Tekken 8 is by no means an easy game. Learning inputs and perfecting the timing on your combos is a challenge within itself, but implementing them into combat is another. Fortunately, there are multiple opportunities to spend time practicing your combos and honing your skills, which you’ll probably feel like you need to do when you start to get ready to jump online or start taking on more significant challenges throughout the game.
I may not be the best Tekken player in the world but I can confidently string together combos and occasionally swan around like a bit of a golden god. However, when paired with someone who lives and breathes practice rooms, the holes in my performance come to light incredibly quickly. Thanks to ghost battles, Tekken 8’s new mechanic that allows you to battle against yourself to help focus on remedying these issues, I’ve started to make a bit of progress toward bettering my skills, but that hasn’t stopped me from being aggressively humbled by the fighting game.
Tekken 8’s single-player story mode, The Dark Awakens, was mostly a breeze to get through. While my difficulty did sit comfortably at normal (no - I didn’t fancy taking on the hard setting just yet), I found battles pretty easy, which fuelled my ego, especially taking no damage and landing a ‘perfect’ on more than one occasion and expected this trend to continue through to the final chapter. But, one battle, in particular, had me placing my DualSense down and putting my head in my hands after more than one consecutive “YOU LOSE” title screen.
Minor spoilers for the end of Tekken 8’s story mode are ahead
The final chapters of Tekken 8’s The Dark Awakens unravel an epic battle between Jin and Kazuya, which is set up throughout the story. After coming together like hawks in the sky, having both taken on the final ‘devil’ forms, your powers fizzle out, and you’re challenged to fight in classic 1-v-1 combat, with no special flairs or devil gene abilities. Having just challenged a demonic embodiment of Kazuya, you probably think that fighting a bog standard, albeit an incredibly buff man, would be easier, but you would be utterly mistaken.
I went into this battle far too optimistic, thinking I’d be able to instantly land some blows, activate my heat smash, and use its brute force to chip away at the remaining health bar of my opponent before landing a double-face kick and calling it a day. But, to my utter dismay, upon trying to land the first hit Kazuya stepped back to block before rushing forward to wavedash and punish me for leaving an opening post-attack - something that is bound to leave you utterly dumbfounded since it’s just not a move you expect from a computer on a normal difficulty.
For those who don’t know, wavedashing is a (pretty infuriating) technique used to dodge oncoming attacks since the character will move from a standing to a crouching position while moving forward in a wave-like motion. The speed at which characters, especially Kazuya, move during this input makes it feel almost impossible to land a successful hit, and you also open yourself up to attack since you have to predict where the character will end up when they reach you. It all happens incredibly fast, and as someone who isn’t particularly masterful at reading their opponent, this felt like a slap in the face - especially as it's a technique I’ve only seen really at tournament level.
The start of something new
You don’t expect to be wavedashed by an AI fighter. It’s just not something that happens. But, while it did leave me with my tail in between my legs, it’s an evident sign that Tekken 8 has been designed to replicate the feeling of player vs player battles rather than the blatant use of an AI-powered computer, something that Michael Murray hinted at when TechRadar Gaming sat down with both Murray and Kouhei Ikeda to talk about the newest game.
Plus, as one of the final battles you’ll take on, it ramps up the difficulty while feeding into the tension that combat within Tekken 8 adopts. You are fighting for survival, and when this wavedash comes out of nowhere, you need to think on the spot about how to parry it.
There’s no denying that this battle did have me drawing air through my teeth in a constant state of grimace, but I also felt like a much better fighter after finally getting a victory. It felt well-earned rather than something I’d got as a result of relentless button-mashing.
With Tekken 8, it’s all a case of practice, and while, of course, these instances are initially infuriating they do make you want to scream into a pillow since a literal computer is beating you, you do subconsciously strive to fight harder, and be better to put said computers in their place. Sure, it’ll be a while before I feel like I want to go back to this battle and have Kazuya humble me in ways only ranked online matches have before, but it’s definitely a fight I’ll remember.
We’ve got a list of all the best fighting games if you’re looking to hone your skills in a variety of titles. However, our guide to the best fight sticks may also give you the push you need to learn that combo you’ve been putting off.
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Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.