It’s often disappointing to see a game reuse assets from one of its predecessors, but the newest fighting game from publisher Bandai Namco shows that it’s possible to use that content to flesh out a game into something bigger.
Tekken 7, which is out now on Steam (where I played it) and the consoles for $50, brings fans a campaign that promises to wrap up the franchise’s ongoing 23-year-old story of family, betrayal, and punching. Once again, horn-haired Heihachi Mishima is holding one of his King of the Iron Fists tournaments with the purpose of exposing the devil or something … it’s pretty nuts. As with all Tekkens, the feud between Heihachi and his son, Kazuya, is still the central pillar of this narrative, but Tekken 7 doesn’t just put those characters and the surrounding cast through the motions. Instead, Bandai Namco recognizes their history and brings it into the game in the form of the original cutscenes from previous entries in the series.
What’s cool about this is that the developer didn’t feel the need to redo the old computer-generated animations to meet the standards of Tekken 7. Instead, in between a fight, you might go from a modern, visually stunning scene featuring Heihachi and Nina to a grainy, compressed CGI scene featuring robo Jacks from Tekken 4.
That made sound hokey, and it kinda is. But I actually think it’s far more endearing and respectful to both the fans and the story that the Tekken games are trying to tell. In an age where storytellers working in games, television, or film would rather reboot a franchise, Tekken 7 fully embraces every bit of its past. That gives someone like me, who hasn’t played many Tekkens since the Tag Tournament, the sense that I’m getting the full story instead of only a small slice at the end.
But most important, I love that Tekken 7 isn’t embarrassed of its low-polygon era. Early 3D games were often hideous, and frankly Tekken didn’t escape that. It makes sense that developers who are working hard to make a gorgeous, photorealistic game today would want to forget humble beginnings. But many fans still have an affinity for blocky characters, stilted animation, and plain textures, and more games should have the courage of Tekken to not back away from their roots.