Now, could I ask the two of you to describe Tekken in your own words?
When you hear the word fighting game, you think “serious tactics,” but the term I’ve found in about 15 years of playing is “exhilaration” or even a “rush.” With Tekken I take care to put all the weight on that exhilaration you feel when you attack.
The one who’s getting beaten gets a severe thrashing. They seem to be in a lot of pain, or they get blown back abnormally far, or even stomped on. The person who is losing gets pretty frustrated but that’s what makes it so exhilarating when you get in an attack. In other countries they say “Tekken is aggressive,” and that’s the kind of fighting game I think Tekken is.
I agree. The reason I got hooked on Tekken as a player was the fluidity of the motions and that exhilaration, how good it feels. For example, there’s an attack called the Phoenix Smasher, and if you get one shot of that in a counter it feels incredible. If the vitality gauge is full, you can get it down to half.
With one hit?
Yes. I think it’s a game that just feels good to play, whether in terms of the motions or the way vitality goes down. The game is all about the exhilaration of getting in a blow.
But if you’re pursuing the exhilaration of the attack, don’t you end up fighting against a lot of contradictions?
Yes. The place where the biggest contradiction happens is the rules. Theoretically, as long as there is a winner and a loser, there needs to be rules, and they must be logical. But at the same time, the rush that comes from the strategy of the battle is directly connected to the animated expressions and the time limit and the way the life bar goes down. No matter how cool an effect is, if the life bar only goes down a tiny bit, there’s no rush there. So there’s a bigger rush if the life bar goes down dramatically, but then you end up negating the tactics, so we always have to fight for a balance there. And one more thing is... oh, is it okay if I say it all?
Of course. (laughs)
There’s this other attack called the Aerial Combo where you lift your opponent in the air and hit them repeatedly. This is used as the climax a lot in movies and animations and even in comic books. It’s so much fun to do, and so impressive for the people watching. I don’t think there’s another moment where everyone feels the same rush as this. But when something feels good to you, for your opponent...
It’s really frustrating.
That’s right. You’re paying the same amount to play the game, but there’s a possibility that you might just get beaten up the entire round. The idea that you won’t get the controls back for a while would be unthinkable in any other action game. This is a big contradiction for a fighting game, and sometimes we get feedback from customers saying, “I don’t like it because I always get finished off by the Aerial Combo!”
The problem is that there’s no way to fight against it.
Yes. But if we make fewer of those moves or occurrences, then people will say, “It’s not Tekken anymore!” It’s fun for the one doing the beating and not fun for the one getting beaten, so there’s no way to find a balance between the winner and the loser, but we’re fighting day and night with that one big emotional contradiction.
We always have a tough time figuring out how to strike that balance, figuring out how much frustration we can permit the loser and still preserve that exhilaration.
On one hand, once someone has a lot of experience playing fighting games, there starts to be a big difference from someone who hasn’t played that much. As the ones who have long been working at the forefront in the pursuit of genuine and authentic fighting video games, how are you two confronting the issue of providing accessibility to new players?
That’s a really difficult question, and we’re still figuring it out. For example, there is a handicap option, but the reality is that most people don’t use it. Either because they don’t want to think of it in terms of levels or they think, “I’m not a beginner.” But in a lot of cases they just can’t win, and they start to get discouraged.
You can also put in an autoguard system and simplify the tactics, but that doesn’t go very well. But the most important thing is to make people want to practice.
If they arrive to a deeper place before they realise it and if they can find the fun there, they’ll go in even deeper on their own.
Right. I think both beginners and seasoned players have the same level of interest in putting together their strategy. I’ve got a story to relate to that. There’s this guy who went from being a game player to an employee. He had a website where he wrote about all these fighting theories on Tekken when he was a player, and I was impressed by how rational and to the point they were. So I played against him, thinking he’d be really good, but... he was really bad at it.
His fingers didn’t move as fast as his tactics. To use another example, just because someone can watch a boxing match and figure out, “This is what they should be doing,” that doesn’t mean they could be a boxer themselves.
There is a difference between a seasoned player and a beginner as to their finger coordination but they both have the same motive of wanting to use a strategy.
That’s right. So we made that a big point of this new game for the Nintendo 3DS system, and made it so that you can enter and save customised commands on the bottom screen prior to playing a game. Anyone can execute a few jab moves if they’re in a tight spot. It’s when they’ve got that one chance to do a finishing move that most people panic and they don’t think of finishing moves like the aerial combos.
It’s when they think “Now’s my chance!” that they get panicked.
They get their hands all tangled up, like “Oh no!” For people like that, we’ve made it so you can save your customised combos on the bottom screen.
So even someone who isn’t skilled enough to pull off an aerial combo can just touch the button on the bottom screen of the Nintendo 3DS system where they’ve programmed it in, and get the rush of doing that air combo.
Right. And not only that, but once you’ve programmed them into the bottom screen, if you press the L and R buttons, the buttons you programmed on the bottom screen will shift to the normal buttons. For example, you press the 1 button on the bottom screen to do a floating move, you press the 2 button to do a pound move where you pound your opponent into the ground, and the 3 button is programmed for a hold move of an aerial combo, so if you first touch 1, 2, and 3 in order with the stylus, it will remember the aerial combo.
I get it.
If you’re used to controlling it, you can also do the aerial combo by pushing the normal Y, X, and B Buttons while pressing the L Button.
If a beginner is able to experience how much fun an advanced player has, it can give them the energy to want to one day be able to do it all on their own.
That’s right. In the end, they should learn to do the finishing attack all on their own. For example, think about cooking. Everyone wants to eat food that tastes good, but no one grinds flour their very first time. First you get the ingredients ready. Then you just mix them, or memorise the timing or something like that. That’s what we kept in mind while we made the game.
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