street fighter IV

Tekken 7 Review — Kissing Capcom’s Ring

by Jed Pressgrove

After playing various iterations of Namco’s Tekken series for more than two decades, I couldn’t have predicted that Capcom, responsible for the Street Fighter series, would keep coming to mind during Tekken 7. While Capcom has held the most influence on the fighting game genre since Street Fighter II became a pop sensation in the 1990s, and while there was a Street Fighter and Tekken crossover title (Street Fighter X Tekken) released in 2012, Namco’s franchise has always had its own legacy (though 1993’s Virtua Fighter certainly opened the door for the original Tekken in 1994). But in too many ways, Tekken 7 is a shameless continuation of Street Fighter IV, as evidenced by its multi-angle super moves and the inclusion of Akuma, the one-dimensional, fireball-throwing Street Fighter villain who just won’t go away.

On a fundamental level, Tekken 7 will be quite familiar to anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with any Tekken game, especially if your favorite character is still in the mix. For example, I’ve been using Paul Phoenix throughout the series, and while his repertoire has a few new wrinkles, he retains the moves and strengths that have made him a standout contender. For many long-time players, Tekken 7 is welcoming in this respect. At the same time, the lack of risks with the game’s general design draws even greater attention to the changes Namco does make, and these additions show little imagination despite how cool they might look on the surface.

One of the major additions is what the game calls a “Rage” technique, which can be done when a character has lost almost all health. Each character has two different kinds of Rage moves, and one type, the Rage Art, is a bastardized version of the Ultra Combo from Street Fighter IV. Like the Ultra Combo, the Rage Art is designed to reward people who have taken too many hits (i.e., people who more than likely deserve to lose). When successfully landed, the move triggers a series of blows that can take off as much of a third of the opponent’s health. These combinations are automated (meaning they take virtually no skill to complete), have considerable priority (meaning they will usually go through an attack of the opponent), and can be initiated, in some cases, by only pressing two buttons together (at least Street Fighter IV consistently required more input for such a cheap tactic). The Rage Arts utilize various camera angles to accentuate over-the-top martial arts; while the combos may look neat, Namco is just stealing presentation tricks from Street Fighter IV.

Another “new” mechanic in Tekken 7 is the Power Crush, which involves a character absorbing blows (and taking damage), as opposed to being interrupted/countered, while landing a powerful attack. This addition shows, again, that Namco is too in love with Capcom, as the Power Crush recalls the Focus Attack from Street Fighter IV. The main difference between the two is that the Focus Attack offers more variety of play. You could perform Focus Attacks of various power levels (they can become unblockable), you could cancel Focus Attacks by dashing backward or forward, and you could cancel special moves with a Focus Attack, setting up a variety of strategic possibilities. In contrast, the Power Crush in Tekken 7 is all brawn. Just do the move and watch the idiotic fireworks.

The stupidest decision by Namco, though, is allowing Akuma to be a playable character in Tekken 7. For those unfamiliar with Akuma, he has always been an overpowered Ryu/Ken clone in the Street Fighter series, and Capcom keeps putting him in games as if he adds anything to the proceedings other than a superficial air of menace (Akuma’s defense has traditionally sucked). But Akuma’s presence is even worse in Tekken 7. Whenever he’s in a match, he’s clearly out of place, hurling fireballs and jumping with the fluidity of a 2D fighting-game character. Like the evil Akuma, Namco has lost its soul.

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Notes on Street Fighter II Turbo’s Violence

by Jed Pressgrove

These notes are based on the SNES version of Street Fighter II Turbo.

I think it’s reasonable to say that Street Fighter II Turbo has more powerful violence than Mortal Kombat II. Granted, this statement wouldn’t have made any sense two decades ago. Mortal Kombat II was a violent revelation in the early 1990s, especially on the SNES. The uncut Mortal Kombat II on SNES satisfied a bloodlust caused by the neutered SNES version of the original Mortal Kombat, which traded the arcade game’s blood for gray sweat. With the prospect of more fatalities and vibrant blood and gore in your home, Mortal Kombat II on the SNES was the baddest of the bad in 1994.

