To be a fighting game fan at this very moment in time is to be in a constant state of joy. Genre heavyweights such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, The King of Fighters, and Guilty Gear have released brand-new entries while a slew of lesser-known but equally great anime fighters & indie-made brawlers are coming out in droves. Thanks to the implementation of rollback netcode, older fighters & newer ones are helping their online communities enjoy all the fast and furious back-and-forth action with as little lag as possible. This modern-day fighting game renaissance is only getting better thanks to another legacy franchise that has now reached its eighth mainline series entry. As someone who has been addicted to Tekken since getting the second game for Christmas alongside a brand-spanking new PS1, I'm happy to say that it's the best series installment to date. Get ready for my Tekken 8 review.
'Tekken 8' Review: The Pinnacle of the Iron Fist Tournament
What's immediately noticeable about Tekken 8 compared to its predecessor is the huge uptick in visual fidelity it sports. It's clear as day that due to the massive financial success of Tekken 7, Bandai Namco Entertainment was easily convinced to throw a bigger bag at Katsuhiro Harada, Michael Murray, and the rest of the dedicated developers behind the reigning king of 3D fighters. The switch to Unreal Engine 5 for Tekken 8 has worked like a charm as evidenced by just how incredible it looks. The hit sprites that erupt from landing major blows and the visual effects that arise from landing attacks via the new "Heat System" point to just how spectacular Tekken 8 looks. The strong graphical presentation of this fighter can also be seen through its assemblage of brand-new stages - the Times Square-esque "Urban Square," the calming locale of "Yakushima," the outer space battlefield known as "Into the Stratosphere," and the remainder of the arenas you'll do battle in are jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
One of the biggest determining factors for a Tekken game being valuable or not is how good its soundtrack is. I can confidently say that Tekken 8 comes with a banger of an OST - "TAMASHII," "STORM RISING," "Volcanic Bomb," and "Twilight Party Cruise" stand out as clear favorites for me. Another great part of Tekken 8's musical presentation is the return of Tekken 7's "Jukebox" mode, which lets you change Tekken 8's stage and menu background tunes to any of the songs featured in past series entries. Being able to smash the opposition while retro songs from past games in the series need to be a feature seen across all fighting games from this point forward, to be quite honest. Shout out to Tekken for making sure that the custom music option came included at launch and not added later on as a paid add-on.
Jukebox mode points to just how feature-rich Tekken 8 is. Besides that mode, you can stay offline to complete the highly cinematic "The Dark Awakens" story mode, "Character Episodes" for every member of the roster, the beginner-friendly tutorial mode known as "Arcade Quest," the return of Tekken 3's "Tekken Ball," and a whole hell of a lot more content for both offline & online player camps. I have to hand it to this game's story mode for being on par quality-wise with the ones featured in the last four Mortal Kombat games. For those of you who have been playing Tekken since the very beginning, you'll get a ton of satisfaction from all the cool easter eggs and nods to past plot developments sprinkled throughout it. There are some genuine surprises I couldn't believe I was actively participating in besides the story mode's epic one-on-one clashes. I also derived a ton of fun from unlocking assorted character endings as the majority of them incorporate the humorous vibes seen in past Tekken story outcomes (who knew Kazuya Mishima was such an avid sneakerhead?). I also loved every minute of Arcade Quest thanks to the way it teaches the fundamentals of Tekken to the player while also pushing a plot forward centered around becoming the best player in the arcade as you gradually improve.
The biggest addition to Tekken's signature 3D combat is the moves you can now activate via the offense-heavy Heat System. By simply pressing the right shoulder button or landing moves that segue right into your character's flashy power state, you can land even more powerful attacks and extend your combos beyond your opponent's "Bound" state. I've derived hours of fun simply from sitting in the lab and applying all the bread-and-butter combos of my favorite characters to their new Heat state maneuvers - with a training system that shows you how to punish certain moves, properly utilize the best combo routes, and take notes from a replay feature that gives you tips on what moves you should have made during a match & lets you play out those recommended maneuvers, Tekken 8 is one of the most welcoming fighting games for series newcomers.
Tekken 8's 32-character roster is fine, but I do have some complaints about some of its oddball inclusions. Don't get me wrong - I love the game's new characters Victor, Reina, and Azucena. Plus the wealth of series regulars, the shocking return of Jun, and getting the opportunity to use Tekken 7 DLC character Leroy from the very start in Tekken 8 is awesome. But I can't help but be disappointed by the inclusion of not-so-popular characters such as Claudio, Zafina, Panda, and Shaheen while leaving better-received fighters such as Lidia, Anna, Julia, and Marduk off the launch roster. The fact that huge fan favorite Eddy Gordo is relegated to DLC instead of having a day-one spot on Tekken 8's roster is also a letdown, but that's just the sad nature of the beast when it comes post-launch content for fighting games these days.
On the topic of Tekken 8's online performance, I came away impressed by just how good it turned out to be. While I do run into some laggy matches every now and then, most of my ranked, causal, player lobby, and "Tekken Fight Lounge" matches have been smooth experiences. I was worried about this fighter having a shoddy online implementation based on how it performed during past betas, but I could feel that improvements were made to make Tekken 8's netcode a whole lot stronger. It may not be perfect, but I came away from my online play sessions in a pleased state and ready to hop back into them to increase my player rank.
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