The first installment of the Tekken franchise was released back in 1994 – a staggering 22 years ago. Since its inception, the game has evolved into one of the most notable video game sagas of the modern era. With over two decades of releases, spin-offs, Guinness World Records, and a staggering 42 million copies sold to date, it’s no wonder the game is often cited as “the best selling fighting franchise of all time.”
So what is it about Tekken that has enabled it to stay relevant and successful after all these years?
Let’s turn back the clocks to 1995.
Tekken and Tekken 2
“This is the one that’s got the press salivating. The one that’s got gamers hyperventilating. This is TEKKEN. Eight deadly fighters engaged in the ultimate battle for supremacy. Winner goes home filthy rich. Loser goes home in a pine box.” (Tekken box art, 1995)
Tekken debuted on the PlayStation in 1995, and this is when the game really began to gain momentum. In fact, the original title was the first-ever PlayStation game to exceed one million units! An achievement of this nature was sure to send the game racing ahead of its competitors. Many fighting game fans from back in the day would state how Tekken was the best fighting game out there. Both the characters and innovative combat system had essential elements of realism, which is what helped set the game apart from the rest; think of the over-the-top Mortal Kombat fatalities, and Street Fighter projectiles.
The release of Tekken 2 in 1996 (1995 in arcades) was greeted with even more success, both critically and commercially. With polished graphics, fluid gameplay (for its time!), and new additions to the roster, including unlockable characters, the fans were definitely in for a treat. The game was a bestseller, receiving a ton of positive reviews, such as 9.2/10 from GameSpot, and a 93% rating at Game Rankings; the game was bigger, better, faster, and stronger!
Then came 1997 with the release of Tekken 3. This is when the franchise began to soar into a whole new level of success. The step up from Tekken 2 in terms of graphics and gameplay was huge, and the generous character roster, which both hardcore and casual fans could appreciate, is what helped this game cement itself as one of the best fighting games of all time. Tekken 3 sold 8.3 million copies during its initial release, making it the second best selling fighting game to this day.
Tekken’s popularity only grew stronger as we journeyed into the next generation of console gaming, with the PlayStation 2.
Tekken Tag Tournament and Tekken 4
In 1999 we saw the release of Tekken Tag Tournament, the first non-canon installment, and it was greeted by more positive reviews by both fans and critics. The generously sized roster, and the return of some much loved characters is one of the reasons the reception was so positive.
The release of Tekken 4 in 2002 (PS2) was once again greeted by positive score from critics, and the game achieved the Game Critics Awards “Best Fighting Game of E3 2002” award, and the “Console Fighting Game of the Year” award from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Although the game was popular upon its initial release, fans often cite this as one of the lesser games of the franchise. This can be put down to the vast mechanical differences such as the position change and the uneven stages.
Three years later we saw the release of Tekken 5. Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection was released a year later for PSP, and introduced three new characters to the franchise – Lili, Armor King 2, and Dragunov.
Due to the fan reception surrounding Tekken 4, some major changes were made for Tekken 5. The combo system was been revamped, you couldn’t move before the round started, and combat that was met with complaints was either removed or toned down. Once again, the game was met with a positive critical response, and fans were left feeling fulfilled with an excellent fighting engine, longevity, and a large, diverse roster.
The gap between the console releases of Tekken 5 and Tekken 6 was considerably large in the gaming world. In fact, we’d even journeyed into the next generation of console gaming with the PlayStation 3. But come 2009, we finally had Tekken 6!
One of the huge differences about Tekken 6 was the addition of Scenario Campaign, a game mode similar to that of Tekken Force and Devil Within from previous installments. You could move freely, collect items and loot, use guns, as well as play with 2 characters (an online co-op mode was introduced in January 2010).
Scenario Campaign was met with mixed reviews from both fans and critics. While some enjoyed the new additions, others stated that the environments were bland, and the enemies were boring and repetitive. Some fans even stated that the mode overshadowed the 1v1 arcade mode, which is what Tekken is known for.
However, the characters and stages looked better than ever before, and fans enjoyed the new depth of the game. Overall, the critical response to Tekken 6 was mainly positive, with the game receiving scores such as 8/5/10 (Gamespot), and 94% (Play UK).
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
The next, and up until a couple of days ago the most recent, main installment of the franchise hit the PS3 in 2012 – Tekken Tag Tournament 2. This game was home to the largest character roster we’d ever seen in the franchise, with a whopping 59 playable characters! Incredible graphics, countless customization options, eccentric, detailed levels, and revolutionary gameplay mechanics are what made this game a solid member of the fighting franchise.
Met with excellent reviews from critics, and hype from across the Tekken community, TTT2 was well received. However, it fell short of sales expectations, selling 1.5 million copies by 2013. Some fans stated that while the game was a solid Tekken game, it didn’t do enough to completely overhaul the saga.
What do you think?
Fast-forward to 2016. We’re now eagerly anticipating the console release of Tekken 7. There seems to be a large sense of excitement and hype generating across the gaming community in anticipation of the next installment, and I couldn’t be happier about it! It’s been a long time since Tekken has developed anticipation and eagerness like this – a feeling many of us fighting game fanatics have missed!
Over the years, Tekken’s roster has expanded to include a vast array of memorable characters from a range of different backgrounds; an element which has helped the franchise stay fresh and exciting. Their interesting backstories and unique designs is what makes these much loved characters so memorable amongst the gaming community. As well as this, Tekken has given us many years of exciting and innovative gameplay, which just keeps getting better and better.
While some can argue that the franchise has taken some dips in popularity over the years, Tekken will always find itself returning to the forefront of the fighting game community. Tekken has certainly cemented itself in gaming history as one of the greatest fighting game franchises of all time.
Has it earned that status? There’s no doubt about it!
Get Ready For The Next Battle!!