In our Final Round series, we take an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can. In part 21, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1997’s Tekken 3…
Year of Release – 1997
Developer – Namco
Publisher – Namco, SCEE
Platforms – Arcade, PlayStation
In the mid 1990s, Namco found themselves faced with a daunting task; improving on what was already one of the best fighting games of the era, Tekken 2. How could developers create a new title in the Tekken franchise that not only catered to the hardcore players of the first two games, but bring in a new set of fans, while also taking advantage of the new graphics engines and technology available to them?
Tekken 3 absolutely smashes these goals, and then some.
Born from a period of time in Namco’s history where many of the original Tekken development were leaving the company, Tekken 3 was spearheaded by Katsuhiro Harada, the industry’s first ever “game director”. Owing to the amount of internal clout within the company that he had accrued with his impressive sales record during his first year at Namco, Harada-san convinced the higher ups in the company to allow him to reinvent the game’s engine from scratch, introduce many new characters into the series and attempt to create an absolute juggernaut within the genre.
One of the remaining members of the Tekken Project was Masanori Yamada, who was considered to be a “legend” within the company during the 80s and 90s. Both he and Harada-san loved working on the game so much that they pretty much lived in their offices (to the point where they were sleeping under their desks).
Unlike the previous titles, Tekken 3 now incorporated more motion capture technology into its fighter roster. This technical wizardry is showcased at its best during the intro to the game in arcades, which sees newcomer Hwoarang practicing his Taekwondo techniques. This is directly modelled from Hwang Su, a master in Embu (martial arts demonstration). As the technology was somewhat new at this point, actually translating the graciousness of the moves that Su was performing into a suitably impressive digital display was quite the task.
The most noticeable change from the previous instalments of the franchise is the game’s new focus on depth. Sidestepping is now much easier, and the jumps from each character are toned down substantially, making for a much tighter, more refined fighting experience. Coupled with quicker knock-down recovery, better move juggling and brand new combo-throws, Tekken 3 immediately positioned itself as the king of 3D fighting games from that era.
Promotional Material & Box Art
The arcade flyers for the game are standard fare for the most part, highlighting the improvements and new features that have been introduced since the last game. The money flyer is probably one of the most simple and stylish ads that I’ve seen for a fighting game, and have fond memories of seeing it in games magazines in 1997/98.
Tekken 3‘s box art is pretty uniform too, with a strong focus on the game’s new protagonist. The PAL release is the better version though, as it doesn’t obscure as much of the image as the NTSC version. The collector’s edition demo disc comes in a jet black jewel case with a sticker slapped on the front. Offering nothing more than a single fight between Eddy and Xiaoyu, it’s not very high on the “replayability” scale, but it’s a cool disc to have nonetheless.
The soundtracks for both versions of the game were released in 1997/1998 respectively.
The arcade soundtrack features 19 tracks from Keiichi Okabe (known for his recent work on arrangements for NieR: Automata) and Nobuyoshi Sano (who previously worked on Namco’s classic racing game Ridge Racer). The PlayStation soundtrack, complete with a Nine Inch Nails-esque cover, boasts 26 tracks from Okabe, Sano, Hiroyuki Kawada, Minamo Takahashi and Yuu Miyake.
The music overall is an improvement on what was already some of the best music in fighting games, with some ridiculously cool drum & bass and guitar pick slides thrown into the mix.
Tekken 3‘s roster consists of 23 characters (10 of which are immediately playable). The majority of the fighters are new to the series (in terms of storyline), but there’s also a handful of older fighters from the series making cameo appearances in the arcade intro and character endings.
Set 16 years after the events of Tekken 2, the story centers around a new protagonist, Jin Kazama, and furthers the Mishima saga effectively.
At the age of 15, Jin discovers that he is the son of Kazuya Mishima, Tekken‘s main protagonist/antagonist (depending on which entry you play). Upon learning of the alleged death of his mother, Jun Kazama, he is savagely attacked by the mysterious being known as “Ogre”, Jin seeks out his grandfather, Heihachi, to begin martial arts training. Within four years, Jin easily masters both the Mishima and Kazama fighting styles, and enters the tournament, with the aim of hunting down his mother’s killer.
