As with every other genre, fighting games were born in the wild west era of early video games. Back when hundreds of developers were eagerly coming up with new ideas.
After some time, proper outlines of different genres started to form, with more rules and examples of how to do things right. Just as many FPS games in the 90s were trying to be the new Doom, many early fighting games were trying to do their own take on the massively popular Street Fighter 2.
When a completely new subgenre of 3D fighters emerged, the success of Tekken inevitably put it in a similar role, a shining example of how popular and fun a 3D fighting game could be. In today’s video, we want to take a closer look at what sort of influence Tekken had on games that came after it.
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But of course, it’s impossible to talk about Tekken’s influence without mentioning where it all started. While other developers were working on infinite iterations of Street Fighter’s formula, Yu Suzuki was thinking of new ways to utilize the 3D technology. Even though his initial plans of making a sports game were dashed by hardware limitations, a 1v1 fighting game was a perfect choice.
Just like that, an experiment that started with creating a pit crew for Virtua Racing, ended up with SEGA releasing one of the most significant fighting games of all time. Just as Street Fighter 2 ignited a surge of new 2D titles, Virtua Fighter directly inspired the creation of numerous 3D fighting games.
Tekken was one of such games, not only being inspired by Virtua Fighter, but also developed by some of the key staff that moved from SEGA to Namco. The similarities are fairly obvious when it comes to the first two games, but starting with 3, Tekken truly developed its own unique identity, the success of which is reflected in the record-breaking sales and becoming an example for other titles that we will highlight today.
Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior
One of the earliest games with possible Tekken influence is not what you’d expect. Those familiar with SNK titles might remember that they were one of the first to mess around with adding another dimension to fighting games, with the original Fatal Fury featuring two-lane stages where opponents can switch between background and foreground.
With Art of Fighting 3, the connection to 3D games comes from something completely different. Instead of experimenting with 3D space in a 2D game, the developers turned towards the combat of their polygonal peers. As a result, Art of Fighting 3 features attacks that resemble Tekken strings, which can be done at any point, unlike the target combos seen in most 2d fighting games that require proximity to the opponent.
The combo system is akin to games like Tekken or Virtua Fighter, with a focus on launching opponents and juggling them with your attacks. The similarities continue after the combos end. While you couldn’t stay on the ground forever, you still have extensive control over your wake-up timings, with the caveat that you could get hit at any point, unlike the in the usual 2D fighters, where being on the ground grants you temporary invulnerability.
On the surface level, the presentation of this game was slightly familiar to 3D fighters as well, taking a step towards realism and integrating buttery smooth animations that were achieved through a combination of motion capture and rotoscoping, with the result looking impressive to this day.
Tobal No. 1 & 2
Moving on to actual 3D games, Tobal No.1 is indeed one of the first 3D fighters to exhibit obvious Tekken DNA, and it should come as no surprise. Despite being made by DreamFactory and published by Square, it was directed by Seiichi Ishii, the man who stood at the origins of the genre as a designer on the original Virtua Fighter and first two Tekken games.
There’s an incredible amount of similarities in gameplay. The attack strings, hit levels, some animations are almost the same, and they even got Mokujin in this game. Howe ver, despite all the similarities, Tobal has so many smart and creative changes from Tekken that it feels like a completely different, yet familiar game.
For starters, the controls are revamped to be a bit more intuitive in function. In Tobal, each of the 3 attack buttons represents a hit level, those being high, mid, and low, so you always know what will come out.
The grappling mechanic has also been significantly expanded compared to Tekken. Instead of either throwing opponents or having them break the throw, you now first have to grab someone, and then both players can fight for control, utilizing a deep system that includes universal attacks, unique throws, escapes, and reversals.
Most curious however, is the Quest mode in both Tobal 1 and 2. Unlike Tekken Force that took inspiration from beam-em-ups, Quest mode was almost like an RPG, where you were offered to explore several dungeons, fight mobs, and then defeat the final boss, which allowed you to unlock more characters for the Versus mode. They took it even further in Tobal 2, expanding the variety and allowing you to use every monster in the game as a fighter in Versus. Wouldn’t be too surprising if this mode was the inspiration behind Tekken’s own Devil Within.
Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring
Our next entry comes the same developers and director at DreamFactory. The gameplay will be fairly similar to anyone who has played Tobal, but with one big change. Instead of moving relative to an opponent like in traditional fighting games, in Ehrgeiz, you can freely move around the stages, which now have all sorts of different layouts, shapes, and interactive elements.
The side content underwent some massive improvements. The Quest mode especially grew into a fully fledged action RPG that feels like its own game, where the fighting game part is just a distraction. On top of that, it offered some interesting mini-games, like the racing mode where you run laps, or a real-time take on Reversi.
