Tekken 8 Review – Return of the King

Tekken 8 on PS5

When it comes to climates Tekken 8 could find itself launching in, few could be better or worse than the current one.

On one hand, it’s one of the best periods for fighting games in recent memory. Street Fighter 6 brought with it several notable innovations and advancements for the genre, and other series like King of Fighters have followed suit to drive the franchise toward new heights. On the other hand, this also means the competition has never been fiercer among fighting game franchises. Most every franchise is firing on all cylinders, and failure to innovate could spell disaster.

Luckily, Tekken 8 more than rises to the occasion. It provides an exceptional fighting game experience for longtime fans and newcomers alike, and has established a terrific base that can be built on for several years to come; even if there are some miniscule cracks and flaws to bear in mind.

A New Chapter in the Mishima Family Saga

Reina Walking Through Crowd in Tekken 8
Image Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Fortunately, those cracks aren’t as noticeable in the story. Kicking off shortly after the events of Tekken 7, it sees the eclectic cast of brawlers band together in a bid to stop Kazuya from taking over the world. Jin is their best and last hope, but following an early loss to his father, the inheritor of the Devil Gene is unsure of what he truly desires or if he can overcome his paternal arch nemesis.

Rest assured that this synopsis glosses over the usual zany insanity Tekken is well known for, and that there’s plenty of memorable moments on par with all but the wildest Tekken lore moments. For all of its glossing over of Jin’s past war crimes and minimized impact on other characters’ story arcs, there are satisfying realizations of longstanding plot threads and newly introduced twists that are right at home with the top-tier soap opera twists from past games.

It’s honestly a testament to how much fun the developers packed into the narrative experience. The game manages to entertain and poke fun at itself in equal measure, resulting in a terrific time for series vets and a solid introduction to the gameplay for newcomers.

Fists Forged Through Training and Toil

Jin Cocking Back Arm to Strike Kazuya in Tekken 8
Image Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

And speaking of gameplay: Tekken 8 is a finely tuned experience that manages to expertly capture what makes Fighting games fun.

The controls are responsive to a T with the use punches, kicks, and special techniques hinging on the careful input of specific button patterns. Button mashing can be punished with the use of carefully timed attacks and blocks, and matches still come down to a pleasant mix of timing, practice, and luck when all is said and done.

There’s also the extra wrinkle of the new Heat mechanic. Denoted by a blue bar beneath players’ health bars, this feature allows for a limited window of chip damage from attacks, speedier dashes to close the distance between players, and the opportunity to unleash special moves.

It’s a nice addition, but it does highlight some minor balancing issues with certain characters all the more aggressively. What might be a minor edge thanks to the selection of a character with a higher damage output becomes absurd when Heat mode is activated, and otherwise viable matches turn into waiting games while one side takes advantage of this flaw to the utmost.

Fortunately, this is the worst of the game’s problems, and that does include internet connectivity concerns. Players won’t have to worry about online connectivity interfering with their ability to have worthwhile multiplayer matches either; or at least, not when the servers are stable and tweaked specifically to their preferences.

The game features an impressive amount of control in terms of what players do and don’t want to deal with while playing online, whether that means making sure they only battle players of a specific skill class and internet connectivity level or opening themselves up to any and all comers. Outside of that, the character and avatar customization is still deceptively deep and offers some simple yet effective ways to personalize your online experience further.

Now Welcoming All Challengers

Xiaoyu, Panda, and Kuma Posing Together in Tekken 8
Image Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Most vital of all though, and likely of the most interest to those who are breaking into the series with Tekken 8, are the new Special Style controls.

Available at anytime with a simple button press, this new mechanic allows players to use a simplified version of the game’s control inputs. Combos can be executed with continuous presses of a single button, and players can disable Special Style again with another button press to take off their proverbial training wheels once they’re ready.

It’s a genius addition to the game, and a fantastic means of making the title more approachable across the board. Despite having plenty of experience with the series, I used Special Style well into the later hours of my review session because it was so useful for learning the button inputs for a new character, and its inclusion has me hopeful that the series could see a flood of new players enter the fray thanks to its inclusion.

Feel the Impact

Jin Posing With Devil Wing Extended in Tekken 8
Image Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

And the cherry on top of the Tekken 8 experience is its presentation. Even when compared to its contemporaries, the game manages to nail the sounds, sights, and feedback needed to help players feel every moment of every fight they take part in.

The graphics and visuals as a whole are exceptional. Aside from a select few characters that look cartoonishly bulky, most of the cast has transitioned to modern hardware beautifully via new models that gel with the series’ overall aesthetic. The more traditionally designed Jin doesn’t feel any more or less natural than the cybernetic ninja Yoshimitsu does, and they all flow with a fluidity that helps convey the action with ease.

On the audio front, the game is a masterclass in utilizing sound design to perfectly sell what’s happening on screen. Every collision of blow against an opponent rings out exactly how one would want it to, while taking damage feels like suffering catastrophic hits that could end the match. All this, paired with the stellar voice acting and OST, lift the experience up even further toward greater heights.

Honestly, it’s hard not to readily recommend Tekken 8 to fighting game enthusiasts and curious newbies alike. So much of this title shines with the developer’s desire to provide players with the best experience possible that the game’s scant flaws are negligible. Those who have even a passing interest in the title owe it to themselves to give this fantastic entry a look.

Tekken 8

Reviewer: Keenan McCall

Award: Editor’s Choice