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What's Up Tekken 8's Ongoing References To Naruto?

Sakura in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (left) and Asuka Kazama from Tekken 8 (right)

It is yet another Monday with yet another event behind us as EVO Japan wraps up for 2023. The international presence of one of the biggest names in fighting games was felt. Picking up right where EVO 2022 left off, winners were crowned and games were announced. This also meant new character trailers for Tekken 8, something Bandai Namco had been consistent with throughout March. However, the more trailers get released, the more the community picks apart every second, savoring the morsel of information.

Much like Soul Calibur 6 did for the series, the extent of theatrics and character expression extends past being grounded in reality. Bandai Namco claimed they wanted Tekken 8 to be as fun to play as it would be to watch. It's certainly molding itself to be quite the 'dynamic entry' of the series with the Mightiest of Guys. Pun intended by the way because it seems as if the developers are pulling out all the stops to ensure that Tekken doesn't just have an anime adaptation, but becomes anime.

Lars Alexandersson is a returning character who debuts in Tekken 6 as the new "series protagonist," not replacing Jin but co-existing with the anti-hero protagonist. In Tekken 6, Jin wages war against the world to awaken the ancient power of Azazel. Alongside Alisa, Lars fights through both the Mishima Zaibatsu and G Corporation to put a stop to Jin's crusade.

Lars Alexandersson's concept art design by Masashi Kishimoto

It should be said that Tekken and "realism" only go together as far as face value. While the environments are based on real-life locations with humans who exhibit mastery in martial arts, this is the same game that featured boxing kangaroos and sentient wooden training dummies. Lars was different and as the protagonist, he had access to "tools" that other fighters who weren't "Mishima" wouldn't have access to.

With electricity coursing through his veins and his acrobatic skills, he moved like a ninja almost more than the actual ninja (Yoshimitsu and Raven) themselves. Lars was a character that exhibited shounen anime energy so it was only natural that he would appear in a shounen anime fighting game as a guest character. That was the deal with his inevitable appearance in Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2.

In Tekken 6, Lars had an alternate costume designed by Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto's manga artist. In turn, he would appear in Storm 2 as the game's guest fighter, incorporating a simplified move list and a "ten-hit combo" which served as his signature attack. In the Lars trailer for Tekken 8, he moves with even more electricity and flips and spins. What made me raise an eyebrow was his rage art, which looked awfully familiar.

But if you close your eyes...

This isn't the first time that his rage art referenced something else as one of his Tekken 7 rage art was the Sling Blade, the signature move of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Hiroshi Tanahashi. Considering how over the top Tekken 8 is becoming with its new mechanics and larger-than-life abilities, giving Lars a call back to his previous life as a shinobi. If this was the only Naruto reference, then this would be the end of it. However, a few days later saw the return of another fan-favorite Ling Xiaoyu.

The complete opposite of Lars, Xiaoyu had no mastery of the elements but instead relied on fluid, simple, and agile movements. Her martial art in Tekken is a combination of Piguaquan and Baguazhang, but it is the latter that is the primary focus. As mentioned, Xiaoyu's movements always had a bit of a "flow" or "rhythm" behind every strike. One could say that each attack hit directly to the opponent's chakra, sealing it. In Naruto, Gentle Fist is a kind of taijutsu that allows the practitioner to strike relentlessly yet methodically. This is also known as the Eight Trigrams.

The movements of the Gentle Fist are based on real-life Baguazhang, the same martial art that Ling learns in Tekken. Likewise, when Ling Xiaoyu's trailer was revealed, she would also have a Rage Art borrowed from a Naruto character. This time, it's Hinata Hyuga's signature move from the Nintendo-exclusive Clash of Ninja series. Comparing Hinata to Ling from a character perspective seems natural as they share familiar traits of loyalty towards the main love interest. However, giving Ling her whole special move sequence is unexpected yet also fits the "larger-than-like" theme that Lars established with his Naruto rage art.

One thing about fighting game fans, we'll know where stuff is from.

Okay, so that's two characters confirmed to have their Rage Arts based on Naruto specials from previous titles. But that's it right? Surely there's nothing else that can happen. Marshall Law was one of the first fighters announced for Tekken 8 and they didn't give him Dynamic Entry. No more references?

Well, I hate to rain on the parade, but if the latest character trailer is anything to go by, we've just begun. Asuka Kazama, another fan favorite almost guaranteed to return to Tekken 8, is a hot head with an explosive fighting style to match. Her hot-bloodedness is shown even more in Tekken 8 it would seem, with the amount of Power Dunks I've seen in her trailer alone. However, not even Asuka is safe from Naruto as her Rage Art directly copies Sakura's from Ultimate Ninja Storm 4.

Both are equally loud and deserve better within their respective plots.

I'm surprised Jin Kazama doesn't have Sasuke Uchiha's Chidori, although I suppose his rage art is similar by design. Both cut through their opponent and cause the user to grow wings but there's no electric cry of a thousand squawking birds afterward. Bandai Namco had owned the Naruto license for decades now and the developers of their fighting games, CyberConnect2, have worked with the Tekken development team as well. None of these examples felt out of place from the source but it is amusing to identify a move and go "I get that reference!"

With the rate at which characters are being announced, it may be mere days until Tekken fans get to see who's next on the roster. I wouldn't be surprised if most would be interested in what Rage Art a new character's going to have. It would be yet another talking point from which reference did Tekken 8 get its inspiration this time. At least there's something else to look forward to when a new trailer drops, as if there wasn't enough to watch out for already.

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