Tekken 7 Has Made the Mishima Saga Interesting Again

Anyone who claims that story is irrelevant or absent in fighting games clearly hasn’t played much since Yie Ar Kung Fu. One of the biggest draws of Mortal Kombat is its lore, and that’s remained an important focus, so much so that it’s often been used to justify the absence of popular characters (Liu Kang was famously written-off for a brief time). The BlazBlue series offers an elaborate story mode which resembles a visual novel. Even Street Fighter has attempted to flesh out its universe with comic books and anime adaptations. The only exception that immediately comes to mind is Virtua Fighter, as it never emphasized story beyond the generic character biographies in the instruction manual.

I was once a big fan of the narrative in Tekken, and one of the reasons why I was so drawn to the series during its early days was because of the CG animated endings. Looking back, the advent of 3D made me find such superficial features alluring, whereas  nowadays no amount of fancy CG animation can motivate gamers to sit through the arcade/story mode. The multiplayer aspect of the fighting genre has become its pivotal focus, with a functioning and supported online multiplayer mode being the main (sometimes sole) priority for any console release. Many fighting gamers still have a soft spot for single player, though, and I still find myself enjoying story mode as much as I do versus.

For a long time I was captivated by the Mishima saga, the endless feud between generations of Jin’s bloodline: father vs. son, grandson vs. grandfather, great grandson vs. great grandfather… the infighting gets so complex it starts to feel like that one old song.  At least until Tekken 4 (in my view, the best game in the series) the family feuds were fun to witness. It helped that the characters were interesting too, each with their camp of dedicated fans. The first game made me a fan of Kazuya, and I loved seeing him go from hero to villain and then to anti-hero. I may have stayed out of touch with Tekken in recent times, but Kazuya is still one of my favorite video game characters. The way they killed him off after Tekken 2 and only to revive him in grand fashion in Tekken 4 is probably my favorite character comeback in gaming ever.

The Mishima bloodline always took center stage in Tekken, but recent games have gotten rather silly with the inclusion of Jinpachi, the great patriarch of the Mishima clan who’s somehow still alive, and with longtime Tekken hero Jin Kazama’s turn toward evil. Don’t even get me started on the animated film, Blood Vengeance… the series turned into a pretty messy Japanese soap opera. It was cool while it lasted, but from Tekken 5 onward it became clear that the infighting had ran its course and was in need of resolution. But with the extended Tekken 7 reveal trailer at ComicCon 2014 — which only focused on the story — I actually find myself interested in the series again. Mishima family antics take the spotlight once more, but the trailer hints that this could be the final chapter.

Despite inconsistencies in the portrayal of Jin and Kazuya, Heichachi has constantly been a compelling villain. He was an awful father to Kazuya, a two-faced, backstabbing (literally) grandfather to Jin, and he also imprisoned his own father, Jinpachi, for a several decades.  Apparently he was a bad husband too, as over the course of the series it’s often implied that Heihachi killed Kazuya’s mother. The Comic-Con reveal marked the debut of Kazumi Mishima, however, which casts that in serious doubt.

Kazumi is shown to have foreseen the demise of the Mishima clan long before the first battle, and even proclaims the mutual love she shares with Heihachi. Towards the end of the teaser we see Heihachi show a sign of humanity for the very first time as he sheds a tear for his beloved wife (then again he did raise a bear cub, so he may have been a softie all along). To further complicate the convoluted lore, Kazumi may be the source of the mysterious devil gene that has powered Kazuya and Jin throughout the series.

The Mishima saga has my interest again. We’ve met the men, the extended family, and even the adopted members of the family tree, but we’ve never met a legitimate female Mishima until now (Jun Kazama technically never married Kazuya). She could make a compelling contribution to the family dynamic, as well as the core game balance if she’s playble (wouldn’t make sense otherwise). I’ll be sure to tune in for some closure on Tekken’s lore – so long as we actually get it this time around.