Release(s): December 9, 1994 (Japan), May 15, 1995 (Worldwide)
Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation
Ever since the dawn of the firth-generation video game consoles, 3D has been seen as the way of the future. After Virtua Fighter shook the world by being the first fighting game to use 3D graphics inspiring many imitators. The most successful of the lot was Tekken which even exceeded Virtua Fighter in terms of commercial success. One question is the ask is “does it hold up today?”.
The gameplay of Tekken is similar to that of Street Fighter and other fighting games in that the camera is mostly fixed to the side of the characters (although you can change the angle in this game) but what sets Tekken apart is that the attack buttons aren’t determined by the strength of the attack rather by each limb making for a more intuitive combo system as you can easily tell what button to press just by looking. It doesn’t mean that the game is easy as Tekken is known for its long list of combo moves for each character, including the insanely hard to master 10-hit combo moves.
Another thing that sets Tekken apart from its contemporaries is that there is no special gauge meter or any ranged/projectile attacks just like Virtua Fighter, although several characters have slow but unblockable attacks that can take a large chunk of the opponent’s health. Also just like Virtua Fighter, characters can jump at extreme heights although here they don’t slowly descend to the ground.
The basic controls of Tekken are also pretty familiar. The face buttons allow you to attack and the directional inputs or joystick allow you to move forward, backward, jump, and crouch. You can use these inputs in conjunction to do more advanced moves like Kazuya’s Rising Uppercut or Paul’s Heavy Power Punch. Tekken has fireball and dragon punch motion inputs (among others) but they are slowed down allowing for a more strategic approach to combat including the famous “wavedash”.
The biggest issue with Tekken gameplay-wise is that the secret characters are all clones of the starting characters. The PlayStation version does give them extra moves to remedy the issue, however. The controls are also a bit on the stiff side especially when running is involved.
Tekken is a mid-90’s fighting game so don’t expect much from it in terms of game modes. You have an arcade mode where you fight nine cpu-controlled opponents with a sub-boss unique to the character and the final boss Heihachi Mishima (owner of the Mishima Zaibatsu and runner of the Iron Fist Tournament) towards the end. After you complete Arcade Mode with any of the starting characters, you can set a record for how fast you compete it and you will unlock said sub-boss to play with. You will also get to see their ending which gives detail to the game’s surprisingly deep and well-thought story, but bare in mind only one of them is canon.
2P Player Mode is the standard versus mode where you can compete with a friend and set each other’s handicaps.
You can also unlock an extra costume for Kazuya by completing the other Namco game Galaga which plays before Tekken boots up, but is it worth it?
Tekken is one of the earliest 3D fighting games and it really shows with the weird proportions on characters. One edge it does on its contemporaries is the character models are highly detailed and they have great animation on them especially considering the series still uses a lot of them to this day. The FMVs will haunt your dreams though.
The stages are pretty impressive for its time. They have a great deal of variety with stuff like the Stadium stage having a small display of gameplay in the background and the floors are rendered in 3D while the backgrounds are static images.
The characters in Tekken have no dialogue so all they have are battle cries and they are pretty funny. All the secret characters use the same voice clips as the starting characters. Sound effects are very cathartic with bone-crushing sounds for every devastating blow.
The music is also pretty good. It has that classic arcade sound and it’s really fitting to the game’s atmosphere. The background music for stages in particular stand our like Kyoto which has traditional Japanese instrumentation for the background music while Monument Valley is eerie and barren. The PlayStation port features an arrange score which the tracks a bit more personality but if you prefer the original arcade versions, you have the option to switch between the two.
This is one of Tekken’s strong suits. The characters here are very unique and represent their archetypes really well. For example, King is a grappler-type character so he’s a lucha libre sporting a jaguar mask and tail. Yoshimitsu is a ninja samurai so he's suited with armor all over and wears a mask to conceal his identity. Several of the characters’ fighting style are also based on real-life martial arts and it really shows as Tekken uses motion capture for its fighting animation.
Tekken is one-of-a-kind that took arcades by storm riding off the hype of Virtua Fighter and took fighters to innovative levels its never been before.
Personally, I don’t think there’s a reason to go back to this game after playing the later installments but there’s no denying its place in fighting game history.