In anticipation for the release of Tekken 7 early next year, we here at Untoldgaming.com are looking back at the Tekken series in our very own retrospective. You can expect to see information on the series and its development, as well as my own opinions on each entry. So let’s jump right in! Round 1, FIGHT!
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love fighting games, and I have Tekken to thank for that love. Being born in the 90’s meant that I was exposed to Tekken at an early age (and no, I haven’t been running around town doing “electric wind god fists” to the populous!) but this first round is going to be a little tough for me because… I didn’t actually play Tekken 1 first. I joined the party one game later, which meant Tekken 1 was a wholly bizarre experience for little-boy me, but we shall get to that in a bit…
Tekken was one of the first 3D modeled fighting games ever created- and it really shows. The game might never have been made at all if not for Namco’s acquisition of Sega staff members, some of whom had worked on Virtua Fighter. Namco were testing out software that would be used to create 3D models and texture mapping similar to what had been used for 1993’s Ridge Racer, likely to be used for the next entry in that series. The new team took this software and got to work making Tekken. They had originally intended Tekken to be similar to Virtua Fighter, but after experimenting with new control schemes, the team hit it big with the limb-mapped control layout. In the past, fighting games tended to focus on strength of attacks, whereas Tekken would introduce a system where each face button controlled a different limb. This control scheme helped the game stand out and gave gamers a sense of control over their character that they hadn’t felt in a fighting game yet. Further bolstering this new control scheme were the fighters, of which there were several. Each character came with a unique fighting style, such as Judo, Jeet Kune Do, wrestling, Karate, and Ninjitsu. They each filled a standard archetype in the fighting game genre as well: from Karate Master, Bruce Lee, to Robots, and a Bear… Wait..a bear?
That’s right! Tekken had a pretty crazy cast of characters, such as the jaguar-masked wrestler, “King,” or the big bad bear, “Kuma.” Tekken definitely had a unique and varied assemblage and as previously stated, they all had distinctive play styles, making for a very special gaming experience.
Tekken also offered a “story”- and it’s pretty hilarious: Heihachi Mishima is the head of the Mishima Zaibatsu (roughly translated as Mishima Financial Group). One day, because he’s an asshole who likes fighting people, he announces the “King of Iron Fist” Tournament. The cash prize is set at a whopping one billion dollars! This draws out a lot of fighters who are looking for that “Dolla Dolla” but it also brings Heihachi’s son Kazuya out of the shadows. Kazuya is entering not for money but for some straight up simple revenge, since he despises his father for throwing him off a cliff when he was young.
Why did Heihachi throw Kazuya off a cliff when he was a kid? Well because he wanted to see if his son was strong enough to survive the fall and make for a good leader of the company… Of course. Instead, the fall nearly killed Kazuya.
So when Kazuya makes it to the final round, he is met by his final opponent Heihachi, and rather than give him a “father of the year 1994” mug, Kazuya goes full beast mode and knocks Heihachi out. After knocking his father unconscious, Kazuya then throws him off the same cliff he was thrown from as a child (Mishima family tradition). And because apparently in Japan they reward you with dollars for winning a tournament while ignoring obvious murder, Kazuya inherits the Mishima Zaibatsu, becoming the new head of the company.
Goofy story aside, has Tekken aged well? My answer: God no. The game looks very rough by today’s standard and the controls are super stiff, but for a game that started development in 1994 and was out in Japanese arcades by late the same year, it is certainly a feat and by 1994 standards, this game was a gem!
It was ported to the, then, new kid on the console block- the PlayStation, in 1995. The PlayStation release included extra characters that were previously unplayable, mid-bosses, and full motion video endings that played whenever you beat Arcade with a specific character. And then there was Galaga… Tekken came with a mini-game of Galaga on start up. If you completed it, you got access to Devil Kazuya (who looked pretty stupid).
The game was praised for its innovative controls, 3D environments and overall good character variety and balance. No one character was awful, it all came down to what you as a player could do with each one, and since each fighter had their own unique move set, it gave the game a strong sense of depth and strategy.
As a young kid, I found the game brutally hard, even more so than Tekken 2. I don’t know if it was because I was used to the latter game’s fluidity of control, or if I flat out sucked at fighting games as a young boy and just hated the fact I couldn’t spam to victory. I struggled with Tekken 1 greatly, so I did not actually spend much time as a kid playing it. But just because I missed the party didn’t mean other people did. Tekken initially came out of the gate very strong, with reviews being mostly positive and becoming a bestseller in the UK. Tekken was also the first PlayStation title to sell over one million units, making it a dead set success.
Could Namco match the critical acclaim of Tekken 1 and improve the formula further?
What was your memory of Tekken 1? Did you like it or hate it? Comment below!