It may be at the top of the fighting game genre now, but the Tekken series wasn’t always popular. Katsuhiro Harada (aka Mr. Tekken) explains how Tekken fought its way to the top, and what makes it unique.
Harada-san was in Sydney last week for the worldwide launch of Tekken 6 on PS3 and XBox 360. Armed with your questions, I had a one-on-one chat with him about the past, present and future of Tekken, and more specifically, how it compares to a competing game he contributed towards: Soulcalibur.
He says that Soulcalibur’s animation was based on the code used for Tekken, but players will note that the games’ mechanics are “radically different” from each other. In fact, the two teams had completely different philosophies on what a fighting game should look like.
“[The team behind]Soulcalibur especially had this thing where they wanted to develop the fighting game that they’re working on in a totally different way that Tekken has been created,” says Harada. “So the two cultures of the teams involved, the way that they think about fighting games and what fighting games should be, and how they should be made is quite different … the whole thought process was so radically different from Tekken.”
Harada stresses the different ways of thinking between the two teams, rather than anything from a technological standpoint. But he does add that interaction between the two teams has started to increase recently...
We move on to marketability and how Tekken differentiates itself from Soulcalibur and other 3D fighting games like Virtua Fighter. Harada doesn’t hesitate in pointing out that the Tekken series had a shaky start. “Tekken 1 and 2 weren’t really popular in the arcades when they first came out,” he says. “We were nowhere near Virtua Fighter in terms of popularity. It's only recently that everyone’s said Tekken is probably at the top of the fighting game franchise.”
Gaining and maintaining competitive advantage all comes down to Tekken’s unique gameplay, and Harada says that it’s precisely this that makes Tekken so popular:
If you compare Tekken to Virtual Fighter, the direction each game takes is quite different. Virtua Fighter is based on rock-paper-scissors — if your opponent does this and you do that, 100 per cent of the outcome will always be the same. It’s pretty easy to understand and it's constant. Tekken isn’t so constant — if you do this and your opponent does that, the outcome will vary. There are factors like the distancing, the angle of your characters and such. When the team looked further into why it makes the game so interesting and satisfying to the player, we thought more about the offensive, the attack. For example, if you launch your opponent into the air by doing the aerial juggle — something that most people think of when they think of Tekken gameplay — it's so satisfying because getting your opponent into that position, and being able to damage them and decrease their health bar so rapidly just felt really good.
Improving on that experience was — and continues to be — a critical factor in Tekken’s development, and it spawned the bounce combo system in Tekken 6.
“The bounce combo system,” Harada explains, “increases the variety of moves you have available, and if you carry your opponent to the wall you can attack them even more. So just the sheer satisfaction of damaging your opponent so one-sidedly is something that feels really good about Tekken.”
“Just trying to hone that aspect of the game really led to Tekken being unique. It clicked with the users.”
Tekken 6 hits shelves this Thursday, November 5. Will you be picking up the game?