The much-awaited Tekken 8 was just released last January 26, 2024, and during the weekend I was able to get my hands on a Steam copy. Here are my first impressions of Tekken 8 featuring the aspects of the game that stood out the most to me during my first few hours of playing it.
One of the reasons why Tekken is beloved by so many players of all ages is that while they introduce new mechanics with every new series, they also retain the fundamentals and gameplay that everyone’s familiar with. This means that if you know how to play a character back in Tekken 3, they still feel the same gameplay-wise in Tekken 8, just with a few more bells and whistles. Jumping into a new series feels like you get rewarded for what you already know, and yet still challenged by the idea that there is so much more to learn and discover.
It’s Aggro Season!
Tekken 8’s new mechanic is the Heat System, where your character enters into “Heat Mode” for a certain amount of time after hitting certain attacks or manually activating it. When in Heat, characters have access to additional attack options, but more importantly they now do something that I thought I’d never see in the series’ 30 years of existence – chip damage.
Chip damage is the small chunks of health that are lost when blocking attacks. In most other fighting games, this mechanic is commonly implemented as one of the ways to reward players for going for riskier special attacks, as well as discourage overly defensive gameplay that could lead to boring, drawn-out matches.
Up until Tekken 8 though, blocking any attacks didn’t do any chip damage. This encouraged playstyles that revolve around defensive play, minimizing risks through low-commitment attacks, and finding openings by maneuvering around the opponent through superior movement. If you’ve ever watched the pros play, you’ll observe that they move around a lot and try to outpoke each other with attacks occasionally until one can capitalize on the mistakes of the other. And until now, this is arguably the “best” way to play Tekken – minimizing risk.
The additional pressure of having chip damage in the game will likely change all this. The more that a player defends, the more their life total gets hacked away, and they’ll need to resort to more proactive means to get back into the game – like finding ways to be the aggressors themselves.
While I don’t think that the defensive playstyle that defined the series for so will be gone anytime soon, at least aggressive playstyles are given new tools to play with to contend with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the initial trend going into the game’s first month would be “whoever gets into Heat Mode first wins”. Either way, applying pressure is now more important than ever in winning a match.
In line with encouraging more aggressive gameplay, “Infinite” stages – those that don’t have boundaries, where players can back off and play defensive to their heart’s content without being pressured into a wall, are now gone.
One of the first impressions I had after seeing the stage select menu in Tekken 8 is how individual knowledge and awareness of these are more important than ever. A lot of Tekken 8’s stages have multiple layers for players to crash into throughout their match, and the game even goes so far as to put specific information for each one like its size in numbers, how many layers it has, and the different mechanics found in it. This encourages players to get creative with how their characters can take full advantage of the floor breaks, wall breaks, balcony breaks, and wall bounds each stage provides.
Playing By Yourself Is Fine Too!
While the series is defined by its multiplayer aspects, one surprising twist in Tekken 8 is the amount of effort they put into their single-player content. The Mishima Family war has expanded more than ever and is reaching its conclusion, and it’s just apt that they’ve pulled all the stops to tell it. We get more cinematic fights and long cutscenes this time around compared to previous Tekken entries and all of it helps make the game’s narrative more engaging.
A great thing I missed that has now made a comeback is character-specific storylines and endings! We’re all caught up too much in the Jin-Kazuya war that we might have forgotten that each of the 30 other characters in the roster has their own stories too. Not all of the endings you see with each character are canon, but they range from serious to simply fun, entertaining, and weird stories.
A Continuous Learning Experience
One of the positive first impressions I had with Tekken 8 was the amount of effort they made to craft a well-polished tutorial. To put it simply, you get the feeling that the game really wants to help you learn and enjoy every step of the way.
There’s a game mode called Arcade Quest that’s a complete tutorial about the basics of the game disguised as a nice story campaign about a player getting started on their Tekken journey.
Then once you get a hang of the basics, Practice Mode goes the extra mile by providing additional useful tidbits of information when you look through movelists or do one of the different practice modes.
Even watching replays becomes super helpful too when the game gives you suggestions about what you could have done better in your matches.
Another thing that stood out from my list of first impressions in Tekken 8 is the Super Ghost Battle – where you fight Ghosts (AI opponents) that unlike in previous games, behave almost like real players because they are made from their match data that’s processed through AI learning and made available online. It feels surreal to see AI opponents doing advanced movement, and combos, and making practical decisions (and mistakes) like players do, and I think this will go a long way in both helping and challenging players to learn more and get better at the game.
Multiplayer Is Smoother and Faster
There’s never a shortage of matches at the moment with servers being full of Tekken 8 players, and with crossplay available and rollback netcode being used, matches happen quickly and smoothly for the most part. I recommend just jumping straight into the action as soon as you’ve picked your character and have gotten a hang of the basics!
Sounds Good, Feels Great!
A final aspect of Tekken 8 from my list of great first impressions is the music and voice acting. The music in this game is just so good that it’s worth picking a stage just for the music alone, with my personal favorites from Coliseum of Fate and Yahushima. The voice acting is top-notch as well and plays an equally huge part in making each character distinctly unique and brimming with personality.
In summary, my first impressions of Tekken 8 are really positive – somehow Bandai Namco managed to make an already amazing fighting game even better. The new mechanics and adjustments to existing ones portray a clear idea of how they want this game to be experienced, and I appreciate the efforts they took to accommodate players who are completely new to the series. It’s a very easy fighting game to recommend and get into and is definitely fun at all levels of play. Add this to your collection.
Guest characters seem to be a thing of the past (for now), but it’s nice to look back at one of the most unlikely guest characters who made it to Tekken 7.
Have a look at how the game’s 3D cutscenes looked way back in 2011. It’s probably time we have another Tekken animated movie.
Not really into fighting games? How about trying some Trading Card Games instead? We listed some of the best ones this year.