What Happened to Tekken 7?
Date Published: 17 April, 2020
Tekken 7 has been a fighting game community (FGC) darling practically since its initial arcade reveal in early 2015. The game came at a time when the FGC was going through quite a transition, and seemingly capitalized on the old idiom “In the right place, at the right time.”
However, over five years post its arcade introduction, the game has gone through a multitude of changes. It has declared numerous champions of contrasting walks of life, it has invigorated the 3-D fighting game space once again, and perhaps most importantly, it has been a major player in the postmodern era of fighting games.
Yet, despite its major contribution to the FGC, the current narrative around Tekken 7 is drastically different from what it was just merely three years ago, with its 2017 home console release. Therefore, as we stand here in the early months of the year 2020 we must ask, “What happened to Tekken 7?”
The Early Days
The limited arcade release of Tekken 7 came in mid March of 2015 and even in its earliest build, the fighting game already made a positive impression on both Tekken fans and the fighting game community.
Though the game was still in its earliest of forms, the return to an individual character versus format, compared to a tag match format, and focusing on much of the traditional roster of the franchise, Tekken 7 was beginning to shape nicely into another solid iteration to the individual numbered Tekken games.
The year 2015 for Tekken 7 concluded with a veteran heavy top 8 at the Tekken 7 Global Championship, finally crowning the winner as Nobi, whom was declared a double champion that year, after not only defeating AO at EVO 2015, but also defeating Korean Tekken legend—Knee, in the global finals.
Prior to closing the chapter on year 2015, the announcement of Tekken 7: Fated Retribution was greeted with an overwhelmingly positive reaction from fans of the series, as it had showcased an upgrade to the visual aesthetic of the game and its characters, a reference to the game’s story arc, and culminated with an unforeseen debut, Street Fighter‘s Akuma as a guest character.
Despite a successful first taste of the new Tekken game in 2015, Tekken 7‘s identity finally began to take its definitive form in the year 2016, where Bandai Namco had decided to modernize the traditional gameplay of Tekken with the implementation of elements such as Rage Art, and Rage Drive, and an increased emphasis on spectator elements such as slow motion action sequences, and engaging visuals.
Tekken 7 slowly began to increase its roster, by adding new faces to The King of Iron Fist Tournament, as well as returning to familiar ones. The year was capped off with yet another positive push towards its official release, with once again crowning a double champion, this time in Saint, who defeated both Knee at EVO 2016, and Chanel in the global finals.
Nearly three years after the announcement of the game, Tekken 7 finally launched worldwide in early June of 2017. The game, which by all accounts was actually a more polished version of Tekken 7: Fated Retribution, was simply called Tekken 7, and had seemingly peaked the interest of not only its dedicated audience, in legacy Tekken fans, but managed to reach new ones as well.
Although the wait for its global launch was long, the final product that came in Tekken 7, was undeniable. Bandai Namco and the Tekken team managed to provide new layers of 3-D fighting mechanics, yet accomplish it in a manner which did not take away from the franchise’s identity.
The announcement that came of the Tekken World Tour prior to the launch of Tekken 7 was also a major factor in the game receiving as much exposure as it did, as it managed to position itself as a premiere fighting game title to be taken in the same vein as Capcom Pro Tour’s Street Fighter V, and Warner Bros. Championship Series’ Injustice 2.
The early competitive days of the now globally available Tekken 7, were quite exciting to behold, as they showcased talent both from Tekken veterans continuing on their reign, and newcomers making a name for themselves.
However, despite overwhelming positive reviews, and the critical reception the game received early on, it was hindered by a major factor, having to do with severe input delay, affecting both the game’s official world tour hardware—the PlayStation 4, as well as other platforms such as the Xbox One, and PC.
The inaugural year of the Tekken World Tour and Tekken 7‘s first year being available to the public was very much a success, despite some bumps in the road. In a similar vein to Akuma’s announcement in 2015, the year 2017 saw the reveal of its complete first season, with additional guest characters, such as The King of Fighters‘ Geese Howard, and Final Fantasy XIV‘s Noctis Lucis Caelum.
