Around this time last year at Evo, Tekken 7 was officially announced. As with past games, it got an arcade release first, but eventually will get a console version. The latest Tekken has been out at Asian arcades such as Japan, Korea and the Philippines, but has been recently playable at fighting game tournaments across the states. This last weekend however, some Round 1 and Dave & Busters locations started having the game for a limited time as a location test. After playing a hefty amount of Tekken 7, fans will be satisfied with the game going back to basics along with some new gameplay additions.
While Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was a solid entry for the franchise, some fans were turned off by the absurd amount of characters and the depth the game offered being a 2v2 game. Tekken 7 brings things back to 1v1 and a slimmer cast at it's current state. The storyline revolves around the conclusion of the Mishima arc with Kazuya and Heihachi, but now with Kazuya's mother Kazumi thrown into the mix (also the game's final boss). Veterans such as Marshall Law, Paul Phoenix, Yoshimtsu and King are back along with six newcomers. I already mentioned Kazumi but she also tiger attacks where she unleashes a tiger as foes, which is crazy for Tekken standards even though we seen crazier characters in past games. Claudio and Katarina from what I seen so far are the best of the new guys, especially Katarina being beginner friendly for newcomers to the series, which is the intent of the developers themselves. Shaheen and Gigas are also different yet solid additions along with Josie and Lucky Chloe, who was gathering controversy when she was first announced.
After dealing with the bound system from Tekken 6 and Tag 2, Tekken 7 ditches it during combos and replaces it with a corkscrew, or "tail spin" mechanic to extend them. It works similarly to how bound was, but players have to figure out new bread and butter combos with their characters. Moves that bound there, but work similarly to Tekken Revolution. Besides that, playing Tekken 7 personally based on core fundamentals from past games is just like riding a bike as it doesn't take long to incorporate the new stuff into your game. Most of the existing characters' movelists from past games remain unchanged if you played at least 6 or Tag 2 recently.
The rage mechanic from the past two games also underwent changes in Tekken 7. Instead of getting a damage boost when you're almost out of health, you get access to a rage art. Rage arts are basically cinematic super moves similar to ultras in the Street Fighter IV series. Characters that activate them can take one hit of armor, so it's useful to catch opponents that are trying to finish you off recklessly assuming you have enough health to take that hit as armor.
Speaking of armor, the power crush is another new move introduced to this latest game. These are your primary armored attacks that you can absorb damage and the move still comes out. However, they don't feel as useful yet in most situations, but if you have a good life lead and your opponent is low on health, it is a good option to use to win rounds. Low attacks, throws and rage arts do beat them which adds to how non-implementable they are into players' game. Some of these new mechanics in Tekken 7 were teased in Tekken Revolution, so if you want to get a slight taste of the new game assuming you're not nearby to any of the location tests going on now, play that.
At it's current state, Tekken 7 at arcades is actually an online fighter. You get matched up with another cabinet for versus play and if you don't want to play versus games, there's the five stage CPU battle mode that is basically your typical arcade mode against AI opponents. I mentioned that the versus play is online and it definitely plays like that right now. I noticed quick second freezes & frame drops, which can affect gameplay for serious Tekken players, but fortunately it doesn't happen frequently. It also sometimes take a while to find a match if servers are being slow once if you insert your credit to start up. With no access to Bananapass Cards as overseas has, we don't get to see the character customization we seen in past games even though it is pretty much cosmetic stuff.
For those that have been seeing the game in action on videos alone thinking it's just Tekken 6 or Tag 2 on better hardware, think again because Tekken 7 looks great seeing it in person. Sure, most of the existing cast looks pretty much identical to their past incarnations, but it's the little details that showcase how graphically improved they are. The audio is also the same case with recycled sound effects and voices for the existing cast.
Of course there is the #1 question, when is Tekken 7 coming out on consoles? It's already confirmed for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC, but there's still no launch window. Bandai Namco wanted to give the arcade version enough time in the limelight before focusing more on the home versions. I won't be surprised if a Bloodline Rebellion-esque expansion gets announced with more returning and new characters around Tokyo Game Show time with the arcade release for it being next year. The home versions will eventually get that sometime in Fall 2016 is my guess. It's also unknown how long these arcade location tests at Round 1 and Dave & Busters will last either, so you best chance to play it there is at least this week. Tekken 7 is also at Evo 2015 this weekend with Bandai Namco adding a $30,000 pot bonus for the winner of their tournament. It's gonna be a long and hard wait for fans eagerly awaiting the home versions, but if you have a nearby arcade that has Tekken 7, definitely check it out if you can.