After watching the new mechanics that will be implemented in Tekken 8 I felt the need to voice my opinions as I feel it would be considered as a hot take. In short, I like them and I will explain why.
Harada has explained time and time again that one of the main objectives in 8 is going to a more aggressive playstyle. Some players might put this away as the so-called “Unga Bunga” playstyle and at the surface it might look like it. However, looking at the change with a different perspective leaves another impression. If you play against an agressive player you know that there are possible openings in the flurry of attacks to punish certain moves by evading, ducking or using your character’s own evasion moves. If you play a super defensive player which only uses backdashes , blocks and advanced movement to force you to whiff your attacks the fight feels hollow as these players tend to run the clock. There is no real feeling of an honest combat if you encounter one of these so called turtles. In the same vein, winning such a fight doesn’t really give the same satisfaction as a hotheaded trading of blows. These types of fights of aggressive vs. defensive players feels as mismatched as the fight Yarbrough vs. Takase.
This fight had Yarbrough, originally a Sumo Fighter pit against Takase, a UFC fighter. As expected, Takase was running circles around Yarbrough with the intent to tire him out and getting the odd punch in. This fighting style shown here reflects many of the tactics employed by turtle players. Yarbrough would be equivalent with, unsurprisingly, a big body character such as Gigas or Jack. They’re slow but have devastating attacks, if they land. When Yarbrough actually managed to hit Takase he went flying right into the ropes. So the only way for Takase to win here, was to employ turtle tactics. Even more unsurprisingly, the longer the fight went on, Yarbrough lost more and more stamina until he fell to the ground with a nosebleed at which point Takase jumps in to get a couple shots in.
In my opinion, this mismatch of fighting styles is neither fun for the combatants nor the audience. There were only a few blows traded while the main event was basically a low intensity workout for Yarbrough as he is more used to a grappling style of fighting as can be seen in the example below.
This fight shows a more aggresive style of the same fighter, where he can show off his strengths. In addition, the fight itself only took a fraction of the other. I would argue that this fight was more thrilling to watch as you are wonering if Nakano can escape the grasp of Yarbrough. This time you weren’t rooting for the bigger guy but you were hoping the smaller guy makes it out of the grapple. This is the difference in matched fighting styles vs mismatched ones.
So, in conclusion, I welcome the emphasis on a more equal push to be more aggressive. On another note, I haven’t fully understood the blocking mechanics as some attacks that should be blocked aren’t. I attribute this to my casual knowledge of the Tekken mechanics.
The Rage Drive is getting discontinued but not really, as I will get into later. What stays is the Rage Art which is also able to be activated by a unified button prompt, namely R2. This is true across the board for the whole roster. In Tekken 7 every character had a different input for the Rage Art which makes it somewhat complicated when you begin playing the game and are trying to find a character you actually vibe with as you may have remembered the Rage Art of a different character. I think the unification of the Rage Drive is a great addition to the game as I haven’t found a real main character yet even though I’m playing the Series since part 3. I tend to go for unusual characters such as Kuma, Bob or Gigas. As Harada mentioned it turns parts of the fights into a more action focused game. Mind you, you can still use the entire move list and new players can also consistently use their Rage Arts.
In addition, every character has their own style of Rage Arts. They showed King taking blows as they’re nothing, emphasizing his “macho” nature. Paul, naturally, has a big swinging attack that does unusualy high damage. If they continue in that fashion the characters will feel absolutely unique while the input stays the same for everyone and I welcome this change.
As soon as I saw the recovery gauge one other game came to my mind immediately and that game is Bloodborne. Do you remember the uproar the release of that game caused in the Dark Souls community? I do and it was horrible. Cries of “easy mode” and “Bloodborne is for babies” were seen on every single forum at the time. When the game finally released all those cries were put to rest as the damage in the beginning levels was so brutal that the recovery was actually needed because two or three successfull attacks would decimate your character. In addition, this feature allowed you to go into fights swords swinging against multiple enemies which wasn’t really possible in previous entries. So adding this feature might not be the worst thing ever happening to the game, seeing as the recovery is already in previous games but limited to certain characters. So giving recovery to everyone is leveling the playing field which is one way of making sure to reduce Overpoweredness of characters.
The concept of heat emphasizes the focus on more aggressive play. Not only does the heat activation bring a new element of tactics to the fights since your attacks do more damage but also allow for the heat engagers, which are presented as starters of combos. So, depending on the timing of the activation you can close the gap to the enemy or start a combo with the oponent in the air or on the ground. Admittedly, depending on the emphasis they use for the heat attacks that could rub some people the wrong way. I can see the heat engagers to be a controversial part of the game. Harada explained that these moves are portrayed as the core moves for the character to show off what they are all about. Also, giving new players the ability to bind attacks to a single button allows them to pull of some combos that would require very precise timing and inputs. On the flipside, should a player using only single button inputs get to the higher ranks an experienced player can deal with a beginner who only uses five moves without to much hassle. The player with more experience can easily deduct is an oposing player is using the same moves over and over because the player would know how to counter the moves and launch a combo to juggle the opponent.
With the Heat Energy system put in place it allows for new tactics. You get 2 points of energy if one of the core moves lands successfully. You only get one with the heat activation you can do at any time using R1. Then, you can either close the gap between you and your opponent or you could do a Heat smash. This is the replacement for the Rage Art, as it is a character specific type of attack. However you want to use the points determines the outcome of the battle, as through this system you can switch the flow of the battle.
So, in my opinion, allowing new players to get a feel for the characters by using a handful of core moves to then enter the practice mode to learn some more moves, switch-ups and throws to further master the character is fine by me. Some introduction to the characters was always missing in my experience. To use another game as an example, Soul Calibur has a special page with Character-specific moves whereas the wide majority of moves is shared with other characters. In this case the moves are largely homogenic with only a handful of different moves which is the opposite of what Tekken 8 seems to be going for.
In conclusion, characters should be unique but allowing new players to experience the core moveset is a good thing. With this mechanic more players might actually try new characters they would not have used previously. Also, as it seems that many of the attacks seen in the preview are very cinematic, Bandai seems to focus on making the game even more into a spectator sport, which I welcome as it might bring some fresh new players into it. In earlier days there used to form a crowd of people around Arcade machines when two good players were battling. This was usually a hyper focused crowd. In the advent of Esports growing as big as it has I could see Tekken get a wider reach than it has now and I would welcome new players to the series as a wider pool of people means less wait times in the lobbies. At the end of the day I want everyone to enjoy the game and not having to wait too long between matches would help with that.