the game would bring the series’s primary conflict, the age-old struggle between asshole dad Heihachi Mishima and his asshole son (and Jin’s asshole dad) Kazuya to a legitimate conclusion. And the story is actually presented really well with the fights generally inserted with proper context, along with additional mid-fight cinematic flair for dramatic effect.
I mean, the Tekken storyline is bonkers, even when it’s distilled down to just the personal war between Heihachi and Kazuya. Between all of the bodies getting tossed off of cliffs, implausible escapes from certain death, the Devil Gene, and everything else, it can be pretty easy to write Tekken’s storyline off as Just Another Shitty Fighting Game Story.
Except Tekken 7 really does make a concerted, genuine effort to tell a story retains elements of Tekken’s crazier elements while bringing some genuine pathos to Heihachi and Kazuya’s story. The weakest element is the narrator, a nameless journalist with a flat line delivery (and whose face is purposefully and bizarrely kept hidden from view), but any time the Mishimas are on screen, it’s really fun.
The game also goes far deeper into the backstory of the Mishima family’s drama, and finally introduces Heihachi’s wife/Kazuya’s mother, Kazumi. She was originally the final boss of the arcade version, but the story mode adds a lot of context to her role, and how her fate ended up affecting Heihachi and Kazuya.
Oh, and Akuma from Street Fighter is there, too, for plot reasons that are lightly explained.
But my favorite part of the story mode has to be[spoiler] the final battle between Heihachi and Kazuya. It’s perfectly framed from a gameplay perspective, with each round ramping things up with drama that eventually escalates to Heihachi, with a tiny life bar, fighting a full-power Devil Kazuya before everything just devolves into two angry, grown men slugging the shit out of each other until Kazuya finally ends his dad and, fittingly, drops his body into a volcano.
In a way, the game sort of telegraphs that this would be the ultimate outcome. As the story progresses, it’s clear that, despite all of his grandiose posturing and attempts to kill his son, Heihachi has serious regrets about how things have turned out. He’s a tired, old man who is just ready to die. Even the main menu screen reflects this, depicting nothing but the shadowed face of a very old Heihachi.
It’s pretty clear that after all of the ridiculous escapes from death, all of the implausible acrobatics, and all of his attempts at killing his son, he’s just done. He’s just flat out done, and ready to accept whatever fate has in store for him.
I know some people were disappointed in the story mode. It ignores most every character that isn’t somehow directly related to the core storyline (everyone else has brief, one-fight side-stories that tend to be far more comical), and while the core struggle between Heihachi and Kazuya is resolved, it only provided set-up for what’s sure to be a fight between Kazuya and his own son Jin in Tekken 8.[/spoiler]
But really, the story did what its creators had set out to do, and it does it well. I found it more engaging in ways than the recent Netherrealm efforts, certainly. Mileage is definitely going to vary, but Tekken 7’s story was just what I wanted out of the game.
Is anyone else playing it at the moment? I’ve been focused on learning Kazumi and she’s likely to become my main, though I intend to put time into my old main Asuka, as well.