The Tekken bowling mini-game, as it appeared in Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection (gif via YouTube)
When Tekken Tag Tournament came out in 2000, the game included a bowling mini-game called Tekken Bowl that became a cult favourite among Tekken players. Unlike Tekken, the bowling mini-game isn't deep or complicated. You just choose a Tekken character and aim your bowling ball down the lane. But it's still a competitive game ... albeit an obscure one buried in a fighting game menu.
The mini-game returned for Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection in 2005, and in 2011, it showed up in the iOS app store as a free standalone game featuring only three of Tekken's characters. In September last year, Tekken Bowl got taken down from the iOS store, perhaps to make way for yesterday's announcement: the bowling mini-game will return to Tekken 7, featuring the game's new fighters and what looks to be a flashy, futuristic vibe:
All Tekken players know about Tekken Bowl, but the competitive community for the bowling mini-game remains small, and there's just one Tekken Bowl competition that's worth noting. Back in 2013, Arcade Legacy in Cincinnati, Ohio, hosted a tournament titled Tekken Bowl I. The event featured brackets for Tekken matches, but it also included a side tournament for Tekken Bowl, as well as a bracket for a similarly titled Tekken mini-game called Tekken Ball (in which Tekken fighters lob a ball at one another).
Nathan Shields, who organised the event, told Compete that although he'd seen tournaments for Tekken Ball, he'd never heard of any other tournaments including a bracket for Tekken Bowl. "It was a new and fun idea," he said. More importantly: "Just about anyone had a shot to win."
The Tekken players who frequented Arcade Legacy had suggested the inclusion of the bowling mode. They were all familiar with the mini-game, although "no one in our local community felt that they were the greatest at Tekken Bowl," according to Shields. There was only one way to find out who "the greatest" really was.
Once the tournament got underway, the cream rose to the top. "It became apparent that a few players had dialled in the best method for hitting strikes and spares," said Shields. "I would say the game mode is more silly fun than deceptively deep, but just about anything can be hype and competitive when you take sign ups and make a bracket!"
Tekken often gets overshadowed by other fighting games. Shields noticed that "most of the time, [Tekken] players had to play on the sidelines of games like Street Fighter IV." That's why Shields went out of his way to create a Tekken-themed event, including the core fighting game as well as its attendant mini-games. Since the Tekken community is small, though, the Tekken Bowl community is even smaller. There was never a Tekken Bowl II.
The inclusion of Tekken Bowl in Tekken 7 could mean a resurgence of interest in this bowling side show. Shields hopes that other tournament organisers will consider a bracket for the mini-game in the future, citing his own experiences: "It is easy to run and fun to play. I have found that anytime a somewhat silly game mode is taken seriously, you get the best reactions and stream commentary!"