Since way back in 1994, the Tekken game franchise has continually centered around two things: first, a King of Iron Fist Tournament beat-'em-up that features scores of exotic fighters. Second, an ongoing side story that's wrapped around the impossibly muscular Heihachi Mishima and his family.
The new Tekken 7 (actually the ninth in the series) dutifully carries on both of those elements.
"Father, I Will Tear You to Pieces"
The story here will be very familiar to anyone who's played or watched one of the past games, and it's mostly told through high-def cutscenes. And truthfully, those cutscenes carry most of the game's problematic content. For the uninitiated, Tekken unspools an intense tale of family dysfunction to the nth degree.
Playwright Oscar Wilde once wrote that, "Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them." You may disagree heartily with that statement, but that quote pretty much sums up the tension in the Mishima family. If, that is, you also throw in soul-possessing demons, murder, exorcists and an attempted filicide and patricide or two.
It's a twisting and sometimes confusing tale that's told this time from the perspective of a reporter whose trying to piece together the history of Heihachi Mishima—the kind of suped-up dude who can slap away bullets, kick missiles to the side and walk away from a one-ton explosive detonation. It seems there's a terrible war between humans and devils that's raging and destroying cities and the reporter wants to reveal to the world how this guy is involved … and maybe seek revenge for his own family's deaths while he's at it.
In flashback clips we see how and why Heihachi snapped the neck of his demon-possessed wife and then, after beating his 5-year-old son senseless, tossed the boy's unconscious form off a high cliff. The son lived and went on to unleash demonic wrath upon humanity. And now years later a gray-but-granite-muscled Heihachi is trying to finish what he started.
How's that for a tale to tell the kids at bedtime?
Battle Good and Bad
Woven in and out of this pounding yarn are brute force, mano-a-mano, combo-laden fights between Heihachi and his son and some 36 other characters that include hulking humanoids, devils, cosplay-like model girls, ninjas, a Panda, an octopus-tentacled guy and … well lots of bizarre buffed-up battlers.
The fighters sport rock-hard fists, claws, swords, guns and acres and acres of powered up, lightning-infused muscle. In fact, the only ones who aren't impossibly over-muscled here are some of the svelte and shapely female fighters—but they have other fleshy curves and creases that the camera examines due to their oftentimes skintight or skimpy outfits (customizable, no less).
The one area that this T-rated game does pull its punches a bit is with its potential mess. For all of the slashing and bashing, there's only a slight splash of blood on contact. Much of the impact is shown through a flash of light and a color flare at the screen's corners. And that remains consistent even when characters throw fireballs, cast magic attacks or pull machine guns out of their pockets. Other than that, players get hit with a bit of language (including a few uses of "d--n," "b--tard" and "a--") and a dash of toilet humor in the form of a cutscene that involves pizza, laxatives and … well, you know.
Of course, all of the story elements are really only there to help young gamers get up to speed with their fighter or fighters of choice. Then it's on to hours and hours of arena battles with local or internet-connected friends.
The problem is, getting to the competitive who's-got-the-better-combos stuff generally means having to wade through all the other weird, spiritually twisted and occasionally slightly nasty content this game has to offer. And, well, sometimes the fight … just isn't worth the struggle it takes to get there.