Tekken initially gained fame in the Japanese arcade halls. Street Fighter was the most popular fighter for some time, but newcomers Virtua Fighter and Tekken provided a fresh change in three dimensions from the classic 2D games.
From arcade to console
A year after Sega overwhelmed audiences with 3D fighter Virtua Fighter in 1993, Namco brought Tekken to Japan’s arcade halls. Like many fighting games of the era, Tekken came with eight playable fighters and an arcade mode – a succession of arenas in which you have to defeat character after character to eventually defy the final boss. Tekken arcade cabinets featured Namco’s System 11 arcade board, which was developed in collaboration with Sony. This made porting to the PlayStation an obvious and relatively easy option.
Less than a year after the success of Tekken, the sequel was released, which was also well received. While the game just fell short of the visual splendor of Sega’s Virtua Fighter, players were pleasantly surprised by several added gameplay elements. For example, the main character from part one, Kazuya Mishima (who is the final boss in this part), got the now iconic sidestep. This allows it to move in the foreground and out of the background. The game has also been significantly expanded in the field of throws. Finally, the cast was expanded with no less than eight new and unique characters.
A year and a half after the release of Tekken 2, Tekken 3 was born. The game brought a significant graphic update compared to its predecessor. Also, for the first time in the series, motion capturing was used to provide characters such as Eddy Gordo with smoothly animated movements, which makes the fighting styles a lot more realistic. The story takes place twenty years after the second part, which means that part of the cast has been replaced with younger variations of existing characters. This is how Jin Kazama follows in the footsteps of his father Kazuya.
Fun on the beach
With every part of Tekken new game modes were added. Tekken 2 had the Time trial, Survival, and Team Battle modes, but Tekken 3 went the extra mile. Tekken Force is a separate single player mode where gameplay takes on more of a classic sidescrolling beat ’em up. As a player you are released into a large, elongated space where various enemies come your way. Tekken Ball is another notable addition: two players must take out each other with the help of a beach ball. It was a common mode on many afternoons and evenings with friends on the couch.
The minigames introduced in Tekken 3 were quite extensive for that time. In the years before that, Street Fighter 2 already had the option of hitting a car and you could test your strength in Mortal Kombat by breaking hard objects. The minigames in Tekken 3 had more to do. Tekken Ball, for example, could almost be a standalone game with some tweaks! Minigames added in later installments failed to make the same impact as Tekken Force and Ball. The minigames in Tekken 3 are therefore iconic to the series and have certainly contributed to the popularity of the franchise. In addition to the usual versus mode, it was now also possible for players to play competitively in a less serious way.
Improved combat system
Lovers of the traditional Luckily, Tekken gameplay also got their money’s worth. Tekken 3’s combat system is a lot more refined than that in previous installments. For example, everyone has the option to use sidesteps, which makes it more accessible to avoid attacks from opponents. The physics have also been made more realistic compared to previous parts. Where fighters in previous games could jump into the air as if they were on the moon, gravity is more palpable in Tekken 3. This is mainly done to make players think better about their placement on the ground. In addition, there are more options to quickly get yourself back up after a knockdown, including a sideways (tech) roll.
Tekken 3 was the first game in the franchise to be played at a truly competitive level. It was not unique at the time that a fighter was played at a competitive level, but 3D fighters still had to prove themselves against the more traditional 2D fighters. Tekken 3 was not the first Tekken to be played competitively, but the first Tekken for which tournaments were organized. That also ensured that in the following years other 3D fighters, such as Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive, got a place at tournaments. Tekken has become an indispensable part of the e-sports scene. Since 2017, a Tekken World Tour (TWT) has been organized every year, where players from all over the world earn points by entering tournaments. At the end of the TWT, the twenty players with the most points may compete in the final to determine who is the best Tekken player in the world.
Despite the fact that Tekken 3 has made the franchise popular in the competitive scene, the game anything but balanced. The guest character Gon (from the eponymous manga) is so small that many of the attacks aimed at him are simply missing. Ancient Ogre, the game’s final boss, has an unbreakable throw in his moveset, among other things, with the option to deliver a few extra hits afterwards. Despite this uneven balance, it was not a problem for many at the time – it was only with the advent of the internet that these experiences were shared with other players. In later Tekken games there were sometimes problems with balancing characters. Each Tekken has a handful of characters that can be seen more often at tournaments because they are just a bit stronger than the rest. The same goes for other fighters. For example, Yun was incredibly strong in Street Fighter 3 and Smash players still get nightmares from Meta Knight from Brawl or Bayonetta from Smash 4.
Despite the continued sales, Tekken is no longer so popular as at the turn of this century. The series has only gotten more complicated with each part, thanks in part to the introduction of new moves and an even larger selection of characters. Bandai Namco has not yet added an extensive tutorial in the game and players are therefore forced to pick their information from the internet. The threshold for playing Tekken at a competitive level is therefore too high for many players. This is daunting to new players, who usually have no idea how best to learn the game.
Tekken 3 remains for many fans the game that took the franchise to the next level. It is the game that laid the blueprint for the entire franchise. Although the addition of altered parts does not make the game feel as smooth as it used to today, Tekken 3 is still rock solid and you can enjoy hours of fun with ease.
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