It’s hard for me to feel the same way about Mortal Kombat II in 2014. Since the early 1990s, we have seen countless games with blood and gore. At this point, Mortal Kombat II is just an old game with blood and gore. Its violence has lost meaning. However, I can’t say the same thing about Street Fighter II Turbo’s violence, which retains significant power for a few reasons:

1. The vomiting in Street Fighter II Turbo is relatively unexpected and disgusting.

Gory violence is a main attraction of the Mortal Kombat games. Any hit to the head in Mortal Kombat II causes blood to fly out. You can also expect blood to spew when sharp objects like Kung Lao’s hat are successfully used. Even the finishing moves have a predictability about them — “Finish Him!” is the game giving you permission to perform ultra violence.

In contrast, superior technique is the undisputed focus of Street Fighter II Turbo. That is, we typically don’t play Street Fighter II Turbo because we want to see vomit. Vomiting occurs semi-randomly during battle, which gives it a more surprising effect than Mortal Kombat II’s requisite gore. Sure, we know that a fierce attack, as opposed to a weak or medium attack, is required to cause vomiting in Street Fighter II Turbo, but a fierce attack doesn’t always result in vomiting, unlike the certainty of blood from a kick to the head in Mortal Kombat II.

I often forget about the vomiting in Street Fighter II Turbo. I will never forget about the prevalent and predictable blood in Mortal Kombat II. Part of this memorability goes beyond relative randomness/predictability. If Street Fighter II Turbo had been titled Vomit Fighter II Turbo, I wouldn’t be writing this. “Mortal Kombat” is a title that refuses to allow us to forget about the blood. Not only that, but Mortal Kombat was very influential in the increase of video game blood and gore; thus, Mortal Kombat II’s violence appears normal, even laughable, decades later. In a world where we often expect blood in games, semi-random vomiting during battle becomes a more powerful sign of violence.

2. The aftermath of violence is permanently emphasized in Street Fighter II Turbo.

Before you start a match in Street Fighter II Turbo, you see portraits of the two challengers facing off. After the match is over, you see these portraits again. The portrait of the winner is unchanged (and, of course, the trash talk beneath the portraits comes from the winner), while the portrait of the loser shows the effects of violence. Some of the loss portraits almost suggest death — for example, the life in Sagat’s one good eye appears to be gone.

The loss portraits in Street Fighter II Turbo have retained more power than Mortal Kombat fatalities. Unlike loss portraits, fatalities aren’t about the aftermath or consequences of violence; they simply play into the “We want blood!” motivation behind playing Mortal Kombat in the first place. As Ed Smith suggests, violence loses power when game design encourages killing. In this regard, the designers of Mortal Kombat II tried to satisfy the bloodlust of players by going well beyond the original Mortal Kombat, which only featured one fatality per character. Mortal Kombat II gives each character multiple fatalities, including silly Friendships and Babalities for further cheap entertainment. The problem is that you don’t even get to see these finishing moves if you can’t perform the right button presses. Mortal Kombat II’s insistence on input for fatalities points to another reason why Street Fighter II Turbo’s violence has stood the test of time better: regardless of how you finish off your opponents in Street Fighter II Turbo, you will always see the loss portraits after battle. The loss portraits carry a more certain and permanent sting.

Side note: Street Fighter III took loss portraits to a new disturbing level. Loss portraits in Street Fighter III expanded the focus to the characters’ entire bodies. This approach resulted in material that would receive harsh criticism if released today, such as Elena’s sexualized pose. Interestingly, while Chun-Li was the only Street Fighter II character who cried in her loss portrait, the Street Fighter III loss portraits featured both male and female characters crying, including Dudley, Ken, Necro, Elena, and Ibuki.

3. The Street Fighter series has cleaned itself up.

As new Mortal Kombat games try to top the gore of their predecessors, the Street Fighter series has gotten tamer. Zangief’s infamous biting hold, for example, has not made a comeback in the Street Fighter IV iterations, which have traded the vomiting, occasional blood, and loss portraits of its predecessors for a more exaggerated, cartoonish style of violence. As one watches Ultra Combos from their multiple camera angles in Street Fighter IV, one might find that Street Fighter now has more in common with Looney Tunes than it does with fighting games of the 1990s. If future Street Fighter games continue to refrain from blood and loss portraits, the understated but powerful violence in previous Street Fighters, including Street Fighter II Turbo, will carry more and more weight.