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Tekken is Changing

12 min

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Tekken is Changing
Tekken 8 marks a new era of Tekken

If we look at the origins of Tekken, it’s easy to see that some of the earliest titles were also the most innovative ones. Tekken 3 completely revamped the movement, laying the foundation for future games. Tekken Tag Tournament was one of, if not the first 3D fighter to experiment with tag mechanics. Finally, Tekken 4 added a new layer of strategy by introducing walls and obstacles.

Of course, the games that followed would continue to bring something new to Tekken, like the breakable floors and walls or the rage system, but fundamentally, many aspects of the game remained the same.

That’s not a bad thing, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they say. However, sticking to the formula, no matter how good it is, tends to lock down any chance of evolution, and limits the series potential. 

With Tekken 8, the developers finally decided that it’s time to move forward and try something new. The presentation at Tekken Would Tour is brimming with information, and in this video, we want to go over what changed, why, and what we can expect from the future of Tekken.

New Direction

Before we start talking about the specifics, it's important to understand what direction Tekken 8 is going in and what goals the developers have set for themselves.

After we “saved the d8” and got to see more of Tekken 8 footage, many people had questions about what they saw in the trailer. Luckily, Harada was quick to throw in extra details and clarifications in his interview with IGN. Specifically, he was adamant about pointing out that aggression is a key word for the new game, with the gameplay being built around it.

The reasoning behind it is fairly straightforward. Building the game around a more offensive play style is meant to make things more exciting for both viewers and players. Giving out more incentives to be aggressive will directly lead to more action happening on the screen and more frantic back and forth between the opponents.

While some might see this as a sudden shift in direction, it’s far from the first attempt to make Tekken more intense. All the way back in 2001, Tekken 4 introduced walled staged and outright neutered the Korean backdash that was so powerful in Tekken 3 and especially Tag Tournament. Backing away was rarely an option, and you always face the risk of being backed into a corner.

However, while walls became a staple, the nerfed movement did not go down well with the Tekken players, so developers explored other options of cranking up the action or making things more exciting. For example, the rage system. The early versions of it merely encouraged offense by giving you a damage boost, but in Tekken 7, your options expanded with a potent offense starter in Rage Drives, and essentially reversal supers in Rage Arts.

Adding strong offensive mechanics tends to have this unwarranted stigma of trying to appeal to casuals or dumbing the game down, but the reality is that almost every single fighting game wants you to be aggressive. Steal the turn, pressure your opponent, crush their own attacks with reversals, parries, or armor, break their guard, etc. Do everything in your power to stop defending and start attacking.

Each fighting game franchise dealt with this in their own way. Guilty Gear since the early days would drain your meter for being too defensive. Games like KoFXV or Street Fighter Alpha series featured guard gauges that punished extensive blocking. Even Bandai Namco’s own SoulCalibur featured a similar mechanic with Guard Stamina, that would eventually lead to a Guard Crush.

The list can go on and on with various examples of offensive mechanics in different fighting games, but what really matters right now is that Tekken 8 is taking a huge step away from the traditional formula to make the most offense oriented Tekken that we’ve ever seen.

New Mechanics

So, moving on to the finer details, it’s time to talk about how exactly Tekken 8 will spice things up and encourage a more aggressive play style.

The 35-minute presentation shown at the Tekken World Tour Finals certainly had a lot to go over, but it also made things seem way more complicated than they actually are, leading to some confusion and misconceptions.

(Warning: we will be saying Heat a whole lot during this explanation) 

What it all boils down to is that you will now have an extra resource, the Heat gauge, that is given to you at the start of the round, and can be used once per round until you deplete it, or until it runs out.

To turn on the Heat, you have two activation methods. The first one is Heat Burst, a special attack that will transition you into Heat and can be used to perform something akin to Tekken 6’s bound if you land it on airborne opponents. If you don’t want to do the attack, you can simply cancel it and still activate Heat. 

The second method is through what they call Heat Engagers, which are normal attacks that will activate Heat if the move hits. Not only that, but you also automatically dash to the opponent, allowing you to continue pressure and force mix-ups. Every character will supposedly have around 5 of such moves, which will represent some of their most characteristic and useful attacks, making every character just a bit easier to pick up.

