In this in-depth discussion with Naoya Yasuda, Tekken Marketing Producer, and Michael Murray, Tekken Project Producer, we delve into the heart of Tekken 8, exploring its groundbreaking features, characters, and the series' enduring appeal.
In this in-depth discussion with Naoya Yasuda, Tekken Marketing Producer, and Michael Murray, Tekken Project Producer, we delve into the heart of Tekken 8, exploring its groundbreaking features, characters, and the series' enduring appeal. Discover the game's cutting-edge graphics and the revolutionary Heat system that redefine the fighting experience. Dive into the nostalgic charm of the Arcade Quest mode, a retro-inspired adventure within the Tekken 8 universe. Explore how Tekken 8 strikes the perfect balance between honoring its legacy and embracing innovative gameplay.
So let's start from the most important thing: What new features will you bring in Tekken 8?
First off, I think the one everyone will notice is the graphics. The level of detail this time is just unprecedented in the series. And we achieved that by making all the character models from scratch. So we threw out all the models from Tekken 7 and created totally from scratch. That's why when you see the level of detail, for example Kazuya on the main menu if you play the game, and just the level of detail and the animations and the facial, it just adds a whole new level of impact to the game. Not only the battles, but the story mode and all those elements, right?
And then the biggest new feature, I would say, is first the battle system - the Heat system. So you probably know that up until now Tekken's had Rage Arts, Rage Drive, those kind of things. Rage Drive has been taken out and the big new mechanic is Heat. And what this is, it applies to everyone in the game, right? It's kind of like Rage in that matter. But what's unique is that you can trigger at any time in the match, once a round. And so you can go directly into Heat by pushing the button and doing it directly, or you can use certain moves for your character to hit your opponent successfully. It would trigger the Heat and then you see the gauge. It's kind of linked into the core mechanic this time of aggressiveness, aggressive gameplay, that we wanted to do for Tekken 8.
And so it makes it even easier for you to go on the offense where you're in the Heat state, because it does several things. You can do bar damage to your opponent, that kind of white life gauge that your opponent can recover if they're successfully blocking and evading. But if you do the white gauge and then successfully hit them, you take off that whole chunk. So it's very advantageous to the person attacking.
Also you have access to the Heat Smash, which is a very cinematic, powerful move that does a lot of damage. What's really cool from my perspective is it affects also the characters and the Heat. It affects them quite differently, individually. For example, Kazuya Mishima, you probably know his Wind God Fist, right? And then if you're very precise with the input, you have the Electric Wind God Fist, which is a powered up version of it, more difficult to perform. During the Heat state, all of his Wind God Fists turn into EWGF. And he has access to new moves, like his Low Spin Kick normally hits twice, but now it goes into the Heaven's Gate at the end.
So each of these characters is affected differently. For example, King's Heat gauge normally depletes. However, if you perform certain throws on your opponent, he actually recovers the Heat gauge. It affects characters in many different ways and adds a new level to each character's strategy.
Obviously, we have the standard features people expect from Tekken, such as the Story mode, which delves into the Mishima saga and explores the new chapter in that storyline. It features stunning CG graphics and battles that seamlessly transition into the narrative. Tekken 8's Story mode will be even more improved compared to Tekken 7, offering more content and a longer gameplay experience. Additionally, there's the new Arcade Quest mode that we discussed at Gamescom, which is a completely new feature for Tekken.
And that's kind of a story mode in itself, where the story mode I mentioned earlier focuses on the characters and what happens this time. The Arcade Quest focuses on the player and their story. So you start your journey. I don't know if you're old enough to experience real arcades. But you know it's something that is not that common nowadays. For an older generation, you got to go there and meet people who have similar interests. And they'll teach you various things about the game. Like for me, I used to play Street Fighter Third Strike, and there was a certain tin costume that was a hidden one. And I was like, how do you do that? And then they tell you, right? That's how you gain the information in the arcade.
But newer players, they don't have that arcade experience. They're kind of like, hey, this is what the atmosphere is like. This is why it's cool. And they can dive into it and feel what that's like. But as you're doing so, it teaches you about the fundamentals of Tekken. Right up from how to attack, how to block, how to throw, to the new mechanics. It teaches you like I was telling you about the Heat system. It teaches you how to do that. And then at the same time, you're following the player's story. You're encountering rivals. You're encountering players that help you. And then at the same time, you get a glimpse of Tekken World Tour and eSports. It kind of shows up in that. You even see a brief screen of me and Harada commentating!
