The Evolution of Tekken Characters: Polygons, Protagonists & Popularity
A look through the years at just how Tekken has changed and progressed.
While more and more fighting video games continue to captivate audiences around the world, it’s still safe to say none has done so quite like Tekken. As the game has been traditionally released on both the arcade and home gaming landscape, Tekken has become a favorite among gamers throughout the years. Here we take a look through the years at just how Tekken’s heroes, heroines, and villains have changed and progressed over time.
Tekken (1994) and Tekken 2 (1996)
In December 1994, Tekken put forth its first gaming experience via the arcade platform with eight playable characters: Jack, Kazuya Mishima, King I, Marshall Law, Michelle Chang, Nina Williams, Paul Phoenix and Yoshimitsu. Later in 1995, Sony PlayStation adapted the game for the PS1 and included sub-bosses Anna Williams, Armor King I, Devil Kazuya, Ganryu, Heihachi Mishima, Kuma I, Kunimitsu, Lee Chaolan, Prototype Jack, Wang Jinrei, and super boss Heihachi Mishima, as playable avatars. From skilled martial artists to lethal warriors, it was this version of Tekken that caught the attention of gamers. The console game had 17 fighters to choose from at a certain point and its animation ran at then a fantastic 50 frames per second. These initial iterations of Tekken proved to be deeply meaningful to the eventual growth of the franchise. It served as the introduction to the more-than-contentious and hyper-volatile relationship between Heihachi and his son, Kazuya.
A couple of years later, Tekken 2 upped the ante. Now-defunct video game review site All Game Guide via Metacritic applauded the game’s developers: “Characters are more varied and numerous, the moves possible with each of these characters is multiplied many fold, and the environments which they interact are certainly more detailed.” Together with what the technology would allow then, the game was effectively able to better the game and allowed the characters to grow both in story and capability as far as virtual gameplay goes.
As far as the process the game developers are taking to create the characters, Tekken 2 seems to reveal an enduring trademark the franchise would be known for. Marshall Law, from fighting style to character design, is a clear derivative from martial arts and film icon Bruce Lee. On the other hand, Lei Wulong (first introduced in Tekken 2), who utilizes five animal kung-fu fighting styles, borrows heavily from the history of Hong Kong film.
Tekken 3 (1997)
GameSpot highlights what really brings the characters to life in Tekken’s third rendition: “While the polygon count may have been slightly reduced and the backgrounds made 2D, it still looks absolutely incredible. It is definitely the high-water mark for graphics on the PlayStation.” Effectively, in many ways, Tekken 3 not only brought its level of animation up a notch, but this development also allowed them to expand the roster of playable characters. While this version features eight main characters from its predecessors, 15 new characters were introduced that propelled the story into much more interesting territory.
It’s no surprise that at the time of its release many critics regarded it as a true masterpiece. This is further backed up by its soaring sales at the time – Tekken 3 became the second-best selling game of all time with 8.3 million copies sold on Sony PlayStation.
Tekken 6 (2007)
As Tekken games had always been released on PlayStation consoles, this marked the first edition to be released on the Xbox platform. The game’s characters were given yet another cosmetic lift thanks to visuals that operated on 60Hz, which ultimately made them move with more fluidity and grace. With a game update known as Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion, the sixth edition of the franchise retains the elements that made it a hit over the years with additions like the increase of strength of avatar when they are weakened during battle. Aside from the many familiar faces, this version features Alisa Bosconovitch and Lars Alexandersson which both bring a certain flavor to the game. Bosconovitch has been regarded by a handful of video game review outfits as one of the most fun characters to play while Alexandersson was a new threat to Jin’s evil reign and is another character that made the game interesting.
Additionally, with online competition establishing itself as an important facet to fighting gamers, Tekken 6 allows the player to take customized characters to battle other gamers. There are nine characters introduced in this installment along with arguably the largest number of recurring cast members. These online developments also reflected just how more and more the gaming industry—and the culture in general—began to embrace the importance of the online facet to gaming, which would then later be utilized in many more social and technological aspects.
Tekken 7 (2015)
In a previous post on TekkenGamer, it was stressed that the franchise’s most recent rendition has been more than successful amassing over 2.5 million copies sold last year. The post also reported that Tekken 7 director Katsuhiro Harada wishes to carry this momentum into 2018: “Tekken 7 has seen the most post launch support from the series and hopes to be able to continue updating it and giving the title support for the next year.”
The game features a 40-strong roster with crossover characters like Akuma from Street Fighter. The game also represents more nationalities and fighting disciplines. An example of this tribute of sorts is Josie Rizal, a young Filipino who is well versed in Arnis and Kickboxing that are fighting styles that are popular in the Philippines.
It’s goes without saying that Tekken is a strong, solid, and timeless video game franchise. Its game developers have dared to expand its reach through creating characters that reflected different audiences from diverse cultural backgrounds. That’s why it’s easy to see how the game’s popularity has crept into different areas of entertainment media. The Tekken franchise boasts a wide portfolio outside the video game platform that includes film, comic book series, and even a collectible card game.
A huge part of the appeal is how the series has been inspired by popular culture. Alongside the marital art inspirations there has also been a strong influx of superhero inspired heroes. Tekken shows ostensible parallelisms of its characters’ life stories to these comic book icons. While not obvious, there is a similarity between Kazuya Mishima and The Incredible Hulk. Both are befallen an incident that would forever change their lives, and both would learn how to control a rather untamable force within.
As the superhero genre is currently the most popular in the film industry, Tekken has followed the examples that other gaming industries have set. Digital platform Slingo offers an array of slots games that have similarly been influence by the genre in the same way as Tekken has over the years. Slingo was inspired by famous superhero folklore evident in games like Thunderstruck (a clear reference to Marvel’s Thor) and The Dark Joker Rizes (a play on the title DC’s The Dark Knight Rises). As Tekken has become a pop culture franchise in its own right, we are bound to see sectors of the gaming and film industry coming full circle and borrowing from the game. The characters, which first came into the public conscious in 1994, have truly evolved to become giants of the gaming industry.