As one of the newcomers to the series, having Jin as the game’s main character is a refreshing change to the franchise, while keeping things somewhat familiar for returning fans. His backstory (and pretty much everything else that happens to him in the later games) paints him as a tragic hero, and he plays a vital role in the ongoing saga of the Mishima family.
In terms of what Jin is like to play as, he is very similar to Kazuya and Hehachi in the previous games, which isn’t very surprising. He also incorporates elements of his mother’s moveset from Tekken 2, which not only makes him a substantially powerful character to play as, but one that has a great amount of speed, which is ideal for newcomers and players who prefer a balanced fighting style..
A spirited, enthusiastic 16 year old who is a massive fan of amusement parks. After learning of the Mishima Zaibatsu’s astonishing wealth, she seeks out the estate’s leader, Heihachi, to help her to realise her greatest dream; to build China’s most perfect theme park.
While on a family holiday, Xiaoyu stows away on a yacht belonging to Heihachi, and is quickly discovered by the boat’s security team. Heihachi is immediately notified, but upon arriving at the scene, he discovers every single one of his men completely beaten down and defeated. As it turns out, Xiaoyu is a skilled martial artist, who threatens to go berserk again if she doesn’tn’t get her way. Heihachi accepts the challenge, offering to build the park should Xiaoyu win the third King of Iron Fist tournament.
The second of Tekken 3‘s various new fighters, Xiaoyu has since become one of the series more popular fighters. According to her more detailed backstory, she is a student (and distant relative) of Wang Jinrei from the previous games. As a result, her fighting style is pretty similar to Wang’s, but feels more fluid and fun to mess around with. It’ll take some time to master her moves and stances due to a hue learning curve, but this makes her one of the most dynamic fighters, not only in this game, but across the whole franchise.
After the original King dies during an attack from Ogre, one of the orphans that was raised under the first King’s watch realised that without guidance, the orphanage would crumble and eventually be closed down, leaving many poor children homeless. He decides to take on his mentor’s mask and imitate his fighting style. Unfortunately for him, he had only seen videos of King’s moves, resulting in him losing every tournament that he enters. After one of his losses, the first King’s longtime rival/ally, Armor King introduces himself and decides to take him under his wing, training him for four years.
King II is entered into the latest Tekken tournament, where his training and skills are put to the test against the world’s toughest opponents. During this time King II seeks to avenge King’s untimely death, and defeat Ogre once and for all.
One of the most instantly recognisable characters from the game (and my personal favourite), King continues the ongoing tradition of professional wrestling style fighters in the genre. The concept of a new fighter donning the mask of a particular luchador to continue their legacy is done perfectly here, harkening back to the real-life lineage of Tiger Mask in Japan. Despite being very powerful, King II is best played as a defensive character, due to his limited range. This is more than made up for by his incredible throws and grab moves.
Also, as a side note, the motion capture for King in this entry in the franchise (and many future games!) was done by a young Minoru Suzuki, who is now one of the most feared and highly respected wrestlers in the world of Japanese professional wrestling.
During the second Tekken tournament, Lei almost suffered a huge defeat at the hands of Bruce Irvin. After coming away victorious, Bruce’s plane home was reported to have crashed, killing every passenger onboard the flight. After hearing rumours that this accident was a staged event by Kazuya Mishima’s men in an attempt to silence Bruce, Lei Wulong doubts that Bruce is actually dead and continues his investigations.
In the 19 years since the last Tekken tournament, Lei has become known as a “supercop” and is feared by crime organisations all over the world. Within his jurisdiction, a number of martial artists start to go missing. During his investigation of these disappearances, Lei is visited by the head of the Mishima Zaibatsu, Heihachi, who asks Lei to take part in the upcoming King of Iron Fist tournament. Initially confused by this request, Lei believes that there is something more to this meeting that could help with his work, and complies.
As is the case in his debut appearance in Tekken 2, Lei is a high risk/high reward character. In order to learn how to use him properly, players must know a great deal about pretty much every other character’s movesets to determine which of Lei’s stances will be effective. Tricky to learn, but unstoppable if mastered.