So it's a really cool new addition to the game. I think these are some of the things that really stand out. And these are only the ones that we've mentioned so far. We still have a few unannounced things to cover. And also characters we haven't revealed yet. We've revealed that there's 32, which is almost twice of what a lot of our competitors have. But I think we still have eight more that we haven't announced yet. So there's a lot to look forward to, even in the end step.
Since you mentioned the modes, are we going to see a return of some of the old fan favorites, like Tekken Ball or something like that?
It's possible. I mean, with each installment of Tekken, we try to do something new. Whether that's a Tekken Force mode, a scenario campaign in Tekken 6. We always do different things. This time, the Arcade Quest is one of the major new modes with the volume that we're pushing this time. But there is other stuff that we might be showing off later that would be similar to something you would expect like that.
After so many games in Tekken series, is it challenging to come up with new fresh ideas?
So, it's obviously very different. I mean, it's kind of a challenge that's unique to fighting games. Because like a first person shooter, you're aiming and you're shooting and that doesn't change, right? Fighting games have certain mechanics that you have to keep. And then on top of that, there's certain things that make Tekken Tekken, right? Like the aerial juggles that are unique to the system. The amount of the damage, Rage, and things like that that people kind of come to expect.
But if you don't change it enough, then people say it hasn't evolved or it doesn't feel like a proper sequel. So we always have to come up with something new. For Tekken 6, it was Rage. For Tekken 7, it was the Rage Arts and Rage Drives. This time, it's obviously the Heat system and all the cool stuff you can do there. It is a unique challenge because taking the systems and elements that people like, and then adding more to it, can make the game feel bloated if you're not careful. So not only do we add new features, but we also remove some aspects to make the game more streamlined and cohesive. It's difficult, but the Tekken team is always able to come up with interesting mechanics to keep the game feeling fresh. I think it's something they're quite good at.
How do you approach the balance between introducing new elements and preserving the classic ones that players have known for decades?
It's quite tough. Obviously it kind of ties into what I was just talking about. Knowing deeply what makes your game Tekken and what people like about it. Which is kind of difficult because you're probably aware that on the internet and social media, people only talk about what they don't like. They don't really say, I love this. So Harada is often talking about Tekken 4. They tried to make a checklist of what people don't like and they got rid of it. But then people said, hey, where's all this stuff that we liked and you got rid of it? So we've been more careful about what we subtract from what we add. But luckily Harada and I have a very good relationship with the community so we're able to get feedback from them. We have a very competent battle tuning team who are comprised of former pro players who have a good understanding of the mechanics and what people expect. So we kind of rely on those resources.
And then the game evolves even, like for Tekken 8. We knew that the Heat system was the major mechanic we wanted to add. And then we had the CNT where we let people play it at EVO and Combo Breaker. We actually made quite a few changes to the Heat system after that. And then this time around we had a CNT where we opened up to a larger group of people and we were able to get feedback there. So we've even made some changes since then. So it's kind of a combination of having a deep understanding of your community, your game and what makes IP unique. And then also being flexible enough to be able to take the feedback from people and to effectively analyze it and try to get at what they're actually saying. Because people often don't tell you. They'll tell you I hate it or I like it, but you have to find out what's the underlying causes of those things. So it's a very complex formula, those aspects.
Tekken series has always heavily emphasized its storyline. What can we expect in the new installment? Could you be a bit more specific regarding the story of Tekken 8?
Obviously it's a big part. Not everyone's a pro player or very into the game mechanics. Some people just like the characters and want to find out what happens to them this time. So we realized that. And you've probably seen the trailer so far. We know that obviously this time, the previous Tekken 7 was the clash between Heihachi and his son Kazuya. We saw some sort of conclusion to that. This time we saw it opening up with Jin Kazama fighting against his father Kazuya, who's wreaking havoc across the world. And then we also noticed Jun makes an appearance after so many years of being missing. You know, her an Jin were attacked by Ogre when they were at Yakushima.
It's kind of cool that if you don't know about that yet, there's a really cool Tekken Netflix series that I was actually involved with as well. It kind of delves into that. So you can catch the backstory of Jun and Jin and then you can kind of appreciate her being gone for so long and then coming back to the story. But what we haven't really talked about and what we can't talk about today but will be portrayed through the story is why is Jun returning and how does that affect Jin, her son and also Kazuya, her husband. And what kind of role she plays in that along with other characters. So that's all we can really say so far. So to do your homework, please check out the Netflix series.
So the fight between Heihachi and Kazuya is over I guess. We'll have fight Jin vs Kazuya. So are you already thinking about Jin having a kid?
