I’ve dabbled about 10 hours into Tekken 7, the latest game of the franchise. As a longtime fan, the first thing I noticed in Arcade Mode was the absence of fan favorite characters.
(Please note, this article contains spoilers after finishing Story Mode)
Notably, Lei Wulong, Anna Williams, and Julia Chang were missing from the lineup. I made a quick Google search to see if they were unlocked through Story Mode, and to my surprise tons of popular characters since Tekken’s humble beginnings were excluded. There’s still a bit of uncertainty whether or not these characters would be included in future patches and DLC. On top of that, the end of The Mishima Saga mode reveals Heihachi is dead. With Tekken 7 as the last playable game for Heihachi and the fate of our missing characters up in the air, is Namco Bandai telling its audience our tried and true favorites have ran their course? By Tekken 8, are we going to see even more new characters introduced and old characters cycled out? Change is great, but let’s make sure Tekken is being careful.
To start off, Tekken has always cycled out characters. You want to evolve the game, and with each addition to the series we’re introduced to new players of the Iron Fist Tournament. What strikes me with Tekken 7 is:
- Namco Bandai has killed off one of its main storyline characters
- Significant fan favorites were not included in the initial package
With the death of Heihachi, we’re slowly but surely seeing the end to the Mishima family line. Producer Katsuhiro Harada announced previously to the game’s release that Heihachi or Kazuya would die. At the Story Mode’s end Kazuya throws Heihachi into lava, juxtaposing the same scene from earlier Tekken. The game also implies that a Tekken 8 would probably address Jin Kazama versus his father, alluding to the death of one of them. I don’t know how long Tekken will be a franchise, but we’re gearing towards one person in the Mishima family being the last man standing.
Although Tekken 7 has still included its fan favorites in the mix, a lot older characters are being switched out. Lei Wulong, Julia Chang, Armor King, Ganryu, and Anna Williams to name a few are alive characters no longer in the game that have begun since Tekken 2 or Tekken 3. The franchise needs to keep key favorites (Nina Williams, Marshall Law, Jin Kazama most likely), but the removal of Lei Wulong, Anna Williams, and Julia Chang really surprised me the most with the amount of popularity they’ve gained throughout the years. There’s no source of a Chang family member in the mix and I don’t know if we’ll ever see one again. These characters are more popular than others introduced after Tekken 5. For example, it baffles me they decided to make a Raven-like student character, who is not one of the more popular-used characters of the lineup. Harada has said these characters may appear as DLC in the future.
For now, it’s time to pour one out for some of the most significant characters of the game who started the franchise. I am all for my favorite game changing things up, but some things with Tekken 7 didn’t sit well for me in regards of character choice. There’s a proper way to change out characters.
Switching out new characters is fine, but let’s make sure we’re not losing out in the diversity of fighting styles to choose from. With the introduction of Katarina Alves and Josie Rizal, respectively each fight with Savate and Eskrima-inspired kickboxing. Losing Lei Wulong is a big hit to the backlog, as he had a unique mix of Wu Xing and Drunken Boxing. Instead, we have a Lucky Chloe character who’s martial art with no distinct personality and a Gigas who’s basically a Jack. Some of these new characters feel like filler versus being a new individual I’m interested in playing with. I also find Claudio Serafino and Shaheen’s fighting styles not so unique as it’s either moves with some magical graphical aura added to it or something demonstrated by other characters existing. I’m not as excited for the newbies as I was before.
One of the proper send-offs the game has is the protégé taking over the master, or relatives filling in the gaps. With Baek Doo San’s death in Tekken 6, we see the master protecting Hwoarang in one final attack and dying at the end of it. But we don’t lose the Taekwondo because Hwoarang will have it. If you were a fan of Jun Kazama, her niece Asuka has been an available character since Tekken 5. Although Anna Williams is missing, you still have Nina. And of course, Marshall Law and Forest Law switch out based on convenience (but you’re more likely to see Marshall). We don’t compromise fighting styles people have grown to love by switching out with filler characters.
How do I see Tekken in the future? By the next game we’re going to see more staple characters disappearing before our eyes, and I hope that we have something to compensate for. Also, know the audience and follow trends. Who is potentially next on the chopping block? Ling Xiaoyu, Bryan Fury, and Eddy Gordo, simply because they came from Tekken 3, and my prediction is Kazuya will die by Tekken 8. If Namco Bandai so decides to remove these characters, I can at least look forward to a Tekken Tag Tournament 3 to replay my old favorites! I just hope the franchise plays off popularity and cautiously creates engaging characters with integrity and style. It’s depressing when you see things you grow up with run its course, but just as exciting to see there’s so much potential to expand the game.