An incredible competitive season wrapped up in San Francisco, CA featuring a collection of top-level talent from across the world, eventually crowning the Tekken veteran—Qudans as the world champion, overtaking another Tekken veteran—Saint in the finals of the Tekken World Tour.
The year 2018 for Tekken 7, took the momentum the year 2017 had, and ran with it even further. The addressing of a few gameplay concerns, and most importantly reducing the input delay issue by a significant margin, had the Tekken community overjoyed.
Throughout the competitive season, Tekken 7 was praised by its ability to showcase high level talent with a variety of different roster choices. Characters such as Shaheen, Eddy Gordo, Bryan Fury, and Lili, all won high stake tournaments in a span of a few months.
The announcement of Tekken 7‘s second season at EVO 2018, which introduced new gameplay mechanics such as the Wall-Bound ability, and fan favorite characters to be added to the roster, such as Anna Williams and Lei Wulong, seemingly only elevated the game’s stock.
Tekken 7‘s 2018 ended with yet another spectacular finale, this time in the Netherlands and the capital city of Amsterdam. What was a completely talent rich final, comprising a multitude of champions, came with the final result of a Tekken underdog and Panda player—Rangchu, dethroning the previous year’s champion—Qudans.
Prior to the end of 2018, Tekken 7 had made two things apparent. The game had proven to be perhaps one of the most balanced fighting game titles to date. It demonstrated the ability to win at the highest level with practically any character. Making any roster choice a viable one, if the player is skilled enough.
The other point that Tekken 7 emphasized throughout its first 18 months, is that along with extreme roster balance, it managed to close the skill gap between legacy players and newcomers, without completely stripping the game of its previous depth.
The changes made to the throw system, the transition to a Screw mechanic from the old Bound mechanic, and the addition of modern gameplay elements which sped up the pace of play, were all extreme factors for attracting new faces to the game.
Yet, maintaining the advanced skill required for high level movement, and the use of a comprehensive move-list, allowed for a methodical pace of play as well, which consequently aided in preserving the legacy player pool, and its interest in the game.
Seeking Change, Losing Balance
The year 2019 for Tekken 7 was the year with perhaps the most impactful narratives surrounding the game. The game beginning to shape under its new meta with the implementations of the Season 2 changes, and the exposure of Pakistan as a region to take note of, were two major themes in 2019.
The game saw the addition of yet another guest character at the end of its second season pass roster expansion, this time from The Walking Dead television series—Negan. However, approaching its third year since its worldwide launch, and fifth year since its original arcade inception, Tekken 7 had begun showing signs that indicated significant change.
The changes made to the pace of play of Tekken 7 was quite apparent as it was sped up quite significantly, predominantly with the newfound ability for many characters to apply pressure in the form of an improved wall-carry, and secondly, with the rise and dominance of meter based characters.
However, unlike more traditional fighting games, Tekken 7′s second season did not necessarily feature “bad” or “good” match-ups among specific characters, but rather, it featured characters who were rewarded by taking advantage of the game’s current pace.
Though, as aforementioned before, the second major narrative for Tekken 7 in 2019, was the rise of Pakistan as a newfound region for talented Tekken competitors, and even more specifically, the mainstream debut of Arslan Ash, whom took the Tekken world by storm, sweeping both EVO events, taking EVO Japan 2019 over AK, and later EVO 2019 over Knee.
Prior to culminating the year in Bangkok, Thailand for the world finals, Tekken 7 had announced its third season, introducing a new original character in Leroy Smith, adding additional statistical tools and displays, along with releasing Zafina as a returning playable character, as well as multiple character balance changes.
In a bit of a controversial fashion, post the update to Season 3, a surprising balance patch, which seemed to focus on weakening Akuma, took place prior to Tekken World Tour Finals 2019.
