My Hands-On Experience with Tekken 7 at Wizard World Austin

By on September 26, 2016 at 5:00 pm
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Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not reflect Shoryuken.com as a whole.

Wizard World has been producing successful fan conventions for nearly a decade. I have to assume, then, that they are very good at it–but truthfully, I wouldn’t know. For me these things are usually too loud, too crowded, and too easy to get sick at. (Also, no one enjoys driving in downtown Austin, TX. No one. NO ONE.) Their recent partnership with Namco, however, has certainly drawn myself and others out of the woodwork. Who wants to try Tekken 7 early?

It turns out a lot of people did, from all across the country. No one was surprised to see RIP, or Sajam, or TastySteve–popular individuals who have been mainstays in the FGC for quite a while. But there were four pools worth of players there! MysticBill came from Louisiana. Another player I talked to was from New York. Needless to say, every major city of Texas had someone show up. It was a surprisingly full tournament for a game that’s not out, for a subgenre that’s not the most represented, or understood, in the US.

The Tekken Area was set up to the side of the main tournament stage, and was already full of people the moment I arrived. When I finally got to play the game that Friday afternoon, it was clear to see why: it looks great, and it’s fun.

Tekken 7 is a familiar experience for fans of the series and the genre as a whole. Though the days of “Bound” are over (the midpoint extension of combos in the previous two games), it’s replacement is not a big change. The new juggle system uses “Screw Attacks (SAs),” which is frankly just ‘Bound’ by another name. The system itself is as creative and loose as it was before, but the primary difference is that SA sends your opponent further away. In a weird sort of way, this makes combo enders that were previously very difficult (think: King’s instant Shining Wizard) now much more do-able for the mid-level Tekken Player.

Execution monsters may dislike this change, but it’s really a small detail in an otherwise very open, freeform system. The new damage/gravity scaling does tend to open up for a different type of execution now, as harder combos tend to involve mini-dashes in-between hits. Or, you may have to dash towards your SA’d opponent and hit them with a complex input move before the spinning animation from the SA ends. For example, the “high damage” and “correct” ender for the Kazumi combos seemed to be:

Combo Starter, Filler, SA!, dash, b,f+2,1,1+2

At least, according to the footage I had been watching prior to Wizard World.

Without time to play in training mode, though, the timing for forward dash into a back-forward input seemed a little tricky. Replacing it with Kazumi’s running 2 gave me decent damage and wall carry: a quick, on-the-fly option that would work for me now. And, likely, for the first time Kazumi player that just wants to jump online. As with any Tekken, you’ll start to use different optimal combos for damage, combos for wall carry, combos for wake up pressure… it’s really the same game we’ve been playing for a little while now, but polished and prettified with 2016 graphics.

Outside of this tweak to the combo system, it’s really a stone’s throw from anything Tekken has done in the past. The biggest selling points Namco will throw at you–slow-mo finishes! Supers! Rage Drives!–are largely cosmetic, or incredibly situation-specific. Slow-Mo finishes–when both players press a button when one person is in danger of dying–never failed to get gasps and laughter. The pop from the crowd was noticeable every time, in every match.

Supers–known as Rage Arts–are the odd inclusion in Tekken 7. These one-time activation attacks are likely the main attraction to the outside world, but I think in actual competitive play they will have limited use. Though all of them have startup and armor, they are all unsafe. You cannot use the Rage Art armor versus another Rage Art. You only get them when you are low on health, but since you take damage if you armor attacks, you can still die before the Rage Art comes out. Some are slow enough that you can “check” them with a jab and then block.

All in all, their primary purpose seems to be big whiff punishes, or (often times) needless gambles versus button presses. They can also be used to shut down mix-up up situations, i.e. Gigas’s Walk Mixup. Damage scaling makes comboing into them not always worth it. But! There’s an alternative to Rage Arts.

Rage Drives, which also consume your one-time super activation, don’t give the big damage of a Rage Art on their own, nor are they as flashy as their cinematic counterparts. They are, however, typically very good–many are safe, some are combo starters, some are even frame traps. A few can push you into the wall on block, forcing you to take chip damage. In the long run, it really feels like Rage Drives are the biggest defining “new” mechanic of Tekken 7. Seeing people commit to Rage Arts over Rage Drives will likely be a big indicator of how confident, or competent, that player is.

Movement feels close enough to TTT2 and T6 that I was able to run in without it feeling foreign. Stepping was perhaps a little weaker compared to TTT2, but I still had mostly no trouble getting around and stepping that-which-is-stepable. Backdash Canceling felt exactly the same. I don’t torture myself with sway characters so I can’t tell you if the “true” Korean Backdash is any easier or harder, but I pretty much always got the movement that I wanted, when I wanted it. If you didn’t learn BDC before, you’re still going to need to spend a little time with it.

