In our Final Round series, we take a look an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can. In part 2, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1994’s Tekken…
Year of Release – 1994
Developer – Namco
Publisher – Namco
Platforms – Arcade, PlayStation
Developed by Namco and released in Japanese arcades in 1994 (and ported to PlayStation in 1995), Tekken took the 3D fighting style that was pioneered by 1993’s Virtua Fighter, and added its own spin on things in regards to the control system.
Instead of using the traditional fighting game inputs that corresponded to the strength of the attacks, Tekken utilised a system that dedicates a button to each individual limb of the fighter. In doing this, the game became more of a learning process for players that wanted to do special moves and combos. This departure was so innovative, that experienced players could now figure out special moves by studying the fighters limb movements during their animations.
Known briefly as “RAVE WAR” during its Beta test stage, Tekken quickly found itself as one of the most popular PlayStation games in history, and became the first game to sell over a million copies for the console.
As Tekken was originally released as an arcade game, the marketing was initially centered around how beneficial having a Tekken machine in your arcade is, both in terms of money and playability.
Interestingly, the slogan that was featured at the bottom of some of the posters for the arcade version of the game directly referenced the alternative beta test title. After the game was released on PlayStation, the phrase “Lord of the Rave War” became “The King of IRON FIST”, which has featured heavily on many entries in the series to this day.
The promotional artwork for the console release saw the game’s roster featured in a rather stylish poster.It also features the individual (and unlockable) character sub-bosses at the base of the design, while leaving out the main boss Heihachi Mishima completely.
This same artwork from the poster was also used as the box art for the PlayStation release a couple of months after it hit arcades, but crops out all of the characters at the bottom, leaving only the initial selection of fighters.
Tekken includes a variety of unique characters, each with their own fighting style. Many of these characters became mainstays throughout the franchise for years to come.
The main story centers around the King of Iron Fist tournament, created by Heihachi Mishima, head of the giant financial group the Mishima Zaibatsu. Whoever can defeat Heihachi wins a great deal of prize money, in addition to the title “King of Iron Fist”.
Each character has their own backstory going into the game, and their own separate endings too (which I shall go into detail about later in the article).
Heihachi‘s son, Kazuya, is the main character in Tekken. As a young child, he was thrown into a ravine by his father, as Heihachi believed that if Kazuya was strong enough to inherit the Mishima Zaibatsu, then he would be able to survive the fall and climb back up.
Kazuya barely survived the fall, and it left him with a huge scar across his chest. Fueled by hatred for his father, Kazuya enters the King of Iron Fist tournament to fight his way through to Heihachi and exact his revenge.
As with most standard main characters, Kazuya is a great starter character, with a good mix of speed, power and lightning punches/kicks.
According to the game’s booklet, Kazuya‘s hobby is “collecting sneakers”, a fact that has no bearing on the game or anything to do with his backstory. (I’ll be including these tidbits of random information for each of the characters, because they’re pretty funny for the most part).
Nina Williams is a silent assassin from Ireland, with Aikido techniques learned from her parents, entering the tournament to assassinate Heihachi (but her real intentions are “unclear”).
Her story varies slightly depending on which version of the game you play. One version states that her father was an IRA assassin who left Ireland to escape his past and Nina was kidnapped by an underground force and drugged to believe that Heihachi Mishima need to be taken out.
Nina is a speedier entrant in the game, with some impressive combos to master.
Her hobby? Travelling.
Jack is one of a “super killing robot” army created by the former Russian Soviet Union. Upon learning about Kazuya‘s coup d’etat plans, the Russian military enter Jack into the tournament in an attempt to stop him.
The powerhouse in the game’s core roster, Jack is capable of dealing massive amounts of damage with just a few hits, but is one of the slowest characters in the whole game.
As a hobby, Jack robots like to “overhaul themselves”. I guess it’s tough to come up with a legitimate hobby for a robot, but this works reasonably well.
A preacher by day, and jaguar-masked professional wrestler by night, King enters the King of Iron Fist tournament to raise money for his orphanage in Mexico.
King is based on a couple of real life legends in the world of professional wrestling. The first of these influences is Satoru Sayama, the original “Tiger Mask“, known for his stints in New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s.
The other major influence for King is Fray Tormenta, a Catholic priest from Mexico who supported an orphanage for nearly 25 years by donning a mask and becoming a professional wrestler (As a side note, the movie Nacho Libre is also based on Tormenta‘s story).
King is the grappler character in Tekken, with the majority of his moves being real-life wrestling maneuvers. DDTs, suplexes dropkicks and hurricanranas aplenty, it’s pretty clear to see why King has always been my personal favourite across the franchise.
King‘s hobby? Making kids happy. A virtual El Generico if there ever was one.
Marshall Law has dreams of opening his own fighting school, but is stuck in a job working in a Chinatown restaurant. Law enters the tournament with a focus on the prize money, but also wants to be world-famous too.
As is to be expected with many a fighting game from this era, Law is the stereotypical Bruce Lee-esque character whose speed and kicks are incredible.
For me, Law was always the most challenging character to go up against, because when his kicks are spammed by the game’s AI (or another player), it’s difficult to get any offense in at all.
In his spare time, Law likes to go fishing.
Michelle‘s father was sent on a hunt for treasure on sacred Native American land when she was a child, but never returned. Upon her 18th birthday, Michelle learns that Heihachi‘s men killed him during the expedition, so she enters the King of Iron Fist tournament to get revenge.