In the previous Tekken game, Nina’s mission was to assassinate Kazuya Mishima, but a quarrel with her younger sister Anna stopped her from completing it. Shortly after the tournament, both Williams sisters are captured by Kazuya’s men and are forced to become test subjects in Dr. Bosconovitch’s “Cold Sleep #2” cryogenics experiment.
They remain in this deep sleep for over 15 years, and at the same time as Ogre’s spirit being excavated by Heihachi’s Tekken Force, Nina awakens from her state, now with the new command to kill Jin Kazama.
Representing the roster of the very first Tekken game, Nina is just as deadly as ever and remains a firm fan favourite. She’s quick, surprisingly powerful and can chain together some of the most impressively lethal combos in the entire game (though pulling this off can prove to be quite the challenge).
Continuing his unfortunate story from the first two Tekken titles, Paul’s aim in Tekken 3 is to finally win the one tournament that will cement his legacy as the greatest fighter in the world.
In the last game, Paul went undefeated through the whole tournament and earned the right to fight Kazuya, but a huge traffic accident on the journey to the match made Paul miss the bout (and forced him to forfeit).
After unexpectedly receiving an invitation to the 3rd King of Iron Fist tournament, Paul is determined to not let a victory slip from his fingers, and prove that at 46 years old, he still has what it takes to win the tournament.
Paul is the quintessential “aggressive” fighter in the Tekken franchise, and his moveset is shown off perfectly in Tekken 3. His focus on devastatingly powerful punch moves can see an opponents life gauge be completely decimated within a matter of seconds.
As is the case in the first two Tekken titles, the mysterious leader of the Robin Hood-esque Manji Clan, Yoshimitsu, does whatever he can to help the poor and disadvantaged.
Upon learning of the disappearance of noted martial artists around the world, Yoshimitsu decides to visit Dr. Bosconovitch. Yoshimitsu is surprised to discover that Bosconovitch is suffering from a life-threatening illness (possibly as a side effect from his “Cold Sleep” experiments), and that he needs blood from Ogre to successfully battle the condition.
Yoshimitsu is already indebted to the doctor for saving his life, so he enters the King of Iron Fist tournament with the goal of helping his old friend recover.
Yoshimitsu is just as erratic, unorthodox and strange as he has ever been in Tekken 3. His moveset still punishes button mashers, as blindly heading into a wrong combo can result in harakiri (that’s “ritual suicide by disembowelment”), and his sword attacks are insanely powerful when utilised correctly.
Born into one of the wealthiest families in Brazil, Eddy Gordo was destined from a young age to take over his family’s business. Throughout his hometown, Eddy is a hard working, well-liked member of the community who treats everyone that he meets with equal respect. One day, when he was 19, he came home from school to discover his father shot and bleeding to death. It turns out that his father had been working to bring down a drug business in Brazil, and he’d gained enough evidence to put the druglords away in prison, forcing them to take drastic action. In his last breaths, he convinces Eddy to falsely admit to the murder and hide in prison, as that would be the only place where he’d be safe.
During his 8-year stint in prison, Eddy learned capoeira from a fellow inmate after seeing him using the fighting technique in a prison riot. Practicing every day makes Eddy a master at the technique and incredibly lethal as a result.
After being released from prison, Eddy learns of the King of Iron Fist tournament, and enters with the goal of persuading the Mishima Zaibatsu to aid him in taking down his father’s killers.
One of the most unpredictable characters in the game, and possibly the most memorable newcomer in the franchise, Eddy is easy to pick up, but incredibly tough to fully master. Mixing up his stances and chaining together combos can effectively stop any offense attempts dead in their tracks very quickly, and pretty much ensure a quick victory every time.
Living in the shadow of his father, Forest Law trains at the family dojo daily in order to achieve that greatness and success that is synonymous with the Law name.
Marshall Law is fiercely protective over his son, and refuses to let him take part in any tournaments or competitions outside of the dojo. Marshall’s sparring partner, Paul Phoenix, visits once every few months to train.
On one of these visits, and without Marshall knowing, Paul goads Forest into entering the “King of Iron Fist tournament” in order to prove that he is worthy of inheriting the family dojo when he is older.
For those who are familiar with the fighting style of Marshall Law in the first two Tekken titles, there’s not much different in the case of his son, Forest. Extremely quick, utilising kicks and vicious strikes, the Bruce Lee-esque stereotype lives on in Tekken 3.