Despite being seemingly more different than ever, there are still plenty of similarities to Tekken, and if anything, they are more egregious. Just take one look at Ken “Godhand” Mishima. It’s like they combined Bryan with Jin and then gave him Kazuya’s moveset. Unlike with Tobal, the character similarities are so much more apparent this time around, with Ehrgeiz having its own Lei, Bruce, Yoshimitsu, and Hwoarang.
Before MUGEN would give people the ability to create the biggest fighting game of all time, the ASCII Corporation and AGETEC put out quite an ambitious little fighter with a very straightforward name - Fighter Maker.
More tool than a game, it offered players near unparalleled freedom to create their own character from the ground up. Not just by letting you assemble a smorgasbord of various moves, but actually create completely new animations for attacks or win poses. As cool as that sounds though, the process is so difficult and time-consuming, that it’d be easier to just learn how to make games yourself.
When it comes to inspirations, it’s safe to say that they were looking at all the biggest 3D fighters to date, which led to copying Tobal’s control scheme and a base roster of characters that strongly resemble their more well-known counterparts. The most egregious example is likely this character, who feels like a complete clone of Tiger Jackson from Tekken 3.
Kensei: Sacred Fist
After seeing the success of the early 3D fighting games, it seems like Konami didn’t want to miss out on a piece of the pie, giving us Kensei: Sacred Fist. Just launching the game should be enough to see some obvious connections to Tekken, with nearly identical presentation and menus.
Things get a bit more jumbled when moving on to the actual game. The control scheme is almost entirely based on Virtua Fighter, with the addition of a “catch” button that serves as both a throw and a reversal when timed right. Everything else is more of a mush made by squishing together DoA, Tekken, and Virtua Fighter without any care for how well it fits.
Even though a few characters look similar to ones we would find in Tekken, only two of them really feel like they have a particularly strong connection, with David Human being a generic version of King, and Saya having a strong resemblance to Xiaoyu.
We have previously covered Urban Reign in our video about the spin-offs and crossovers of Tekken, as it actually featured Paul and Law as guest characters. However, its connection to Tekken goes far deeper.
The moment you get your hands on the game, you will immediately understand that this is indeed made by some of the same people who worked on Tekken and SoulCalibur. Being a Namco title, it also had the luxury of using some of the existing assets, which resulted in so many animations being reused for Urban Reign.
The result is what you’d get if you took Tekken Force or the Devil Within mode, and fleshed it out into a proper game of its own, a beat-em-up that retains the non-stop action of its peers, but combines it with a deep and challenging combat system more reminiscent of a fighting game.
Urban Reign didn’t get the most favorable reviews when it released, but the gameplay has stood the test of time, becoming somewhat of a cult classic, especially among fans of fighting games.
Much like Urban Reign, Pokken was a result of the great minds at Bandai Namco coming together to make a fundamentally different way to experience Pokémon. As surprising as it is, such a popular and long-lived franchise centered around Pokémon battles never actually had a fighting game, not until 2015.
If you look at the gameplay, it might be tough to see the similarities at first. Every match typically switches between two stages. The field phase is reminiscent of arena fighters like the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series, while the duel phase plays just like a 2D fighting game.
None of that sounds much like Tekken, so what gives? Well, it’s all in the characters. Pokken developers managed to seamlessly disperse animations from Tekken characters throughout its varied cast of different Pokémon. As strange as it sounds, it’s oddly natural to see Garchomp throw out Bryan’s moves, Pikachu doing electrics, and having Machamp bust out some of the King’s attacks.
Harada also expressed his wish to make another one of these, so who knows, maybe we’ll see even more of Tekken in Pokémon.
Far Cry 6
One very surprising and pretty recent connection comes from Far Cry 6. It’s safe to say that not a lot of people probably expected that a game about liberating outposts was going to have a cockfighting mini-game. What’s even more bizarre though, is that this mini-game turned out to be a 3D fighter with some overt similarities to Tekken.
When Harada found out about this, he even offered to provide Ubisoft with some assets that could take the connection to another level. Fans of MK might also spot some roosters that not-so-subtly allude to the two most popular ninjas in the franchise.
Street Fighter 6
For our last entry, it’s probably not a stretch to say that when Street Fighter 6 designers were thinking of fun side activities, they probably remembered about the classic Tekken Ball mode, where two players competed in a version of volleyball where they had to deal damage by launching the ball at their opponent, or have it land on the other player’s side of the court.
The ball game in SF6 doesn’t have anything to do with volleyball, but the core concept is virtually the same, with players kicking the ball at each other or trying to punt them away before they explode.
That concludes our list of Tekken’s influence on video games. We did our best to only include examples that have at least some basis to them, but with Tekken’s continued success, its impact could echo in ways that are almost unperceivable, or would be a stretch at best.
With that said, we hope that Tekken doesn’t just continue to serve as an example of a great 3D fighting game, but also takes occasional glances at their peers, to ensure that Tekken is always as good as it can be.