Though, in typical Tekken World Tour fashion, the global talent showcased their immaculate skills once again, with some dramatic storylines such as Knee eliminating his rival Arslan Ash from making the final top 8, and the two underdog picks in Ulsan and Chikurin meeting in the grand finals, with Chikurin emerging victorious.
Despite another successful year for Tekken 7‘s competitive scene, the one uncharacteristic factor to note, was the leak for the remainder of the Season 3 characters, forcing the Bandai Namco team to show both the Ganryu trailer, as well as debut the new original character—Fahkumram at the Tekken World Finals, along with a gameplay trailer for the previously teased Leroy Smith.
The year 2019 for the Tekken community had its ups and downs, however, the real cause for concern was not yet a reality, as the continuation of mechanical changes seen in Season 2, seemed to only be further pursued with the launch of Season 3, and the debut of one of the most dominant fighting game characters to be released in the postmodern era in Leroy Smith, was soon to be the talk of the town.
Opening the competitive year with EVO Japan put the start of Tekken 7‘s 2020 in immediate focus. Leading up to the major event, the launch of Leroy Smith came with much concern, as the community almost unanimously agreed that the new original character was too overpowered for competition in his launch state.
However, it wasn’t until Bandai Namco witnessed EVO Japan play out in real time, that the community’s outcry turned factual. EVO Japan saw the top 8 final accompany 6 different Leroy Smith players, and over 30 in the top 128 alone.
The dominance of Leroy Smith had many Tekken veterans, former world champions, and newcomers alike, rethinking their own selections, having to ultimately pick the character as well, in order to compete on a level playing field.
With EVO Japan’s character turnout, Bandai Namco had no choice but to issue patches to better balance Leroy Smith, which it had done. However, fast-forwarding to spring of 2020, and Tekken 7 is in the fighting game headlines once again, this time to do with yet more Season 3 changes.
The anticipated release of the Muay Thai specialist—Fahkumram, came with additional changes which balanced certain characters, the biggest change was the improved tracking given to Kazuya Mishima, and his Hell Sweep, a powerful knockdown low.
The inability to side-step or side-walk to Kazuya’s weak side, along with other unsatisfactory changes, had the Tekken community in an uproar, leading to an ugly back and forth between the community and the development team.
While both sides did not handle the latest patch with much grace, there is something that is definitely apparent with today’s Tekken 7, and that there has been a growing disconnect between the community and the current direction of the game.
The changes made to Tekken 7, predominantly within the last two years, have turned a game which originally carved its own path, into a game which has begun trailing the path of others.
It is unclear where the motivation for the current direction of Tekken 7 has stemmed from, however, what has been proven, is that Tekken 7 somehow found itself overbalancing an already balanced game, consequently creating an imbalance.
So as we stand here today in the spring of 2020, and ask “What to Tekken 7?”, unfortunately the answer is still unclear, and answers on how to fix it may prove to be a challenge, as the FGC, along with the rest of the world, is dealing with a global pandemic, shutting down major factors of everyday life, competitive professional events included.
Therefore, with the inability to test the changes made to the game, such as Kazuya’s new Hell Sweep, or the presumed strength of the new original character—Fahkumram, Tekken 7 is left with quite the predicament for its future.
It has been a delicate balance for Bandai Namco as they had somewhat struck gold with Tekken 7’s initial console launch and Season 1, however, were forced to continue forward with improvements, and ended with the question of “How do you innovate on something which is already good?”
The answers at this point are unclear, however, one thing is for certain, in order to better the future of not only Tekken 7, but future prospect projects such as Tekken 8, Tekken Tag Tournament 3, or even a Tekken X Street Fighter, the relationship between the development team of the Tekken franchise and the Tekken community has to be repaired.
Restored faith on both sides will only help advance Tekken 7‘s current position into a state where it perhaps once was, or at least a state where both sides can agree to be content with.