Tekken 8 is the ‘Best Entry Point’ for Newcomers, Director Comments on Arslan Ash’s Azucena

With a little over a month left before its scheduled launch on January 26, Tekken 8 is looking to complete the cast of fighting games that have released their latest installments over the past year or so. In a generation where the likes of Guilty Gear Strive, Mortal Kombat 1, and Street Fighter 6 exist simultaneously, fighting game fans are living the dream.

“It’s really a unique time at the moment,” says Kohei “Nakatsu” Ikeda, Tekken 8 director. “It’s not often that you see all these major franchises updating at the same time, and the excitement that it creates is benefiting all of those titles in the genre.”

“It’s in one of the best states in years.”

tekken 8 key art

We’d have to agree. Street Fighter 6 is a big hit on all foreseeable metrics, and even Mortal Kombat 1 is enjoying generally favorable reviews on Metacritic. We’re front and center as it happens, and Tekken 8 will only drum it up even further.

The team behind Tekken 8 is fully confident in their latest entry, and it shows. A few weeks ago, I was invited by Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia to take another crack at the game, and this time around, the build I tested didn’t hold anything back. With all 32 characters playable, including a look at the latest story mode and features like Arcade Quest and Tekken Ball, Ikeda-san and Producer Michael Murray served up what could have been an almost release-ready game, at least as far as I could see.

Of course, we had to try out Reina, the latest and newest character, closing out the 32-strong launch roster of Tekken 8. Reina has figured in a ton of discussions and theories ever since her announcement, and the team is enjoying every minute of it.

tekken 8 reina 1

“When we announced Reina, rather than her duality, the initial impression may have been that she was a ‘heel’ or had a bad personality,” says Ikeda. “That part of her personality stood out a lot, and she’s a very major part of the story. It’s not just about her being ruthless and evil, but she’s also very complex, so you’ll see various parts of the story where she may be putting on a good face to try and win them over in certain circumstances. She’s also very clever, and the ways she manipulates people are something to look at.”

“That’s another side of that ‘duality’ as she puts on different faces when she’s interacting with other characters.”

Duality is such a central theme to Reina as it permeates not only her character but her playstyle as well. Looking closely at the Tekken 8 character trailer, she appears to use Mishima-style techniques but also mixes that up with Taido, a traditional Japanese martial art that requires athleticism and flexibility, something she has going for her.

tekken 8 reina 5

“We did the motion capture with Nakano-sensei,” Ikeda shares. “If you see his YouTube videos, it’s almost inhuman with the way he’s almost able to move instantaneously, evading and attacking at the same time. These movements that he mastered made their way to the character.”

Reina’s design has also been well thought out by the team, and in bringing back Mari Shimazaki-san, who also designed characters like Josie and Kazumi from Tekken 7 and Bayonetta, they were able to continue with the high-quality designs that are evident in other characters as well.

“We chose to work with Shimazaki-san again because she was very good at taking our concepts and keywords and fleshing them out into a properly designed character. Working on the concept of Reina, we thought that she was going to be a young and devious female, and Shimazaki-san would be very good with helping us go from there to a full-fledged character.”

“She’s really thought out the process of what it takes to make her a 3D character. You can also see the emphasis on young people’s fashion, her theme of Duality, the asymmetry of the design – all of the things we wanted in the character and we are quite happy with the results.”

tekken 8 reina design sketches

Related – Tekken 8 Collector’s Edition Revealed

One aspect of Reina was also a topic of discussion, and that was her level, which is the Secluded Training Grounds. When asked about the design process for this level, here’s what Ikeda-san had to say.

There’s not really just one way of thinking about the approach for developing the stages. First, there is some thought put into this stage that the character is paired with, but not every character has their own stage. There’s also the idea of what kind of concept visually fits into the story of the game,” says Ikeda-san.

“Specifically in Reina’s stage, if you count all the walls, there’s probably six different ones that you can destroy on both sides. Since the concept for Tekken 8 is about full power and destruction, we wanted to showcase that destruction.”

Another character that has piqued the interest of the Tekken 8 community is Victor Chevalier, and when asked about how he came to be along with casting long-time Tekken Player and French actor Vincent Cassel for the role, they mentioned that the game is popular in France and that Harada-san wanted a French character. Harada already had Cassel in mind while discussing it with the team, and it so happens that the Bandai Namco French office had the same plans in mind.

“When we started with a character like Vincent Cassel, it actually turned out that our French office was able to get Vincent Cassel himself to voice it, so all of us were very surprised that it turned out that way. It was just perfect, and it went smoothly from there.”

“We knew that he had to be a very central part of the story, so we decided to put him as the commanding officer in charge of that organization where Master Raven belongs. He’s kind of like a living legend in the French military, and we want him to look very elegant and to have a very stylish suit, and he’s going to be fighting in that manner.”

