To feature the upcoming release of Tekken 7: Fated Retribution, Tekken godfather Katsuhiro Harada, along with his game designer and translator Michael Murray, were in attendance as special guests at a private event at Bandai Namco's new studio in Santa Clara, California. I had the chance to interview both Harada and Murray at a roundtable with other fellow journalists, but given the size of the group and the time it takes to translate each question and answer, I had to leave many of my questions unanswered. Cue nerd rage!
Thankfully, Bandai Namco came to the rescue and I was able to ask Harada and Murray all my boiling questions via email about Tekken 7's development, including its path in American arcades, the addition of Akuma in the roster, Tekken mini-games, PlayStation VR support, and the possibility of a Tekken 7 PC port.
GameRevolution: Last I spoke with you both (in Japan), Bandai Namco has had location tests in North America for the Tekken 7 arcade and has a possible deal with Dave & Busters to feature the Tekken 7 arcade cabinet. One of touted features of the arcade cabinet is of course its online capabilities. Do you think this is still possible in American arcades, and do you have any updates on bringing Tekken 7 to arcades across America?
Katsuhiro Harada: Of course, we would love to see an arcade release in North America, like in the past.
However, for the few arcades left, it depends on whether they can afford to invest in more expensive/latest releases from Japan, and this is something that is not really in our control. However, the arcades would most likely need to purchase a reasonable number of machines, and be confident there is enough of a community to support them.
GR: To you, are there any major differences between the Tekken community in Japan and the Tekken community in America, either in their priorities for a Tekken title or their fighting playstyle?
Harada: With the rise of the internet there is more sharing of information and gameplay footage, so there is less of a difference compared to the past. I do still hear from players outside of Japan that some Japanese players still have a very unique playstyle. I think that there is a bigger difference between individual players, rather than countries or locales.
That said, expectations regarding game elements or certain characters tend to differ between regions. And not just between North America and Japan, but also even among various countries in Europe. However, regarding game content expectations, I think there is a bigger difference between the hardcore audience, mid-range, and casual crowd.
GR: On the inclusion of Akuma, was it challenging to balance the character between feeling like a Street Fighter character and a Tekken character? Do you consider this to be an important learning experience for Tekken X Street Fighter which is reportedly still in development?
Harada: The controls were pretty much polished through trial and error. Regarding the game balance, there are still many things we continue to fine-tune, we are starting to work these things out.
We didn’t receive or use model or animation data from Capcom. As such, everything for the character was created from scratch by our staff. However, the way that animations in 3D fighters like Tekken and Virtua Fighter are portrayed is quite different from that of 2D fighters, so that gave us a bit of trouble to recreate authentically.
Regarding TK x SF, as I have said in the past, we actually progressed to a certain point some time ago. From a marketing standpoint, Capcom is busy promoting SFV, we are starting our campaign for TK7, and [so] it just isn’t the right time to release TK x SF. Timing for releasing a game has become more and more critical to its success[;] with that said I had to consider other ideas in the interim, of which one of them was including Akuma in TK7.
GR: During the numerous Tekken 7 matches at the event, Akuma seemed to be quite powerful, retaining most of his iconic Street Fighter moves (plus an EX gauge) as well as having the Raging Demon Rage Art and a tackle takedown similar to Jin's and King's. Does Akuma have any particular weaknesses that expert players will notice?
Harada: Akuma might seem intimidating at first, but he does actually have a few weak areas. He is actually not that hard to deal with if you have the necessary knowledge to counter him. However, this is one area that we are still working on, so that we can make the game a lot of fun.
GR: If you had a chance not to worry about licenses, what other game characters (from other fighting games or otherwise) do you think would fit in the Tekken roster?
Harada: If it were a game character, let me think. I would ask for two—one from a fighting game, and one that is not.
I think from fighting games, it is definitely Akuma, and I think that it is a good choice, as you can tell from the overwhelmingly positive feedback. If I had to choose another, perhaps Geese Howard. I think a bad man like him would fit well in Tekken, and I am confident we can make him look pretty cool in TK7.
Regarding a non-fighting game character, that’s difficult. Any good ideas? Personally, I would like to take Spelunker from the SNES. When someone chooses him from the character select screen, he is so surprised to be chosen that he dies before the match! lol.
GR: Some reports are saying that Tekken 7 will be bringing back the popular Tekken Bowl mini-game. If so, what improvements or tweaks can we expect from this mode?
Harada: Tekken Bowl is a bowling game, and can still be played if you have that game, so there is no reason to include it now, lol.
If we were to revive it… Maybe include monetization in which the player would “rent” the lane, also “rent” the bowling ball, charge to play the song on the in-game jukebox, a fine for gutter balls, etc. Just kidding!
GR: On the subject of Tekken mini-games, which one is your personal favorite? Tekken Bowl, Tekken Force, Scenario Campaign, Tekken Ball?
Harada: As a game, I would say Scenario Campaign. I do have fond memories during development from Tekken Ball and Tekkn Bowl, though.
GR: Are there any concepts you had for Tekken mini-games you never had the chance or the time to create?
Harada: There were a few:
– A mode in which player communities from different arcades compete against each other.
– Tekken Cart Race
– Tekken Soccer/Football
– Tekken Baseball
– Tekken Dodgeball
– Tekken Tennis
GR: Any clues on what we can expect in terms of the announced PS4 VR support with Tekken 7?
Harada: In reality, a mode in which you fight in first-person isn’t a very good use of VR. I can say that, at least.
GR: There have been some rumblings from a Bandai Namco survey hinting that Tekken 7 might be heading to PC. While I guess that you can neither confirm or deny this, do you think the Tekken franchise could fit on PC?
Harada: Rumblings? Really? I’d love to hear from fans to see if they’d like to see Tekken 7 on the PC. Tell them to find me on Twitter or let us know on our Facebook page.