Despite being a niche genre, fighting games are in the midst of a renaissance. Tekken 8 is a welcome addition to the party that includes Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1, and Guilty Gear Strive, just to name a few fantastic brawlers released over the last two years. This installment has impressive graphics, a solid character roster, and a robust combat system with several new twists. While some of the extra modes, particularly Arcade Quest, are a swing and a miss, the game still packs a mighty punch.
Rule with an Iron Fist
Namco Bandai has made some on-trend changes to Tekken 8, though it’s still the same game that relies on juggles, extended combos, mix-ups, and good reads against high and low attacks. Every character on the roster, which stands at an impressive total of 32, has fluid animations and superb character models, taking advantage of the power from this generation of consoles. For casual players, the addition of Special Style simplifies the controls enough so that learning the entire move list is unnecessary for those who want to pick up and play.
The more interesting addition is the Heat Gauge, a boost that can be used once per round and makes battles more dynamic. When activated, your character uses an attack that breaks combos and gives them access to several new moves including a Heat Smash and Heat Dash. While in this state, some regular moves will be enhanced too, and all moves will deal some chip damage that the enemy can recover over time. Chip damage and HP recovery didn’t need to be introduced in the Tekken series, and it can be tough to track while you’re in the heat of battle. That said, along with Rage Arts, the Heat Gauge provides another way for players to mount a comeback and apply pressure when they need to.
I was able to pick up King, Jin, and Xiaoyu as my mains rather easily in Tekken 8 despite me not having played Tekken 7 in over four years. A handful of inputs are easier to do, especially King’s chain throws. Overall, longtime fans shouldn’t feel out of their depth in spite of the gameplay changes.
The Devil (Jin) is in the details
Tekken 8 offers several offline modes with the main story mode faring better than Arcade Quest and the character episodes. The four-hour campaign features a cinematic take where you primarily control Jin as he fights (and broods) against G Corporation and his father Kazuya Mishima. As a franchise with dinosaurs, bears, and robots, Tekken isn’t meant to be taken seriously, and the plot is suitably melodramatic, over-the-top, and full of Japanese anime tropes. By the end, it felt like a Tekken x Dragonball Z x Saint Seiya crossover. Some chapters dragged longer than they needed to, but at least it provides a storyline that ties the characters together.
However, the character episodes aren’t particularly interesting since most of them have you fight in the same MMA-like arena for five fights. Arcade Quest, which has an avatar you create who challenges NPCs in various arcades, doesn’t fare much better. It’s meant as a tutorial, but it’s drawn out and pales in comparison to similar modes, like Street Fighter 6’s World Tour.
Super Ghost Battle and Tekken Ball try to make up for this, though Treasure Battle from Tekken 7 is a more exciting mode and other classic Tekken modes like Tekken Bowl or Tekken Force would have been a better choice. In fact, there’s a whole chapter in the campaign that plays out like Tekken Force, so it seems strangely sidelined.
Tekken 8 Final Verdict
Tekken 8 is a competent and appealing entry in the series that shakes up its familiar combat system without making it too unbalanced. Apart from the story campaign, the offline modes sadly aren’t as strong as they could be. But the PvP modes work fairly well and will keep the community afloat, even if crossplay is a bit finicky and the online connection crashes on occasion. Tekken 8 provides a solid base for additional content until the next entry, be it more characters, customization options, or extra modes. Either way, we’re ready for the next battle.
Positives and Negatives
Fluid, impactful fighting system
Strong opening roster
Solid graphics and particle effects
Story mode is ridiculously over-the-top
Chip damage and recoverable health
PvP has crossplay, occasional connection issues though
Arcade Quest is a slog
Needs more Tekken mini-games that aren't Tekken Ball