Once Heat is activated, there are three major changes. You will gain access to special Heat moves known as Heat Smash and Heat Dash, all your attacks will deal recoverable damage on block, and some of your normal attacks will be enhanced with extra properties. Some have already made a V-trigger comparison, but it’s also not too dissimilar from SoulCalibur’s Soul Charge, which gives players access to new moves, enhances some existing ones, and allows some damage to go through even when attacks are blocked. However, let’s go over this in a bit more detail.

Heat Smash is likely the reason why Tekken 8 will not see the return of Rage Drives, as it’s meant to fill a similar role of a hard hitting, once per round attack that can be used both for pressure and for increasing combo damage. 

Heat Dash is a bit more versatile, and can be used to cancel the aforementioned Engagers into a dash. If the Engager hit, then Heat Dash will allow you to combo from it, and if it was blocked, the dash cancel will give you a significant frame advantage.

Performing either of these actions will require some Heat energy that you can see next to the gauge. If you activated Heat from a Burst, you will only have one cell of energy, while activating with an Engager will give you a maximum of two. A heat dash consumes one energy cell, whereas a heat smash consumes all your heat gauge and energy. This, in effect, means that if you activate heat through an engager, you can get in a single free Heat Dash cancel before having to choose between another Heat Dash or Smash.

When it comes to enhanced moves, it seems like some of them will instead consume your Heat timer, as can be seen with Paul's charged attack. By default, Heat only lasts 10 seconds, but attacking opponents or doing combos will pause the timer and extend Heat’s duration. If either your timer runs out or you use your last energy cell, Heat will be over, and you won’t be able to use it until the next round. 

The last note regarding this system is that during Heat, even if the opponent blocks your attacks, they’ll take recoverable damage. You can also land chip damage by making the opponent block certain heavy attacks even outside of Heat. Also, a portion of the damage you take from getting juggled can also be recovered. As far as we know, this can only be recovered by making the opponent block your own attacks, which is another massive incentive to be aggressive and also opens up a whole new layer of strategy in terms of risk vs reward, since certain attacks will also be able to shave off all recoverable life.

New Controls

To further help out some of the new players, developers decided to move forward with the assist functions from Tekken 7, fleshing them out into something reminiscent of modern controls that we’ve seen in SF6.

Instead of the traditional punches and kicks, the buttons will be tied to some staple attacks, with repeated presses allowing for combos. The players will be able to freely toggle between traditional and simplified controls at will, and they’re meant to serve more so as training wheels rather than a full on alternative.

Naturally, something like this won’t suddenly turn you into a Tekken god, but it’s a nice option to have for those who want to jump into the game without having to  memorize the ever expanding move lists.

New Game

Given the scope of these changes, it’s safe to say that Tekken 8 won’t play like we’re used to. For some, that’s an incredibly exciting prospect, while others are justifiably worried, but it’s important to stay realistic and look at what we have, instead of making outlandish projections about what Tekken 8 will or won’t be.

The focus on offense in particular had a lot of people assume the worst, but this is still Tekken we’re talking about, so being good on defense will be extremely rewarding. If you are capable of spacing out your opponents and know to keep them out, you will be able to minimize the effectiveness of their heat activation while you still have your own to work with.

Similarly, knowing the frame data and gaps in your opponent's strings might become more crucial than ever, as you will not only interrupt them, but waste their Heat, prevent them from chipping away at your health, and regain some of your own HP in the process. For the same reason, characters with parries, sabaki, and reversals, could become a lot stronger with these new mechanics.

On a base level, it also seems like Power Crush will play a much bigger role in Tekken 8. Unlike in Tekken 7, any hit you take will become recoverable damage, all while taking out a chunk out of your opponent’s health bar on hit.

All in all, even though it’s hard to say how Tekken 8 will actually play, it has some serious potential to become one of the most complex and dynamic Tekken games we’ve seen in a long time. There is a risk of course, but it’s a welcome one.

That’s all we have for this rundown. Tekken 8 doesn’t seem like it’s coming out any time soon, with no date in sight and another year of TWT for Tekken 7. However, with the upcoming location tests and a chance of more betas in the future, it seems like the community will get a lot of opportunities to make themselves heard and to help developers hone in on what needs to be done to make Tekken 8 live up to the long wait and enormous expectations.

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