The original PlayStation was released in September of 1995 for the North American audience. Just two months later, Tekken was released on November 8th. The 3D fighting game was developed and published by Namco and became a massive early hit for owners of the PS1. Today, Tekken is still going strong with seven releases in the main series as well as a few spin-offs. We look past the deep ravine and seek revenge against Heihachi in this Tekken review.
Tekken’s story revolves around a fighting tournament called The King of the Iron Fists. Many fighters have competed it in but it’s now narrowing down to the final few. The reward for winning this tournament is a fight against Heihachi Mishima, the CEO of a massive financial group called the Mishima Zaibatsu. Defeating Heihachi will earn the winning fighter a massive payout.
Fighters from all over the world compete in the tournament hoping to earn the money or for other personal reasons. Let’s take a look at the roster of fighters that are available in the first Tekken.
Kazuya Mishima – He’s the biological son of Heihachi. When he was five years old, Heihachi took him to a ravine and threw him off the ledge not believing he was strong enough to carry on the Mishima legacy. He survived the fall. Barely. But it left him with a huge scar across his chest and since then he’s worked to find a way of revenge against his father. Kazuya doesn’t care about the money but wants his father dead so he enters the tournament in hopes of fighting his father.
Marshall Law – An expert in mixed martial arts, Law dreams of opening up his own dojo to teach others the love of MMA. He currently works at a Chinese restaurant as a cook before entering The King of Iron Fists Tournament. Set on becoming famous for his martial arts talent, Law sets out to win the tournament and claim the prize.
Paul Phoenix – An American fighter who wants to prove himself to others, Paul enters The King of the Iron Fists Tournament. He believes his rival is Kazuya and wants to prove it by defeating him in the tournament. Kazuya and Paul once fought to a draw, and Paul wants to determine a clear winner this time around.
Nina Williams – She’s a deadly assassin and her next target is Heichaci. It’s unclear who is behind the hit on Heichaci but it doesn’t matter to Nina who sees the tournament as a job. She must fight her way to the top and kill her target.
Jack – He’s not human, but instead a military-made killing machine developed by Russia. After hearing about the rise of the Mishima Group, Russia was worried about Heichaci overtaking control of the world. The country decides to enter Jack into the tournament as they believe it’s the only way to stop Heichaci from ruling the Earth.
King – This masked wrestler has a soft spot for children and helps run an orphanage when he isn’t wrestling. When inside the ring, King is an unstoppable force with a mean streak. He enters the tournament in hopes of raising money for his orphanage to support his little orphans.
Michelle Chang – The daughter of a Native American woman and a Chinese man, Michelle is tangled up in Heichaci’s business after she’s forced by him to hunt Native American treasure in the deserts. After turning 18, she learns that her father has been killed by Heichaci and enters the tournament to seek revenge on him.
Yoshimitsu – An alien ninja from Space, Yoshimitsu has established himself as the leader of an honorary thieves guild who steals from the corrupt rich and gives to the poor. With the Mishima Group full of corruption, Yoshimitsu sets out to steal money from the tournament and other participants like Ganryu, a criminal sumo wrestler.
Ganryu – He was the youngest sumo wrestler in history to win the championship but was stripped of it due to his dishonorable dealings outside of the ring. Ganryu surrounds himself with criminals and illegal activities as he causes disruptions outside of the ring. He sets out to prove his strength again and enters the tournament.
Anna Williams – She’s Nina’s younger sister and is considered another assassin. Although their father taught them both deadly assassin techniques, Anna feels that Nina received the majority of their father’s affection. She also never wanted to become an assassin which was forced upon her by their father. She enters the tournament to prove that she is the better fighter and take revenge on Nina who received their father’s love instead of her.
Wang – He’s an elderly Chinese man who works as a merchant for the Mishima Group. Having befriended Heihachi’s father, he happily worked for them but when Heihachi took over the group he felt the tone of the company shift. He enters the tournament to find out Heihachi’s true intentions.
P. Jack – Prototype Jack was just a step in the overall process of completing the real Jack that Russia developed into a killing machine. P Jack was built purely for power so he can overwhelm others easily but lacks the other traits that Jack was finished with. Heihachi steals P Jack and enters him into the tournament to protect him from Jack.
Armor King – He was a friendly rival to King who had his eye accidentally permanently scarred from a match against King. This injury caused Armor King to spiral out of the professional wrestling ranks while King took the spotlight. He enters the tournament to seek revenge on King for blinding him and stealing his championship.
Kuma – This large bear was originally an abandoned cub in the forests of the Mishima estate. Heihachi found him and took him in. Kuma grew large and was very well trained personally by Heihachi who began to teach him commands and fighting techniques. Kuma enters the tournament to protect his master.
Kunimitsu – She’s a former member of Yoshimitsu’s thieves guild but has since been thrown out after stealing from the rich to benefit her personal gain. She’s since gone rogue stealing for herself. With her eyes set on the money prize, she enters the tournament.
