Tekken’s King of the Iron Fist Tournament Still Draws Competitors
As the fighting game community grows and expands with new iterations of classic games, new tournaments to participate in, and new players beginning to dominate the community, it’s difficult to point out what, if anything, was a ‘game that started it all’. It would be safe to say that many fighting game aficionados either got their start playing Tekken, or at least have some VERY strong opinions on it.
Like many early fighting games, it was first released in arcades, showing up in 1994. A year later it was ported to the Sony Playstation, allowing gamers to practice their combos without scrounging for quarters.
Tekken is notable for its control schemes, as the buttons for most fighting games, especially those around the time of Tekken’s release, controlled the strength of various punches and kicks, whereas Tekken allowed for control of each characters’ limbs. From there the game used different combos for throws and ground fighting.
As the series went on, each iteration added a new mechanic, some on par with other games at the time, some innovations that weren’t really being done. Tekken 2, for instance, introduced the concept of a ‘neutral guard’. In the first Tekken players had to manually guard against attacks, whereas players were constantly guarding against certain types of attacks almost constantly.
As graphics improved, Tekken 3 allowed players to sidestep attacks, and by Tekken 4 they could more actively move around arenas. Each new gameplay mechanic update changed the way players approached Tekken, and forced the competitive scene to re-evaluate their strategies.
Tekken’s Story Is Essentially a Drawn-Out Family Feud
The story of the Tekken series usually focuses on the Mishima family and the ownership of the Mishima Zaibatsu. Usually every game in the main series is canonically predicated on the announcement of the King of the Iron Fist Tournament, which draws a wide variety of competitors from all over the world.
Each character has their own personal backgrounds and narratives, and are told through their intro and ending sequences whenever they’re played, usually on the console versions, but there is a specific timeline of events, and in each game only one ending is considered canon.
In the first Tekken, the leader of the Mishima Zaibatsu, Heihachi Mishima, organizes the first King of the Iron Fist Tournament in order to draw out his estranged son Kazuya Mishima. ‘Estranged’ is putting it mildly, as when Kazuya was five Mishima dropped him off of a cliff in order to test his strength. Kazuya survived, and began competing in martial arts tournaments around the world in order to build his strength.
This fall also activated Kazuya’s Devil Gene, which would prove prevalent in the Mishima bloodline. Canonically Kazuya wins the tournament and drops Heihachi off the same cliff, assuming control of the Mishima Zaibatsu.
By Tekken 2, Kazuya has become more evil in his command of the Mishima Zaibatsu than Heihachi was, and is about to be thrown in jail for his crimes. Meanwhile, Heihachi survived the fall off the cliff and has been training to overthrow Kazuya. In order to get rid of all of his enemies, Kazuya throws a new King of the Iron Fist Tournament as a cover.
Tekken 2 introduces Kazuya’s Devil Transformation abilities at the end of the story mode, but canonically Kazuya is not strong enough to defeat Heihachi, who throws him into an actively erupting volcano this time. This happens, more or less, for much of the series.
Tekken’s Characters Help Draw in Players
Tekken is known for a lot of over-the-top melodrama in terms of its characters and their origins, but also a lot of ridiculous characters and storylines. For instance, in the story of the Mishima family, by Tekken 3 Jin Kazama, the illegitimate son of Kazuya Mishima and Jun Kazama, is introduced.
Jun was actually going to help imprison Kazuya, but eventually had a son with him. Meanwhile Heihachi and his new paramilitary Tekken Force unwittingly awaken Ogre, a creature known as The God of Fighting, who wipes out his Tekken Force Squad and attacks Jin and Jun. Jin eventually asks Heihachi to train him, and after four years a new Tournament is announced in order to draw out Ogre.
Jin eventually defeats Ogre’s more powerful True Ogre form (After Ogre was defeated by Kazuya’s rival, the American Paul Phoenix), and Heihachi attempts to kill Jin. Jin, who also has the Devil Gene, turns into a Devil and almost kills Heihachi before escaping. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of drama and a lot going on.
However, since the beginning Tekken has also had its fair share of bizarre characters. In the first game, one of the playable characters is Kuma, a large, abnormally intelligent bear that Heihachi kept as a bodyguard and trained in martial arts. Canonically, Kuma is defeated by Paul Phoenix, and returns to the woods to train.
A Tekken mainstay is King, a luchador who enters the tournament to raise money for his orphanage, and is always seen wearing a jaguar mask. Additionally, in Tekken 2, Tekken Tag Tournament, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the character Alex appears. Alex is literally a genetically modified dinosaur with boxing gloves.
Then there’s Combot, who appears in Tekken 4 and is able to mimic the fighting style of its opponent, and is a stand-in for Mokujin, a wooden training dummy brought to life by the spirit of fighting. Mokujin was introduced in Tekken 3, but also appears in Tekken 5, and Tekken 6, as well as Tekken Tag Tournament 1 and 2, and Tekken Revolution.
Tekken Struggled to Make a Name Among Competitive Gamers
While Tekkens 5, 6, and eventually Tag Tournament 2 received decent reviews, it never really managed to garner the space in the fighting game scene afforded to series like Street Fighter, and even Marvel vs. Capcom. For a while, the Tekken team produced a variety of spin-offs such as Tekken Card Tournament, an updated version of Tekken Card Arena, Tekken Bowl Tournament, which was a free version of a minigame playable in a few other Tekken games, and eventually Street Fighter x Tekken.
Street Fighter x Tekken was a crossover game that used tag-team battles similar to Tekken Tag Tournament along with a variety of other game mechanics. While it was received well critically, it soured relations among many fans for the way the game handled paid DLC characters and undersold Capcom’s expectations.
It wasn’t until Tekken 7 that Tekken finally staked its claim among the fighting game community. The game returned its focus to one-on-one fights, and added move mechanics such as Rage Drives which power up characters for devastating combos, and added ‘Screw Hits’, which replaced the ‘Bound’ hits of Tekken 6.
Players were also fans of the Tekken 7 characters list, which was about 52 altogether.
Tekken 7 also had a variety of unlockable characters from different games, including Noctis from Final Fantasy XV, Negan from the comic book series/TV show The Walking Dead, and Akuma from the Street Fighter series.
Akuma also features somewhat canonically into the plot, and almost ruined the game for single players in story mode, as well as players using him in multiplayer mode due to his sheer lack of balance compared to the other characters. But after a few adjustments, Akuma is more easily countered and Tekken 7 was righted among fans.
Never Seen the Tekken Movie(s)? You’re Okay.
Tekken has also spawned a variety of multimedia adaptations, including a few movies. Tekken: The Motion Picture was a two-part OVA released in 1998 that mainly covers the events of the first game while incorporating elements of Tekkens 2 and 3. It was widely panned by critics, which did not stop the release of Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a CGI alternate take on the events between Tekken 5 and 6. There were also two live-action Tekken films released, neither of which proved to be very notable by critics.
With Tekken surging back into mainstream acclaim and the competitive Tekken World Tour Tournament taking place yearly, many fans are wondering when Tekken 8 will be released. So far there is only speculation for an announcement in 2021 or 2022, and other fans seem to think it will be even longer as Tekken 7 is updated and given more tweaks. But many fans are just as content to enjoy Tekken 7 and the other iterations of the King of the Iron Fist Tournament.