A student of Taekwondo who trains at the dojo owned by Baek Doo San (who you may remember from Tekken 2), Hwoarang’s main source of income comes from a range of dishonest wagers and gambling. As part of a “fraud team”, he picks fights for money while manipulating the odds of the bout by making himself seem like a weak underdog, then soundly defeating the opponents.
They try to pull the same scam on a number of the Mishima Estate’s men, with Jin Kazama being one of them. Jin surprises Hwaorang by being an even match to him, embarrassingly fighting to a draw. Ashamed at the thought of having to inform his teacher that he couldn’t beat an opponent in this nefarious scheme, he vows to practice every day to guarantee that he would never face a defeat again.
Upon learning that Ogre has killed Baek, he enters the “King Of Iron Fist Tournament” for two reasons; to get revenge for his teacher’s murder, and to prove that he can beat Jin Kazama.
Are you a fan of kick-centric fighters? If so, then Hwoarang is definitely for you! His speed is pretty average, but his ease of use for new players is undoubtedly his best selling point. He is also lacking slightly in the area of defense, so using an all-out offense strategy will gain more success during fights.
A former soldier-turned-police officer in the International Police Oganisation, Bryan Fury was killed during a shootout in the middle of Hong Kong.
His corpse was transported to the laboratories of Doctor Abel, a brilliant scientist whose professional career has always been overshadowed by Doctor Bosconovitch. Upon obtaining Fury’s corpse, Abel was now one step closer to completing his masterpiece; a cyborg army. Fury’s corpse is re-animated and augmented to give him super strength, and is sent to gather data on Bosconovitch.
After hearing that Yoshimitsu has close ties to Abel’s rival, Fury sneaks into the King of Iron Fist tournament.
Bryan Fury’s moveset is heavily focused on kickboxing, and he is an immensely powerful fighter with some excellent counters at his disposal. This power comes at a price though, as he lacks range and his combos require a great deal of focus and attention to be successful.
Haunted by the memory of what happened to Jack-2 19 years earlier, Jane constantly works on a way to restore him back to working order. During this time, she learns that the majority of the technology and AI that is used to build the Jack robots was created by Mishima Heavy Industries, a subsidiary of the Mishima Zaibatsu.
This knowledge allows her to build the groundwork for “Project Gun Jack”, an upgraded, powerful version of the Jack robots, with an added pivot gun. She sneaks into the Mishima Heavy Industries facility to install a secret programme into the machines.
While his look has been slightly upgraded for Tekken 3, his play style remains almost exactly the same as the first two entries in the franchise. Massively powerful and able to decimate an opponent’s health bar within seconds, but painfully slow and working on an extremely limited (and predictable) set of moves.
After being discovered by Michelle Chang in the ruins of the Chang tribal lands as a baby, Julia was raised with love and taught to protect her sacred homeland.
When the news that martial artists from across the world started to reach the tribe, the 18-year old Julia decides to leave for Japan to find out why the Mishima family were so hellbent on obtaining her family’s pendant in the second tournament. After her mother disappears, Julia suspects that Heihachi knows why, so she enters the tournament to get answers.
Julia’s fighting style is almost identical to her mother’s in the previous Tekken games; ranged kicks and fast strikes that can be linked into other attacks. Bamboozling opponents with this offensive assault comes at a price though, as she is considerably weaker than the other fighters on the roster.
The son of the original Kuma (who died of old age after the end of the second tournament), Kuma II is now Heihachi Mishima’s pet.
This Kuma is considerably more intelligent than his father, and is an effective bodyguard for his master. While watching TV one day, Kuma takes notice of a strong, powerful fighter by the name of Paul Phoenix. He begins to train daily with the goal of defeating Paul in battle, and enters the tournament solely for this purpose.
This new iteration of the Kuma character retains many features found in his predecessor’s moveset, but instead of merely cloning the moves of Jack, there’s an interesting new addition. Kuma II uses some unique strikes and can enter into a “hunting mode” stance, which sees him on all fours for more attacks
Next up in Tekken 3‘s newcomers is Mokujin, a sentient training dummy made from the wood of a 2,000 year old oak tree
Kept in a museum display for a considerable amount of time, the awakening of the God Of Fighting, Ancient Ogre, gives Mokujin life and the ability to act on its own accord. It is unknown why Mokujin enters the King of Iron Fist tournament, though it is thought that it is through the motivation of aiding martial artists.
