During the Tekken World Tour Finals held in Amsterdam, several new features were introduced in a half-hour Tekken 8 demonstration that concluded with a character reveal. While the character reveal marked the return of a series staple with a complete makeover, there were many changes mentioned in Tekken 8 that will change the way the series has been played for almost two decades. It has been almost 30 years since the first Tekken and the series is no stranger to trying something new with every latest addition. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of what I feel are the most important changes to Tekken 8, how it affects current Tekken, and what this means for its future.
The first returning mechanic from Tekken 7 is the rage mechanic, debuting all the way back in Tekken 6. When a fighter crosses a certain threshold in health, they gain an attack boost. In Tekken 7, they introduced Rage Arts and Rage Drives, two moves exclusively accessible in Rage mode which further increased a player’s comeback potential.
In Tekken 8, a character’s Rage Art is now a universal command, pressing down-forward while simultaneously pressing left and right punch at the same time. The “Rage Drive” is eliminated altogether, meaning that all fighters have the same access to a move that gets them out of a pinch. As every fighter uses the same command, some fighters that have already been revealed will have their moves altered. Following the new fighter’s announcement, I compiled a very short video of the fighters who will be affected the most based on their existing move list.
This then followed with an entirely new system to the Tekken series outside of its spinoff Tekken Tag Tournament titles. Fighters can now recover their health naturally, as opposed to certain fighters under specific conditions like Yoshimitsu. What was often seen as a gimmick is now a core part of Tekken 8, as attacks deal “white” damage. Much like “red” damage in Tekken Tag Tournament, the white portion of the health gauge features recoverable damage. The only way to restore health in this game is to attack and become aggressive. Every successful attack, whether it hits or it’s blocked, will restore a portion of the attacker’s white health.
With this change, it is possible for players to deal chip damage with certain heavy attacks. In the demonstration, it was shown that Paul’s d+1,2 (down and left punch into right punch) shredded Law’s health, despite the latter blocking the attack. While in “heat mode,” all attacks deal chip damage, which means the longer the player stays on the defensive, the more damage they will take. While the defender can recover the lost health, it adds up over time to the point where a launcher may be enough to close out a round.
Before discussing the “heat system,” I am conflicted by this inclusion of “restoring health.” On one hand, it helps the player stay in the fight and it will never feel as if the defender doesn’t have a chance to mount a comeback. Health would feel more like a resource and without big damage to capitalize on the “white damage,” the opponent can easily undo the hard work done by the attacker.
On the other hand, I feel as if this would limit the number of iconic moments in Tekken 7 where one player lives with zero health and manages to stage a comeback against an opponent at or near full health. These highlights are some of the best that Tekken has to offer and with both sides being able to restore health, those nail-biting moments are effectively eliminated for better or worse. This doesn’t mean that Tekken 8 won’t have its share of clutch moments if the rest of this new heat system is anything to go by.
The “heat system” is a ten-second buff that gives the player increased attack damage, stacking with rage if activated at low health. It also gives a fighter access to exclusive moves done in heat mode with each fighter fulfilling a certain archetype. Paul is known for his explosive damage packed in a single punch, so moves like Phoenix Smash now guard breaks.
While not shown in the trailer, this explains Jack’s new railgun that he incorporates in his attacks in the reveal trailer. Law has his nunchaku attack properties buffed, a weapon he uses in his attacks this time around. In another example, King has a new command dash that gives him armor in heat mode. This example can be seen in this rather amusing edit, ending in a jumping cutter. Or otherwise better known as…
Heat mode is activated in two ways—Heat Burst and Heat Engage. The Heat Burst is activated with a single button that also gives a frame advantage on hit and block. This provides a safe way to enter heat while also keeping pressure applied. If the player activates Heat Burst in an unsafe circumstance, the player can cancel the attack while still retaining the heat activation. This mechanic is similar to Soul Charge in Soul Calibur 6. The second method, Heat Engage, is activated by using a move as a trigger when the activation requirements are met.
Paul’s Phoenix Smasher seems to be one of the moves that double as a Heat Engage, as he’s able to go into Heat with a significant frame advantage. In the demonstration, the Phoenix Smasher acts as a combo starter, which is scary to think, coming from one of the strongest single attacks in Tekken. Each character has at least five different moves that double as an Engager, once again similar to Soul Calibur 6’s Lethal Hit. Taking it a step further, this also bears a slight resemblance to Mortal Kombat 11’s Fatal Blow, as it takes a normal attack and amplifies it under certain conditions.
Depending on whether a player used a Heat Burst or an Engager, the player will enter Heat mode with one or two stocks respectively. While also having bonus moves, a player can do one of two moves—Heat Smash and Heat Dash. The Heat Smash is effectively Tekken 7’s Rage Drive but only usable while in Heat with a single stock. Heat Dash is similar to MAX Mode canceling in The King of Fighters 15, as players can cancel out of any move into a dash. This leads to otherwise impossible combos or makes an unsafe move unexpectedly safe. With two stocks, players can potentially link two Dashes although there’s only one per aerial combo.