While Michelle may not be the strongest fighter in the game, her ranged kicks and fast jabs are perfect for racking up chain combos. An unpredictable character that is lethal in the hands of experienced players.
In true stereotypical form, Michelle‘s hobbies are hunting and tracking. Because, ya know, Native American. Get it?
Focussed on becoming the best fighter in the world, big-haired judo expert Paul Phoenix enters the tournament to seek the perfect opponent. That opponent is Kazuya Mishima, who he once battled with to a draw, so he seeks to put all comparisons between them to rest.
Paul is a perfect character for those who want to overload their opponents with strong offense. His powerful punches, impressive sweep attacks and devastating charged moves are balanced with a decent amount of defense too.
In his free time, Paul rides motorcycles.
The head of the Manji Clan, Yoshimitsu enters the King of Iron Fist tournament as a distraction to allow the rest of his clan to steal the prize money undetected.
The “wild card” of Tekken, Yoshimitsu is a challenge to play as, but can be unstoppable with the right training. He has the ability to use a sword, but that doesn’t make it any easier as he has the ability to stab himself and, in doing so, take big chunks of damage.
Winning a match as a result of humiliating or confusing an opponent is one of the best feelings you can get whilst playing a Tekken game, and Yoshimitsu is the best character for it.
Yoshimitsu‘s hobby is watching sumo wrestling.
Each member of the core roster in Tekken has an individual sub boss to face before they reach Heihachi, and are subsequently unlocked as playable characters upon completion of the story. They are as follows;
- Nina‘s sister Anna enters the tournament to get back at her sister for being neglected as a child.
- Armor King enters the tournament to face his old enemy and rival, King.
- Ganryu, a disgraced sumo wrestler enters the tournament to prove his strength.
- Kuma, Heihachi‘s pet-turned-soldier bear.
- Kunimitsu, an expelled member of the Manji clan, enters the tournament to steal treasure that Heihachi took from the Native Americans.
- Lee Chaolan, Heihachi‘s adopted son, enters the tournament to stake his claim on the Mishima Zaibatsu.
- Prototype Jack, who is exactly as his name suggests, is entered into the tournament by Heihachi as an opponent for Jack.
- Wang, a recluse who lives in the grounds of the Mishima gardens, and friend of Heihachi‘s father.
Tekken features eleven substantial stages to fight in, each with their own theme music.
Each one of these outdoor levels represents a real life location, and are as follows;
- Acropolis – based on the Athenian Acropolis in Greece, with The Parthenon looming in the background.
- Angkor Wat – based on the temple complex in Cambodia, you fight on open fields overlooked by temples.
- Chicago – Situated at the top of a skyscraper at night, with the cityscape in the background.
- Fiji – Sunny beaches, open grassland, palm trees and a funky horn section and steel drum fueled soundtrack make this a really memorable level.
- King George’s Island – Snowy icecaps in Antarctica, with a suitably chilled out (ha!) music accompaniment
- Kyoto – A courtyard lined by trees and overlooked by a large Shinto-style shrine.
- Marine Stadium -Based on the stadium in Chiba City, Japan, this is a huge baseball stadium. The PlayStation version of the game features a large screen in the background that mirrors the action of the fight.
- Monument Valley – based on the open deserts of Utah, with the sun setting in the distance.
- Szechwan – An open field in China, with mountain ranges in the background.
- Venezia – Based on the grand canal in Venice, Italy.
- Windermere – A rock-lined, grassy lake bank based on Lake Windermere in the Lake District, England.
An interesting point about these levels is that both the arcade and the console versions of Tekken had parallax (layers of 2D stacked on top of each other to give the illusion of depth) backgrounds, but Tekken 2 didn’t for either version and Tekken 3 only brought it back for arcade mode.
Tekken‘s bonus game is pretty unique in that it is played before the real game even starts.
As Tekken loads up, a level of the classic arcade game Galaga is playable, as Tekken‘s developer Namco also created that game.
As a reward for beating the Galaga mini-game in a certain time, a new costume for Kazuya unlocks; Devil Kazuya.
While the Devil character plays much more of a prominent role in the sequels to Tekken, its inclusion here is purely cosmetic, and a cool little hidden feature for players to discover.
For the most part, both versions of Tekken were pretty much the same.
There are a few minor differences though. The arcade version of the game has facial animations during the character selection screen, and the music across the board sounds slightly different too.
The PlayStation version lacks the facial animations, but includes a couple of changes to certain levels. The game’s music could also be played by placing the game disc into a CD player.
Apart from win poses after a match, Tekken doesn’t include any ridiculous quotes from fighters after they’ve beaten a foe.
However, each of the core roster has their own unique cinematic ending upon beating Heihachi. Ranging from the main conclusion of Kazuya dumping his father into the same ravine from the beginning of his story (and awkwardly smiling at the camera afterwards), to the digitised children celebrating King‘s victory, each ending is memorable in its own way.
Tekken continued this tradition throughout the sequels, where the ending of each fighter becomes the canonical ending to the game, resuming in the following sequel.
The first Tekken was a solid introduction to what would become one of the greatest fighting game franchises in video game history.
The game’s blocky graphics may look somewhat dated by today’s standards, but it did a fantastic job of bringing in the innovative control system that we associate with the series now, as well as kickstart the brilliant Mishima storyline.
The sequels may have constantly refined the franchise into a sleek, stylish juggernaut, but having this as a starting point is incredibly strong, and still holds its own in the modern era.
Are you a fan of the first Tekken game? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!