While Mokujin is arguably the most unique and unusual character in Tekken 3 (which is quite the task, considering who else is on the roster), the character possesses absolutely no moves of their own, instead opting for the moves of a random fighter from the tournament after every round. This makes Mokujin almost impossible to master, or even come up with an effective gameplan against.
19 years prior to the events of Tekken 3, Anna discovers that her sister Nina is planning to become a test subject for Dr. Bosconovitch’s cryo-sleep experiment. Anna requests to be put to sleep at the same time as her sister, as she would miss her (despite the constant quarrels they get into). Her main reason for volunteering is a vain one, however, as she fears she would age more than Nina if she was put into cryo-sleep alone.
As Ogre’s presence makes itself felt across the world, both Williams sisters awaken. Anna doesn’t suffer from any side effects from the experiment, but Nina appears to have lost all memories of her sister, rendering her as a stranger. Somewhat saddened by this (and bitter that the sibling rivalry can’t continue), Anna decides to help Nina and try to steer her away from her career as an assassin.
As is the case with the previous Tekken titles, Anna’s command list isn’t that much different to her sibling’s moveset. The main difference here is that Anna can make good use of crouch-based attacks, and makes for a fantastic defense-based style, with a number of great launchers thrown in for good measure
The pointy-haired antagonist of the King of Iron Fist series returns once again in Tekken 3.
After disposing of his son Kazuya by dropping his defeated body into an active volcano, Heihachi has regained control of the Mishima Financial Estate, forming his own personal army known as the “Tekken Force”.
Over 15 years later, during a secret excavation of sacred ruins, the Tekken Force discovers (and awakens) a mysterious being known as “Ancient Ogre”, who proceeds to wipe out the soldiers. Heihachi realises that if he captured the God of Fighting, he could use him to rule the world.
After learning that he has a grandson, Heihachi hatches (ha!) a plan to lure Ogre out by training Jin to fight, then disposing of him once his plan succeeds.
If you are a player that likes to put pressure on your opponent with some massively damaging offense, then Heihachi is definitely for you. Most of his moves can be pulled off with very little risk of being fully blocked, so foes can be reduced to a pile of mush incredibly quickly
Sworn protector (and beloved pet) of Ling Xiaoyu, Panda accompanies her master to the third King of Iron Fist tournament in an effort to ensure her safety.
For extra measure, Heihachi trains Panda in the art of bear fighting, just like his bodyguard/pet Kuma. Kuma is in love with Panda, but she does not share that same sentiment, and actively avoids his advances.
Panda is literally just a costume swap for Kuma, so don’t expect to see any new moves from her.
Tiger doesn’t actually have any official storyline in Tekken 3, and this is the case until a later game (Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – stay tuned!).
He is a costume swap for Eddy Gordo, so he serves little purpose other than a reward for completionists and people that want to humiliate their opponents with a character that looks like he has been directly lifted from the 1970s.
According to the official lore of Tekken, Ogre is an ancient god who, when awakened, attacks various well-known martial artists across the globe and absorbs their powers in an effort to become the most powerful being in the universe.
This new character (and the game’s penultimate opponent in Arcade mode) is where almost every single character storyline crosses over, and proves to be a tough foe overall.
True to his backstory as a power-consuming god, Ogre’s moveset is comprised of moves from several characters who aren’t present in a playable state in Tekken 3. Taking cues from past favourites such as Armor King, Bruce Irvin, Wang Jinrei and Jun Kazama, Ogre is a treat for players who’ve played the previous titles in the series. He also boasts a couple of unique moves too, one of which sees him protect himself from a massive range of attacks
Upon his defeat, Ogre doesn’t simply disappear, but instead transforms into a bigger, more animalistic form known as “True Ogre”.
Amusingly, Paul Phoenix defeats the first form of Ogre and is under the impression that he’s won the tournament, with absolutely no knowledge or awareness of this terrifying second wind. Not only does Ogre’s physical form change, but it plunges the whole level into an eerie darkness (in a similar fashion to the later levels in Tekken 2).
