Tekken 7 doesn’t have an in-game tutorial. Players new to Tekken games will find themselves losing for the wrong reasons. It isn’t because they need to practise the game’s subtle mechanics — it’s because they won’t know those subtle mechanics exist in the first place. This creates a massive knowledge gap between new Tekken players and veterans who have developed their muscle memory and strategy over the years. New players can’t enjoy the game on the level they could.
In an interview with Engadget, game director Katsuhiro Harada stated that Tekken 7 is “more accessible to new[er], more novice players”. Bandai Namco simplified the combo system from Tekken 6 and scaled combo damage so that a player who is uppercutted into the air doesn’t instantly lose to a well-timed juggle. They removed the back roll to get up off the ground, which used to be extremely dangerous, and replaced it with a safer, more defensive animation. And they incorporated “Rage Arts”, which give players the chance to wage comebacks with easy-to-execute power combos.
One way to make this game “more accessible” is to provide an in-game tutorial. It’s become standard in modern fighting games such as Street Fighter 5 and Injustice 2. In Tekken 7, the only direct in-game help are little hints that rotate through the bottom of the game’s load screens. Look at this one:
“Press (tap up) to move into the background, or (tap down) to move into the foreground of the screen.”
This is important information, but it isn’t communicated well. First, the word “press” will confuse new players: If the player “presses” up, the character will jump; one has to “tap” up and down to sidestep, or move between the background and foreground. Second, the sidestep is inherent to 3D fighting games and distinguishes them from 2D ones. Players who don’t know this or can’t master it are only experiencing a fraction of the game’s strategies. Burying this essential information makes the game impenetrable to inexperienced players.
Here’s another load hint:
“Miguel’s Rage Drive is a mid attack combo that can send his opponents into a spin when it hits.”
This is closer to what an in-game hint ought to be. It’s character-specific, technical, and discusses the properties of a specific move. But it also uses jargon that new players won’t understand. What’s Rage Drive? What’s a mid attack, and how does its properties differ from high or low attacks? Is “spinning” a desirable outcome? What do you do after you “spin” an opponent? Not only is this hint inadequate as a tutorial, it raises more questions than it answers.
Here’s another basic concept that is never explicitly taught in-game: How does one break a throw? The in-game character movelists, scrollable how-tos for each of the characters, are heavy on offence and light on defence. They show how to execute throws, but never how to counter them effectively. The sole in-game load hint about throws is frustratingly vague and reduces fundamentals to the level of random trivia.
“Escape throws the moment you are grabbed by pressing the corresponding button(s).”
For the purposes of this article, use the notation in the following diagram, which has become standard for the Tekken community.
An opponent would execute a basic throw by pressing 1+3, or by pressing 2+4. To break a 1+3 throw, a player would press 1. To break a 2+4 throw, a player would press 2. Sometimes the opponent might use a more complicated “command” throw, such as d/f+1+2, or f, f+1+4. For those, a player would press 1+2. There are exceptions to these rules, and several throws (such as back throws) are inescapable. But that’s the general idea.
I would imagine that a Tekken newcomer would read the in-game hint — “Escape throws the moment you are grabbed by pressing the corresponding button(s)” — and be completely misled. To counter a 1+3 throw, how would a person know to press 1, and not 1+3? To counter a f, f+1+4, how would a person know to press 1+2?
“The moment you are grabbed” is also vague. The game footage below demonstrates one of King’s chain throws. Whenever the training dummy briefly changes colour, from blue to normal to blue, that’s the actual window of opportunity to counter.
This colour changing is helpful to master timing, but it’s accessed through an extremely thorough but non-intuitive Training Mode. To see it, a player would go to “Display Setting” and set “Recovery Animation” to “Display”.
How would a beginner navigate a menu full of unknown options to take advantage of a Recovery Animation display he or she might not even know exists? How would a beginner even know why Recovery Animation is important?
A tutorial within Training Mode could guide a player to all of the mode’s different menu options, maximising the mode’s usage. As it currently stands, it’s wasted potential for the average player. It’s like giving a $400 tennis racket to someone who’s still learning to swing and expecting him or her to improve.
Given the lack of a tutorial, the Tekken community has filled the knowledge gap and demonstrated mechanics to new players through various tutorial videos. But the community would be better off if everyone had the same level of fundamental knowledge to start with. For Tekken 7 to truly be accessible to new players, the game should provide the knowledge the community currently does. An in-game tutorial would allow novice players to learn the game on their own, without the help of outside wikis or videos — to master the mechanics that are universal to all characters. And then more people can focus on the metagame, which is where the most interesting discussion takes place, and the unique strategies for each character.
New Tekken players should get thrown, not because they didn’t know how to break the throw, but because they didn’t read the opponent’s movements properly. New Tekken players should get swept, not because they didn’t know how to low parry, but because they didn’t low parry quickly enough. An in-game tutorial would mean new Tekken players could stop losing for the wrong reasons and start losing for the right ones.