Oh, that's a good question (laugh). That's a very interesting question. Not currently. You can see he's always had a lot of conflict. He's got the Devil gene within himself and Heihachi doesn't have the Devil gene. He's trying to destroy it. Kazuya's like, cool, I have the Devil gene. I'm going to use this to just do whatever I want. Where Jin has always been more conflicted about possessing that. We do see some lighthearted stuff between him and Xiaoyu and Lars and some of the characters that he is close with. But for the most part, I don't think he's in a place currently to be thinking about that sort of family planning, right? That's an interesting take. Who knows? Heihachi did have Kazuya and then we saw his illegitimate son Lars. You never know.
Introduce Azucena to us. What is her fighting style? What is her background? What new aspects will she bring to the Tekken series?
Azucena was the first new character we've shown off for Tekken 8. We revealed her at EVO. I think a lot of people were caught by surprise. So there are various ways we come up with new characters. Whether it's a fighting style or whether it's a certain way of movement. Maybe it's based on a certain community that we meet. For example, Shaheen, you know, Harada and I have been to the Middle East several times. Everyone was like, we love your game. We'd like to see a character that represents us. And we were able to get enough information to faithfully create something that speaks to them with Shaheen.
And then there's also a very vibrant community in Peru and they have a huge tournament down there. And so they've always been asking for someone for them. And we kind of paired that with the idea of the movement for Azucena. So her fighting style is actually the first character we've labeled as just strictly MMA. So she's going to be an MMA striker based fighting style. But as you saw in the trailer, she needs some kind of twist that makes her unique, right? So the base of properties is her certain stance that she goes into. That's her kind of key concept for the character as a fighting style. And then paired with the lore that we'll see later in Tekken 8 - being from Peru, her job is coffee, she has a coffee farm that you saw in the trailer and that was her thing. So that's kind of some of the new mechanics and that new lore that was added to Tekken as her addition. So we can't talk much about her recently, but we showed her off in the trailer. And when you get your hands on the play style, I think there are a lot of new surprises that don't exist with other characters in the roster.
A question specifically for Michael Murray: If I'm not mistaken, you yourself are a skilled martial artist. So in that regard, is there anything that you feel is missing for you in the game?
Fahkumram (laughs). As I think a lot of fans know, I've done Karate, I've done Wing Chun, Kung Fu and Jujutsu. But my longest has been Muay Thai and I really love it. Not only the art because it's said to be the strongest striking art in the world, but the culture, the people and the respect that people have for each other in the matches, etc. And people always thought Bruce was Muay Thai, but he's actually not. His setting is kickboxing. So there are some things that look very Muay Thai-ish about him, but Fahkumram was designed from the bottom up to be a Muay Thai fighter.
We actually used Suakim, who was a famous fighter from PK Saenchai gym. We used a champion, Nadaka Yoshinari, who actually has three belts from Lumpinee and Rajadamnern, for the motion capture of that character. So he's very special to me and he's missing from the roster so far. I'm hoping that he'll show up, I don't know.
Tekken has been around for almost 30 years. In your opinion, what has allowed the series to maintain this immense level of popularity even after so many years?
I think I've worked so closely with Harada over the years. I've been on the development team for so long too. I kind of understand what he's talking about. And he was mentioning that no one on the team thought it would last. I don't know if you know the backstory how it actually originally first started, the first Tekken. Polygon technology at Namco was the big thing at the time. And we had Ridge Racer, which had cars and such. But we wanted to develop a polygon technology for human models because they move quite differently. And that was the start of Tekken. And they thought it was going to be finished. And then Harada joins the team and we're doing sequels. Tekken was a 3D fighting game and Virtua Fighter was kind of king at the time. So the team was so focused on catching up to Virtua and passing them. And so they thought when that was accomplished it would be finished.
But Tekken has just been so consistently updating the franchise. And over the years we've been able to differentiate ourselves from other fighters. Not just 2D, but even Virtua Fighter. And the characters, the story, the CG movies and things like that. The minigames, all the things that have become a staple and unique to Tekken, I think kind of led to the franchise's popularity. So that we were all kind of making it up as we were going along. And it just turned out that Tekken had become more popular with each installment. Even for Tekken 7, it still sold 10 millions copies, which was a huge turning point for us.
Because Tekken 3 was always the height of the series. I think even Europeans, for example, know that quite well. So when we eclipsed Tekken 3, it was a big turning point. It just seems that every year the numbers get bigger. But even esports, every year there are more competitors, there are more people watching. And then being able to do stuff like the Netflix series and stuff outside of the game. I think just, no one expected it to continue. I think we've just built the franchise into such a unique IP that people always want to see more from it. Which I'm glad.