Note: I've been writing this in bits and pieces since mid-2019 and it just happened that Katsuhiro Harada announced the new season of Tekken 7 three days ago. Funny how things go, huh?
I've been playing Tekken on and off for over twenty years. I started with Tekken 3 in 1997, immediately found a cool black guy and was hooked. Growing up a military brat, my mom was serving the parent role whenever my dad was deployed. I was already falling in love with video games with my parents' old Sega Genesis, but Tekken 3 was the first time I actually had a game I was playing with my only family at the time. Even my auntie and grandma were fans at the time, and whenever they made the trip from Chicago, Tekken 3 was always on the list of must-dos, especially living in rural Texas.
By the time Tekken Tag Tournament was released in 1999, my immediate family was complete. My kid and baby brother were born and the gaming bug had bitten them too. Tekken Tag Tournament was one of those games we would find in local pizzerias/movie theatres/arcades (or in the case of Mr. Gatti's, a combination of the three), but it was always fun to have my brothers team up on me and to kick their collective asses by spamming Slippery Kicks from Negativa with Eddy Gordo.
Tekken 4 was a game that I actually missed during its initial run, but back when trading games was a thing, I got this game from a buddy of mine for the sole reason of using the cool Brazilian chick in order to unlock the aforementioned cool black guy. The gameplay of uneven terrain, ceilings and arenas was an absolute gamechanger, and it still holds a special place in my heart.
Tekken 5 was when things really changed for me and my brothers. We all loved this game, each of us rotating through our favorite characters: me with RAVEN and Christie, Valor with Bryan and Marduk, Legend with Yoshimitsu and King. We ran tournaments, put the system in our van on road trips, we played this game until we finally got a next-gen system. I'll never forget finally beating Arcade mode and Jinpachi's unbalanced boss battle for the first time on an eight-inch screen while my brothers were transfixed on the screen as the moon shone somewhere in the Mojave Desert.
Tekken 6 and Tag Tournament 2 were the go-to game when I was in training in the army. Things were the perfect mix of collaborative and competitive, with us each person bringing food to share in the barracks and tournaments being played for hours, days, even weekends. There's a lot of great memories I have, especially ones that stoked my smoldering competitive fire. Around this time is when I learned about EVO, the fighting game tournament of all fighting game tournaments, an event so big it was responsible for the redesign of the Luxor pyramid in Las Vegas.
Finally, we get to Tekken 7. Slow-motion, Rage Arts, dynamic stages, guest legends, new styles, cinematic stories, this game has had it all. This game made me want to rethink what I thought I knew about fighting games. Watching Lil Majin and Knee and Arslan Ash turning the characters I'd literally grown up with into avatars for heroics at EVO, turned me into a student of the game, learning counters and combos in practice mode, seeing Katsuhiro Harada coming on stage in a shirt proclaiming DON'T ASK ME FOR SH*T as he directly addressed leaked content turned me into a supporter of all of Project Tekken and what it represents.
A conversation with my brother about why I know Eddy's moveset so well. I mentioned I had been playing this series for twenty years and that's when it hit me-I'd been playing this game for twenty years, growing alongside my whole life, each game another era in my life. It's one of the few game series that's been influential on my life as an art form. But I think the real concept I've learned from Tekken is the concept of constant change. Tekken 3 eschewed almost every OG character and rebuilt its roster from the ground up. Tekken 4 added uneven terrain and changed strategies into a more technical game. Tekken 5 added customization and sped up the gameplay. Tekken 6 introduced Rage to balance out each match, making sure no two fights are alike. Tekken 7 introduced Arts and Drives to test players as well as adding slow motion to make sure all eyes are on each second of the battle. I've been looking into Zen Buddhism lately and the mantra that all forms return to nothingness and in nothingness all things are made seems to hold true here, constantly rebuilding, making sure each entry is the most complete the series has been, but that none can say it's the best due to constant improvements.
Thank you for everything, Tekken. The community, the camaraderie, the competition, the grinding, the broken controllers, the worn buttons, the quits, the rematches, everything.
PS: My gamertag on Xbox is ConsularMussel4. I'm Initiate level. Come see me if you're lookig to fight. I'll be getting ready for the next battle.