June 15, 2017

Tekken 7 X Injustice 2 -- Wait, What?

Breaking news: 2017 still refuses to calm the hell down with this onslaught of game releases.  Setting aside the fact that there’s a new Zelda out an about -- as a herald to a new freaking console -- there have been multiple JRPGs, multiple action-adventure games, and multiple open-world sandboxes.  That’s putting it mildly.  That’s not even close to a complete list.  So, like, if ever there was going to be a way to wipe humanity off the map, it wouldn’t be with something like The Black Plague 2: Black Plague Harder.  It’d be with a bunch of video games.

And now, as of the start of June, the game industry is doubling down with some brand new fighters.  Well, you could argue that it’s quadrupling down with a new version of Guilty Gear and updates to Street Fighter V, but for argument’s sake let’s keep it simple.  NetherRealm Studios dropped Injustice 2 a couple of weeks back, and now -- after a long wait -- Bandai Namco has brought Tekken 7 to the west.

So I guess I’ve got to talk about both of them.  Or die trying.

…I might just die in general, though, because THERE’S SO MANY GAMES OUT THERE RIGHT NOW, HOLY SHIT.

Full disclosure: the first time I played Tekken 7, I only spent about an hour with it.  I wanted to get my feet wet -- you know, ease back into the swing of things.  See, back in the day I played the crap out of Tekken 5; I hit the single-player so much that I ground my way up from beginner to Deity (AFAIK the rank just below the top, Tekken Lord).  I wouldn’t dare claim that I’m good at Tekken -- and I’ll explain why in a bit -- but the franchise has a special place in my heart.  Thanks to the characters, the combat, the music, and everything in between, I think it’s safe to say that it’s my favorite fighting game franchise.  It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, when I say that I’ve also put time into Tekken 6 and Tag Tournament 2

But it’s been a long time since I’ve touched anything related to Tekken.  Honestly, I didn’t put that much time into Tag 2; it’s not that I didn’t like the game, but the idea that I would have to learn and synergize with two characters instead of one was too intimidating for me.  And for whatever reason, I never even touched Revolution.  I watched my brother play through a few rounds, but that’s about it.  So in the best case scenario, it’s been about five years since my last run with the franchise.

And now that Tekken 7 is here, I’m reminded of a single, simple fact: I freakin’ love Tekken, and I’m so glad to have it back in my life.  It feels so good.

I’m a big fan of games with good sound design, because they contribute to the “impact factor” -- that sense of power, weight, and sheer force that makes the stuff that happens on a TV screen feel like it’s happening in real life.  And in terms of fighting games, I’m hard-pressed to name a franchise that has more impact or hits harder than TekkenTekken 7 is no exception.  Even if you overlook the almighty “Death Fist” from Paul Phoenix -- a move whose power singlehandedly equals lengthier combos from weaker characters -- there are still tons of basic single- and multi-hit attacks that hit with enough audiovisual flair to knock teeth out.

Beyond that, I think that Tekken is -- for lack of a better word -- “purer” in terms of its combat as compared to its contemporaries.  That’s not to say that stuff like Street Fighter is inherently worse, but I personally think that Tekken is easier to get into and/or play than others.  The execution barrier is much lower, in the sense that A) it’s not as if you have to rely on inputs within a sixtieth of a second to land combos, and B) there’s much less focus on intense game mechanics and meter management to get the most out of your characters.  No FADCs (well, except for Akuma), no V-Trigger cancels; if you can learn some moves and how to apply them in accordance with fighting game principles -- spacing, footsies, etc. -- then you can do reasonably well.  Hell, you don’t even need to rely strictly on long combos to be successful.

Well, I say as much, but I wouldn’t know.  I’m an expert at Bad Tekken, not Tekken.

I’m almost 100% convinced that playing Tekken 5 the way I did back then has given me a slew of bad habits that would get me cremated in a normal match setting.  Why would I use this movie?  Why would I move like that (or more appropriately, not move)?  Why don’t I have any decent combos?  Plus, it’s worth noting that I fought against the CPU more than any human opponents, and that’s not exactly an optimal way to learn how to play a fighting game.  AI doesn’t think and act like humans do, and in some cases can enable -- or even reinforce -- strategies and ways of thinking that run counter to proper play.

