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Some of the best and most underrated soundtracks come from fighting games. Guilty Gear is basically a metal album with a fighting game built around it, king of fighters 96 has head banging retro synths inspired rock music, and street fighter giving us one of the greatest songs ever made with Guile's theme.
But I was never really into fighting games. I was almost good at Mortal Kombat 9 because I was in highschool and it was edgy. I couldn't for the life of me win a round in Street Fighter 2 Turbo, and Injustice was fun but more so because I’m a DC comics fan.
It wasn’t until the end of 2022 when JoJo’s All Star Battle R came out that I actually tried to learn a fighting game. And weirdly enough that game is what got me into JoJo’s bizarre adventure, and thus laid the groundwork for my current YouTube channel about talking about Anime, Manga, and Japanese Video Games…. it's a long story.
My new love for a fighting game brought me to a local game shop and they hosted events for the local fighting game scene. Fast forward to 2024, and they were holding a launch party for Tekken 8. Tekken is a series that I always heard about but never got into because I was always intimidated by fighting games.
And this is a move list from a single character in Tekken 7:
Still, I decided to attend the launch party anyway. I had a blast, the community was nice, and the game was entertaining. But interestingly enough the music of Tekken 8 was brought up alot. People said “I like this track” or “this song is a new classic” and in the hustle and bustle of the party I couldn’t hear anything. After the event, I actually listened to it and…danced?
I have always heard that Tekken had great music and Tekken 8 piqued my interest with its high energy dance tracks because it made me feel nostalgic.
I fell in love with EDM music back in high school, which was around the same time I was enjoying my first fighting game experience. I started listening to Daft Punk and then gradually listened to new genres like Dubstep, Drum and Bass, progressive house, and hardstyle. Tekken 8 brings me back to my past but also introduces new fighting game fans to this genre and keeps the spirit of the old Tekken alive.
You see, Tekken 1 was never meant to be a fighting game. It was supposed to be a tech demo to show off Namco’s ability to make 3D renders. It became a full-fledged fighting game in the 90s but the 3d fighting game space was owned by Virtua Fighter so Tekken had to beat it. One thing that they employed is dance music. This was meant to make the game sound futuristic, and this was the first time many young people would be exposed to electronic music. The original name of Tekken was going to be Rave Wars. So, the music was a key feature.
As the game progressed the soundtrack evolved with the times and added elements to the soundtrack. Tekken 2 expanded on the electronic foundation. Tekken 3 Introduced a broader range of genres, including rock and ambient music, with character themes becoming more distinct. Tekken 4 featured a more experimental soundtrack with a mix of industrial, techno, and ambient elements, aiming for a darker tone. Tekken 5 returned to a diverse range of genres, combining rock, electronic, and orchestral elements. While also really upping the character themes and stage music. Tekken 6 Introduced dynamic music transitions which evolved the soundtrack during fights and utilized the rock and electronic music to amp up the action even more. Tekken 7 continued the music transitions and expanded on character-specific themes.
These character and stage themes throughout the years all incorporate music from the location or fighter’s nationality much like in Fahkumram’s stage theme. He’s from Thailand so they combine Thai instruments like a Pi Nai with mind melting dubstep:
And all of this leads into Tekken 8, a game that understands how important its musical legacy is.
The inclusion of the fantastic Jukebox mode to use any Tekken track over your game is a genius touch to allow long time fans to enjoy their favorite tracks even while playing by allowing the player to put them over different stage track but also to allow new fans like me to listen to what I have been missing since the 90s. But Tekken 8 doesn’t rely on the past to make it a good fighting game. It even adds new features to help new players enter into the series with things like the heat mechanic and the vast amount of single player content like fighting evolving ghosts. And new playable characters and stages give us new music that continues the tradition of adding pulse-pounding electronic music with a global twist like we get with Azucena who her and her stage are both Peruvian, so they add traditional peruviana instruments like the pan flute and even showing off Peruvian musicians in the stage:
Reina’s Dojo theme captures her Japanese nationality as it opens with powerful Japanese Taiko drums as the electronic risers bring the beat in.
And though jazz didn’t originate in France, we still get a ridiculous jazz breakdown in Viktor’s theme before turning into a house track:
These are not just important for making a character or a stage deeper, it also helps represent players from all over the world because Tekken has been and still is a global phenomenon.
People from all different countries have left their mark on Tekken’s competitive scene like
Arslan Ash from Pakistan
Knee from South Korea
NOBI for Japan
DANIELMADO from Italy
RAEF from Saudi Arabia
Book from Thailand
Joey Fury from America
AK from the Philippines
SUPER AKOUMA from France
And TIBETANO from Spain
Just to name a few
These guys represent their country’s fighting game prowess, and inspire players from all over the world by showing them that no matter where you come from, you too can be a champion. And adding music and characters that represent different countries strengthen this inspiration and attracts more and more players as years go by. Even I in America, get a song with Neo City which is just Times Square in New York that rightfully combines EDM genres into a melting pot of dubstep growls, trance and acid techno.
The more I played, the more I listened and the more I wanted to just dance. That says alot about the game's soundtrack especially because I am just as bad at dancing as I am at Tekken.
Tekken is famous for a lot of reasons, the music is a big one of those reasons and rightfully so. It accomplishes its goals of amplifying its gameplay, creating a unique sonic brand, paying homage to its legacy, honoring its global roster and players, and just creating some good electronic music.
Ths soundtrack piqued my interest and pushed me not just into a fighting game but a new local community to play with and just hang out…I really should get out of the house more