The only other thing I can immediately think of that was “new” was the Power Crush system. Each character has at least one move that absorbs attacks during its armor frames, at the cost of health. It didn’t show up as often as I thought it would–likely because it’s new to everyone, and unlike Rage stuff the game never outlines what your Power Crush moves are. What I did pick up on was that, generally, if your Power Crush move hit high, it was safe on block. If it hit mid, it was unsafe, and in some cases wildly so. Katarina’s was launch punishable. Kazumi had two–a high, safe one, and a mid one that didn’t even turn into an attack unless you came into contact with the armor frames. I can see some of the high, safe ones being pretty annoying–Lucky Chloe’s really irritated me, unsurprisingly. The health drawback hurts it’s use a bit but it’s going to still be a big thing people will need to learn to deal with.

In short, if you like Tekken prior to this, I really see little reason for you to dislike Tekken 7. The new mechanics don’t drastically change most moments in the game, and currently work pretty well. Sadly, the version we ended up playing was Arcade Version C–pretty disappointing since D had just been announced a few days prior, with some pretty big changes. (For example, standardized backdash speeds and distances across the cast. Also, Rage triggers later in Version D–probably for the best.) Still, it’s a good sign that, as solid as the build we played was, they are still fine-tuning and perfecting the game itself.

Now let’s talk about the bad.

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TastySteve vs. JustFrameJames. Note the camera differences on each monitor.

Tekken 7, as it stands right now, is incorporating head-to-head setups that attempt to synchronize with each other. When you start to play, you are given the option of selecting the position you’d like to default to–Left or Right. Tekken 6 did something similar, as well, though it would still force both players to share one camera. In that game, sometimes you just didn’t get the side that you wanted. Now, each player maintains their own camera–so, for example, if both players choose to play on the left hand side, they will have different camera positions when they play to reflect that.

This asymmetrical camera preference is a not new invention for Namco, and it is not conceptually a bad thing. Pokkén did it. In hindsight, I have to wonder if some of the architecture was built upon Pokkén’s code. The problem comes with the “solution” to implementing this. Pokkén forced a bizarre 30 FPS lock on local games, putting tournament organizers through the nightmarish hell of getting 2 Wii U’s per setup just to play the game properly. Once in game, however, it works pretty much as expected.

Tekken’s cameras don’t.

On a much more frequent basis then ever should be acceptable, both cameras on both setups will simply freeze. You have likely already seen this. The camera stops, the characters stop, but “physics” continue, like the swaying of clothes or bursting particle effects. This phenomenon is caused by both cameras trying to sync. It’s almost always brief and probably preferable to lag, but one too many times I’ve seen this interrupt combos, prevent players from blocking reactable lows, etc. I am also convinced that this occurs more frequently on some stages then others. Dragon’s Nest seemed like the worst offender, stuttering right out of the gate the first time I played on it, then repeatedly sync-freezing for the next 5 seconds.

I probably shouldn’t speak on behalf of Namco, but I can’t imagine they will repeat the mistake of Pokkén’s LAN requirements. Thus, this shouldn’t be a problem for offline tournaments. If this camera syncing issue finds its way into the final build, though, I can already predict the frustration of online players. You already have to fight both your opponent and their connection speed, and that’s enough to send some gamers straight into the Salt Dimension. Having to fight problems caused by their camera preference too?

Well, only time will tell how that will work out.

There’s one other very small negative to note. While playing casuals, I broke Kasumi’s Tiger. Some strange stray hit from Lili traded with my 2+3 Tiger, resulting in the tiger’s model being stuck on screen in what was very likely the model’s default pose. These things happen in beta. My opponent and I laughed about it for a little bit, circled the tiger, and tried to interact with it with attacks. We couldn’t.

I summoned another Tiger and the stuck model went away. I’m sure this will get removed, or well, not. It didn’t stop me from throwing more tigers afterwards and the move is kind of garbage anyways, so it’s not that big of a deal. There’s plenty of time for Namco to polish that. And, honestly, I’d gladly keep the dumb-looking bug for the Tiger not being -30 on block. That’s wishful thinking, though. I can accept my tiger-less fate.

All in all, the hardest pill to swallow about Tekken 7 is the knowledge that I still have to wait for it. It’s beautiful, it’s familiar, it’s fun and exciting. Slow-Mo got a intense reaction out of every person I met over the weekend. People were sharing combos and strategies with a wide-eyed enthusiasm I had not seen for a 3D game in this city in… years, honestly. To be fair, many players were out-of-towners hungry for the prize, but I would like to think some of their excitement rubbed off on the Austin SFV Players this weekend. It was the only fighting game, from the time I came in to the time I left, that always had every casual station full. Namco has built tremendous momentum with Tekken 7. They just need to cross the finish line.

I still got sick, but I thought the trip was worth it.

Hey, I'm just a 3D-head in a 2D-world. I like pretty much all FGC stuff, and I really like hearing about the way people think about games.