Lee – When his parents died when he was a young boy, he survived by fending for himself on the streets. His ruthless nature caught the attention of Heihachi who adopted him and raised him as his own son. He was trained in MMA and has since been fighting in underground criminal tournaments and earned the nickname of the “Silver-Haired Devil”. Lee and Kazuya have become fierce rivals with hatred for each other. Entering the tournament, Lee seeks out Kazuya.
Heihachi Mishima – He runs the Mishima Group, the largest military and financial group in the world. He’s ruthless and wants to take over the world so he sets up The King of Iron Fists Tournament with the hopes of gathering the strongest soldiers in the world for his personal command. With a hefty money prize and the promise of fighting the winner, Heihachi awaits the winner of the tournament.
Those are the character descriptions for this Tekken review, but for the real story of the first game, each character has their own ending as if they won. In the canon version of Tekken, Kazuya wins the tournament and fights his father upon the same ravine he was thrown off as a child. Defeating his father in hand-to-hand combat, Kazuya takes his father’s beaten body and throws it off the cliff as he was when he was a child. Now that you know the plot for this Tekken review, let’s just to the gameplay!
Visually, Tekken is very impressive for such an early PlayStation game. This was released only two months into the life cycle of the PS1 in 1995. That’s pretty incredible that gamers were able to see this on their screens and realize the next generation of video games were here.
Tekken rolls out a large roster of fighters with an interesting backstory to tag onto them. The fighters feel unique from the small women fighters who are quick and agile to the giants with large reaches like Kuma and Jack. There’s a fighter for everyone, and during my Tekken review, that fighter was Armor King. My go-to move is kicking the shin, and he had a move that results in three kicks to the shin that stuns your opponent. If you are lucky, you can continually stun them and drain their health bar through that.
I’ve fully admitted I’m not good at fighting games. I had to cheat my way through Mortal Kombat and I always turn down the difficulty when I played the Dead or Alive series. Tekken was no different. I played on normal and made it to Heihachi but never defeated him. It wasn’t until I turned the game on easy that I was able to defeat him with each character and even that was a bit challenging. Man, I really suck at fighting games, but I still had fun during my Tekken review.
There are 11 different areas to fight in. All of them are based in real locations around the world. Some fighting games have “ring outs” but Tekken didn’t. You fight hand-to-hand combat without weapons excluding Yoshimitsu who has a blade although he really doesn’t use it. Some fighting games are intimidating to play with their robust and advanced buttons to press to perform combos but I found during my Tekken review that I didn’t struggle too much pulling off fun and unique attack and throws. When pressing two specific buttons at once, you could perform a special attack for each character. Characters have two special attacks each and they are easy to learn. One of my favorite attacks that I nicknamed the “Flying 69” was performed by Yoshimitsu who grabs the opponent spins them around so they are in the 69 position and then slams them to the ground. I’m sure that’s not what the move is actually called, but it made me laugh to perform it.
Making your way through the tournament you’ll fight nine opponents with the last two being “special”. Everyone fights Heihachi at the end unless you’re him and then everyone has a rival before Heihachi. During my Tekken review sometimes I struggled against Heihachi, sometimes I didn’t. I fought well with Nina, Marshall, and Armor King but struggled with Ganryu, Yoshimitsu, and Kuzaya.
Tekken could use a little help in the musical department as some of the songs loop too much but other than that I enjoyed the interesting sound effects. Marshall Law made some hilarious screaming noises, and Jack had a nice mechanical touch to all of his sound effects. Sure, the cut scenes and character animations can be tough to watch now, but back then I’m sure it was cutting edge. I was happy to watch all the cut scenes during my Tekken review but was disappointed only the first eight characters had the ending scene. You’ll unlock another nine fighters but they didn’t have ending sequences like the others. That was a bummer but I understand that it probably took a ton of work to put the ending scenes for the original fighters.
I played Tekken 2 for years with my childhood friend Darren at his house. We’d spend hours fighting Devil Kazuya and I first learned the characters and my love for Armor King then. I played Tekken 3 briefly with another childhood friend but not to the extent of Tekken 2. A few weeks ago I was retro video game shopping and to my surprise came across the original Tekken in mint condition for a great price. I picked it up and my Tekken review was the first time I played it. I had lots of fun with it and was surprised by how well the gameplay held up.
Tekken Review Score:
Tekken is a fantastic game for the PlayStation and it’s easy to see why it spawned a huge following and successful franchise that continues to this day. The characters are likable and there’s enough variety for everyone. Learning how to fight isn’t too intimidating and having easy throws that look impressive make it fun to learn new characters. There’s plenty to like about this game but I wish they would have included a little more music and some ending sequences for all the characters. Still, it’s a fantastic game that came out very early in the PS1 life-cycle.
Tekken scores an 8.5 out of 10.
What would you write in your Tekken review? Who was your favorite fighter? How much did you struggle with Heihachi? What was your favorite ending video? Let me know your thoughts and comments, I’d love to read them.