Tekken 8’s Victor also is a weapons master, utilizing a Karambit knife along with an almost sci-fi-like sword with his unique fighting style that’s a mix of military CQB and almost Ninjitsu-like movements that allow him to split into different forms like Raven does.

“He’s a cool and unique character, an excellent newcomer, and we hope that you pick him up for the game.”

tekken 8 victor chevalier

Being a long-running franchise and a very successful one at that, even holding the world record for the longest-running video game storyline and longest-running 3D fighting video game franchise, Tekken 8 is indeed something very exciting for longtime fans and newcomers. It is the number one 3D fighting game for a reason, having sold a total of 55 million copies to date, and the devs are expecting a surge of excitement when Tekken 8 finally releases.

And while longtime fans will be able to jump in and play the game right away, newcomers won’t quite advance at the same pace. Understanding this, the Tekken 8 team has prepared several features to bring these new players up to speed at the quickest possible time, including things like the special style control mode, arcade quest, ghost battles, and much more. The storyline, in particular, may feel convoluted, but a gallery mode is there to guide newcomers into the Tekken universe.

“There’s a gallery mode that has movies that concisely explain what has happened from Tekken 1 to 7 so you can get caught up before you play,” says Ikeda. “Once you do get your hands on Tekken 8, playing through the story and the character episodes will give you a better idea of that character’s personality and motivations for the tournament.

“When a match starts, you’ll also notice that character lines may change depending on whether they have a relationship with that character or not, giving you an idea of the dynamics of the characters in the Tekken universe. All of these things combined make Tekken 8 the best entry point. It’s easier than ever for people who haven’t played before to get into the series.”

tekken 8 special style 3

While Ikeda didn’t reveal an exact playtime or how many chapters there are, he says that the story mode in Tekken 8 will be “1.5x the volume for the story mode” compared to Tekken 7.

“Even the quality of the movies themselves is a lot higher than it was in the past installments. There’s also a character episode for each of the 32 characters, so it’s even more volume than we had for Tekken 5 or 6. The volume and quality are a lot more than in past installments, plus the amount of budget spent on it is the biggest to date.”

Lastly, coming off the recently concluded Evo Tekken 8 Showcase, the general public finally got a chance to see how high-level matches would play out in the game, especially when the likes of Nobi, Saint, JDCR, Knee, LowHigh, Arslan Ash, and Book took part in it. If you watched the show, you would have seen how Arslan Ash, being his normal self, took Azucena and just ran away with it, beating everybody with a new character and solidifying his hold at the top of the food chain.

We had to ask about the reaction of the team to this, the current balance of Tekken 8, and how they plan to nerf Arslan Ash, so to speak.

“Why don’t you just say it? Arslan’s too strong,” jokes Murray. “We’re going to nerf Arslan, not the character.”

Harada’s talked about this quite often in the past, that Tekken is successful because we don’t just cater to a certain audience. It’s not catered just to beginners. It’s not just catered to the top ten players of the Tekken World Tour. It has a roster of a lot of different characters and the balance is intended to work as best as possible for a wide variety of different skill-based players. What we saw for this showcase, also for people who don’t know a whole lot about Tekken, might be a little bit misleading because Ash won so one-sided with Azucena, but does that mean that Azucena is like a super broken character or super strong? Probably not. Of course, we’re not gonna discount it. Currently, we’re trying to tune the game so that it’s fun for people of a variety of different skill levels and that the balance is intact. That said, once the Tekken World Tour stars, we’ll update it if necessary.”

tekken 8 azucena ortiz farm

“The reason I said that that’s misleading is because all the pro players that day had different ways of approaching that showcase. Right from where I saw it, I noticed Knee chose Brian probably because that’s what fans want from Knee and he chose to answer those fans’ expectations. Maybe Nobi wanted to just show off, he wanted to showboat and make the game look super entertaining. Arslan was probably like “ok I’m gonna pick a new character that no one knows and just steamroll everyone because that’s what I wanna do.” You have to keep that in mind when you look at the game and it’s not necessarily reflective of what the balance is. It’s too early to tell I think.”

“And I guess another thing that we felt was reassuring is that the concept of Tekken 8 is more about full power and destruction and being aggressive, rushing down your opponent, etc. When you enable the heat state, it’s kind of like your turn to go on the offensive and have fun with the battle mechanics. From what we saw with the pro players, they weren’t back-dashing to eternity or anything like that. They were actually upfront and slugging on each other, so it seemed like they understood what the system was trying to achieve and that they had a good time with it. In that regard, we’re quite happy with where we stand at the moment.”

Special thanks to Kohei “Nakatsu” Ikeda and Michael Murray for taking the time to answer questions about Tekken 8!

Tekken 8 is scheduled to release on January 26, 2024 for PS5, Xbox Series, and PC.

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