Tekken 3‘s final boss retains all of the moves from his first form, but has an additional power at his disposal; fire breath. He’s a memorable character in terms of his look, and appears again later in the series.
After making an appearance in the story of Tekken 2, Doctor Bosconovitch is a secret, unlockable character in Tekken 3.
A highly intelligent scientist who is responsible for the creation of the Jack robots, Bosconovitch has been conducting experiments on cryo-sleep and human resurrections since losing his only daughter Alisa.
He is struck by a debilitating condition very suddenly, and in order to cure himself and revive his daughter, he needs a sample of blood from the God of Fighting himself, Ancient Ogre. He works alongside Yoshimitsu in an effort to obtain this, and is the only person in the whole game who knows the truth about Ogre
Doctor Bosconovitch has what is arguably the most unusual fighting style in the game, as his scoliosis causes him to drop to the ground after performing any move. This makes him a tricky fighter to not only play as, but to face too, as many punch and throw attacks will automatically miss him.
Unlocking him as a playable fighter is also pretty difficult too, as players must complete Tekken Force mode four times with the collected keys from each playthrough
The first example in an ongoing tradition of licensed guest characters in the Tekken series is the other secret, unlockable character in Tekken 3; Gon.
Originally from a manga series, Gon is a small, silent dinosaur whose appearance in the game is purely ornamental, as he is given absolutely no reason to be partaking in the King of Iron Fist tournament whatsoever, although it is speculated that he is a part of the same genetic experiments that birthed Roger and Alex from Tekken 2 and is entered into the tournament to test his skills.
Much like Doctor Bosconovitch, Gon can avoid the majority of high attacks from opponents, and has some jab attacks that can quickly drain an opponent’s health gauge. His small size does nerf the effectiveness of some of his special moves though, especially his Frankensteiner attack.
Gon can be unlocked in a couple of ways; beating him in Tekken Ball mode or gaining a high score in Survival mode and inputting “GON” as a high score name.
As is the case in the first two Tekken titles, Tekken 3 has a plethora of stages for fighters to commence battle on.
Ranging from various temples and ruins, beachside resorts and theme parks to the entrance of a theme park, a peaceful forest and an oil rig-based wrestling ring, Tekken 3 offers up even more variety to what was already quite an impressive selection of settings.
Also, the inclusion of Soul Edge as a graffiti tag in one of the city stages is a nice little easter egg to a game that we’ll be covering in the not-too-distant future.
The first of Tekken 3‘s bonus game modes comes in the form of Tekken Ball mode; a one-on-one beach ball match where players punch and kick the ball at their opponent with the goal of knocking them out. There’s three different balls to choose from, each with their own level of damage (60%, 80% and 100%, respectively). It’s a bizarre addition to the franchise, but a fun addition all the same.
The other extra mode in Tekken 3 is Tekken Force mode; a side-scrolling beat-’em-up that digs further into the lore of the game’s story. It’s an entertaining, relatively short playthrough, but is essential for players that want to unlock all the characters in the game.
Upon completing arcade mode with each character, a unique ending is unlocked.
These range from the daft (such as Xiaoyu’s animated theme park adventures, Gon’s nature adventure and Kuma’s heartbreaking rejection), the sad (Gun Jack getting destroyed again, King discovering a worn down Armor King backstage and Paul falling on the wrong side of the law) to the more canonical endings (Jin’s revelation that he shares more in common with his father than he ever knew), Tekken 3 continues the quality of endings that we have come to expect in the franchise.
These endings, when unlocked, can also be replayed in the game’s Theater mode.
Tekken 3 is widely considered to be one of the best video games of all time, and is almost certainly one of the best in the entire “King of Iron Fist” franchise.
Utilising (and greatly improving on) the building blocks put into place by the previous instalments, the game has aged incredibly well since its initial release in 1997, with impressive combos, improved movement and a large, varied cast to choose from.
For many, this is where the Tekken series peaked, and it’s pretty tough to disagree with that notion. The following sequels aren’t bad games, but none have really set the bar for 3D fighting games like Tekken 3 did in the late 90s.
Have you played Tekken 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!