It's a real good time to be a fan of fighting games. Street Fighter 5 is starting to get good, and has a story mode launching later this month. Arc System Works just released the latest Guilty Gear, and Bandai Namco now has Tekken 7 on the horizon. I got a chance to sit down with a build of Tekken 7 during E3 last week, and while I'm concerned as to where Akuma fits in in the Tekken universe, it was still cool to see a Street Fighter character make the jump across franchises.
With an all new cinematic story mode, the demo of Tekken 7 gave me the chance to see one of these story beats in action. Heihachi has a new rival on the horizon, Street Fighter's Akuma, who has made a promise to Heihachi's wife Kazumi, to destroy Heihachi. In what is being billed as the end of the Mishima storyline, it'll be interesting to see where they go with the story, since this has more or less been the only story line we've seen in the series to date. Fights within the story mode also contain some quick time events that can actually alter the start of the fight, in this case, a fireball from Akuma was heading straight for me, with an on screen prompt to press down to dodge, failing to do so wound up costing me some health in the early round.
What's really strange is playing as Akuma in a Tekken game. He feels familiar and yet very different at the same time. His moves are slow and telegraphed, and have a completely different priority to them, even his fireball seems like a less useful tool in a Tekken setting. So it's a bit odd to play as him right now, but there are other new characters in Tekken 7 as well, including Kazumi, Heihachi's wife, and Kazuya's mother. She could be best described as Heihachi light, and feels a bit more reaction oriented, with a lot of moves that contort her body around the strikes of opponents. Wall play is still a viable strategy in combat as well, although it seems to have been downplayed a little bit. But if you've played a Tekken game previously, then the controls and gameplay will feel as familiar as ever.
Tekken 7 is being powered by the Unreal 4 engine this time around, and it makes for some dynamic fights, with real-time shifts in the battle, like a volcano stage that erupts mid-fight. The character models look fantastic, as the screenshots will attest, making full use of the PS4 and Xbox One power, and as a first for the series, their will be a PC version as well. Even the 'get ready for the next battle' transition seems to have received a visual upgrade, which is somewhat unnecessary, but goes to show that Bandai Namco is pulling out all the stops for this game.
Unfortunately all this beauty does come with a wait time. The game is currently planned for an early 2017 release. At the very least there will be plenty of games to tide fighting game fans over in the meantime, but the wait for Tekken 7 will be all the more agonizing with it's recent removal from American arcades, making the console version the only option soon.