So in hindsight, whatever skill I have with the franchise comes from me being an idiot but still winning anyway because the PS2-era intelligence couldn’t do jack about my “brilliant” stratagems.  (Fun fact: you could actually beat Jinpachi easily by just spamming the generic jump kick.)  But because it worked, it convinced me that what I did was right -- the right way to play Tekken -- even though I have serious doubts I’d last more than 30 seconds in an online match.  The fact that I lost to my brother in a T7 match (one of several that day, to be sure) just goes to show how much I need to learn.  And I’m so eager to learn that it’s a struggle to write this post instead of making a mad dash to the PS4 for some training sessions.

I want to learn how to play T7 for real, and I’ve taken steps toward that (if only so I can avoid the same of losing to my brother and his shitty ninjas).  You can bet that, even if I’m just scouting characters out and cycling through move lists for now, I’m having tons of fun with the game.  Here’s the problem, though: even if you overlook the fact that I’ve only just managed to clear out some heavy hitters in my backlog (Tales of Berseria followed by Persona 5), and even if you pretend I don’t have more sluggers waiting in the wings (Breath of the Wild and NieR: Automata), it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve still got Injustice 2 to worry about.

Though I’m not the biggest Mortal Kombat fan (and never will be), I’ve got no problems admitting that I like Injustice 2.  I think it’s a good game, and a good fighter on top of that.  Its biggest flaw is that the sound design is -- as I’d expect from a NetherRealm game -- still not that great.  I cannot think of a single memorable track from this or any other installment since MK9, and the hits don’t have nearly as much oomph to them as Tekken.  The latter is improving, for sure, but slightly.  Too slightly.

For what it’s worth, though, I also want to get back to Injustice 2 -- namely, learning how to competently play Supergirl.

I want to play as Supergirl, and Green Lantern, and Doctor Fate, and more.  Not only do I want to engage with those characters, but also with those systems.  Bad Tekken is my game; the MK family is the complete opposite.  Everything from the nuances to the basics is lost on me -- and if there’s one thing that I can’t stand in a fighting game, it’s when I’m forced into a situation where I say “I don’t know what to do with this character.”  The only way to get over that hump is to push myself to the limit, as well as into an area as unfamiliar with me as the back side of Neptune. 

So what we have here is a rare opportunity.  Given that these two games have come out so close to each other, back to back, it leads me to believe that just talking about one game per post won’t suit the situation.  Instead, I think it’s time to do something different.  Special, even.  There’s no sense in comparing them with such a high wall between them -- so, the better option is to compare them both at the same time.

In a nutshell?  My plan is to pit Tekken 7 against Injustice 2 in a compare and contrast post.  Or two of them, given that they both have story modes.  Which one is the better game?  Guess we’ll find out.

If I had to make a guess, though?  I’d assume that the answer is already a given; it’s entirely possible that the posts will end with me concluding that Injustice 2 has the better story, while Tekken 7 has the better gameplay.  Having finished Injustice’s story a while back, and having put zero hours into T7’s story, I’m still fairly confident that the former will be beter written/told than the latter.  That’s throwing a lot of shade on what might as well be my favorite fighting franchise, but the tradeoff is that I remember both games’ predecessors.  Injustice 1 had a pretty good story to its name, providing fun and heft despite its grim aesthetic.  Comparatively, T6 featured Lars Alexanersson, a character who I think is so unthinkably awful that he’s to fighting games what Lightning Farron is to RPGs.  But I’ll get to him another day.

I could be wrong, though.  Maybe T7 has the better story, despite the odds.  Maybe once the veneer wears down, I’ll end up admitting that Injustice 2 has everything fighting game fans need and more.  Who knows?  The important thing is that I want to conduct an investigation of my own, and see how these two new warriors stack up against one another.  That does mean that it’ll be a bit longer before I can talk about either one, but that’s the way it goes, I suppose.  Plus, I’m sure I can fill the gap with something.

Yeah, that’ll do.

Thanks for reading.  And get ready for the next battle…eventually.

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