There are many different techniques to close the distance, be it through Engage and Heat Dash. It’s no wonder why the stages are far larger than they were in previous games. Many fans assumed the colosseum was an “infinite stage,” however there’s a wall that the player reaches eventually. With so many offensive-based techs, the stages needed to grow at least triple in size, or else both fighters would be hitting many walls in a single confrontation.
Another thing to note about the Heat Engagers is that each character has five moves and these are the attacks that players should learn to “build around” when it comes to learning a new character. The director compared it to having inserts in the arcade machine. Tiny slips of paper that let players know the “signature moves” of each character for first-timers to quickly become adjusted to the ebb and flow of combat. Tekken is one of the most difficult fighting games to master and learning a new character is like learning a new game altogether. It’s mentioned that with these new Heat Engagers, these “important” moves are brought to light as well as how a character is meant to be played.
The problem with this is that it’s all wishful thinking. This was the intention of the Power Crush moves in Tekken 7, although some moves gave a very little reward for absorbing an attack. Hopefully, the “five Heat Engage moves” for each character are their best moves, otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense for them to be the highlight for each new fighter. I also strongly feel that Tekken needs an in-game tutorial for newer players to understand mechanics that they would be at a disadvantage if they don’t know them. Tekken 8 on other accounts is heading in an interesting yet positive direction with a new emphasis on aggression.
Tekken was always a physical game, but it was never a game that encouraged a bulldog-like offense. Certain characters steamrolled over others who were more defensive by nature and it seems this new Heat and Health Recovery system would help those characters go on the offensive. The next character reveal Tekken 8 needs is a character that most people play passively, like Asuka, Eddy, and Xiaoyu.
These characters are advantageous when their opponents overextend instead of taking the initiative themselves. If those characters can play offense in Tekken 8 just as well as they can go on the defensive, then it would feel like Dead Or Alive where even a fortress can fight back under the right circumstances. As a fan of the fast-paced frantic gameplay Team Ninja is known for, it’s exciting to see Tekken 8 push this aggressive mind state.
At the end of the showcase, a new character was revealed in typical Bandai Namco fashion, complete with an updated “Bandai Namco” Tekken logo sequence. Kazuya and Jin are now fully clothed in their new gear along with the updated Bandai Namco logo which I am still not a fan of. A character that does have many fans, Nina Williams was revealed as the second woman fighter in Tekken 8. Sporting a new look amidst her 1970s spy film-centered wardrobe, the Tekken veteran Nina returns, this time with two “Ninas,” turning her opponents into target practice.
Another topic of debate is the usage of weapons—Jack has his giant pile bunker, Law has a pair of nunchaku, and Nina has two handguns. Tekken using weapons is nothing new as Yoshimitsu and Kunimitsu were two of the first in the series to utilize swords and daggers in their game plan. If you consider “poison mist” a weapon, then Armor King and Nina were also staples of using weapons as well. Tekken 7 has arguably the most fighters with a weapon, including the aforementioned four, Master Raven with her sword, Leroy with his “once per match” cane, and Noctis with everything he has.
Weapons always existed in Tekken but it’s the first time it has been incorporated into a larger part of the cast. Law using nunchucks isn’t weird as it’s not only a part of his characterization, but he’s also not the first to do this. Liu Kang in the newest Mortal Kombat titles uses nunchaku in his special moves as a homage to the “3D Era” of Mortal Kombat. Nina using a pair of handguns is on brand for her as the series’s assassin for almost thirty years and it’s obvious these are non-lethal bullets. Then again, this is the same franchise where Heihachi literally caught a bullet between his teeth in Tekken 6 so who knows?
The point being—Weapons in Tekken 8 makes the game modernized as many martial arts based games incorporate weapons in a natural way. I’m certain that players could duck Nina’s guns as she would have a visual tell where she will brandish them. Maybe the bullets only travel a certain distance or are only active on hit. It’s too early to tell with screenshots and a trailer. With the emphasis on aggression, even Power Crush moves are changed as they can be used in-between strings and interrupt an opponent’s blind offense.
Another reveal is that there’s one more year of the Tekken World Tour, this time for 2023. It’ll be all offline events, following the controversy surrounding the various online regional finals, and the rest of Tekken 7’s development will be outsourced. Arika, best known for the Street Fighter EX, Fighting Layer, and Fighting EX Layer series, will handle Tekken 7 and Tekken 8’s infrastructure. The developer was also known for their rollback netcode for Fighting EX Layer as it was largely a 3D game, so it’ll be interesting to see how the netcode is implemented by an outside development team.
Lastly, a closed alpha test is planned for the public, with top priority given to players who attend EVO Japan this year. This also means that there will be several opportunities to try out Tekken 8, with venues such as EVO and Combo Breaker coming to mind. With a better understanding of Tekken 8’s gameplay during the demonstration, there’s now the anticipation of the more “hands-on” approach. Hopefully, a wider audience may be given a chance to try out Tekken 8 soon, but until then, stay tuned for more up-to-date Tekken 8 coverage!