Tekken 8's full roster, Arcade Quest & Tekken Ball have us ready for the next battle

Bandai Namco gave us the chance to play as Reina and Victor, tackle a player-focused arcade storyline, and play the new Tekken Ball.

Image via Bandai Namco

Tekken 8 isn’t too far off anymore with a release date set in late January 2024. It won’t be long before we’re throwing haymakers in Bandai Namco’s latest King of Iron Fists arena. Short of being able to play every remaining character we’ve seen in the full roster and try out some other tertiary features, many of us assumed we’d just be waiting till launch day. To my surprise, Bandai Namco invited Shacknews out alongside others for one more chance to see what the Tekken 8 team has been cooking up. I was delighted to find the whole starting roster open to us, but we also got a shot at Tekken Ball, the game’s main story mode, and a new player-focused Arcade Quest story mode.

A bustling roster

We’ve known about the entirety of the Tekken 8 launch roster since Bandai Namco officially revealed Reina to round it out. However, at this event, all characters were on the table. It wasn’t just Reina and Victor, but all of them: Devil Jin, Steve Fox, Yoshimitsu, Kuma, Panda… all of them! With such a delicious opportunity, I played some characters I’d been chomping at the bit to try.

I started with Victor, and true to his looks, he feels like a threat at all ranges. The guy can access a sword for mid-to-long attacks, a gun to add both close and long-range quick attacks, and knives to carve up his foes in close proximity. As commander of the Raven Unit, he also boasts teleportation technology and can use it to close the distance to foes, evade attacks, or duck out of big offense and punish with counterplays of his own. I can’t entirely tell if he’ll be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, because his kit feels strong and functional at any part of the screen. I have a feeling we’re in to see some treats with him once he’s in trained hands.

Victor Chevalier defeating Steve Fox with a sword strike in Tekken 8
Source: Bandai Namco

I also took my time playing some Reina. If you think she’s just a carbon copy Mishima karate user, you’re wildly mistaken. I quickly fell in love with a swaying stance Reina has on her 4 kick (1 = left punch, 2 = right punch, 3 = left kick, 4 = right kick). She moves backwards and sways left to right. From there, she has an absurdly fast side kick that happens to act as a Heat Engager, meaning you can go right into Heat state and unload your best offense whether you land it or not. She also has a number of other strong moves that come out that stance, and some simple strings you can take advantage of to boot. Don’t get me wrong: she is packing some Mishima moves, but that should simply give players some familiar groundwork as you explore the myriad of things she can do beyond the Mishima fighting style.

Beyond Victor and Reina, I took this opportunity with the full roster to try some other characters we'll have on Day One. Devil Jin feels very dangerous this time. He uses his wings quite a bit more to close ground on his opponents and duck out from attacks before punishing hard. He had a lot of easy-to-use feint attacks that led to easy combos and Heat State. He feels like he’s going to be a problem for newcomers to beat, and likewise an easy pickup if you want to start with a character that rewards big-time on quick and sweeping counterattacks. Steve Fox felt like he’s going also going to be fun and interesting. Some of his best moves from previous games are back, like his back+2 punch. His swaying also returns and lets him dodge and hugely punish enemy mistakes (a bigger factor with the Heat System).

Kuma the bear hitting Hwaorang the human with an uppercut in Tekken 8
Source: Bandai Namco

I’ve been eying Kuma since they released his new story and vibe, and I wasn’t disappointed here. He’s still a bear, albeit with some Mishima moves. However, I really liked a lot of his chunky attacks and deceptive movement. His iconic roll and Hunting stance make a return, and they actually get enhanced during his Heat State. He also has a massive double-footed donkey kick that launches opponents a mile into the air, allowing you plenty of time to figure out how you’re going to keep hitting them when they come down. I came away more than excited to main him, but I was also pretty happy with how a lot of familiar characters have been shaken up to fit the new Tekken 8 systems.

Two story modes? In this economy?!

Kazuya Mishima in his Devil form in Tekken 8
Source: Bandai Namco

Among other content I got to play at the Tekken 8 event, we were introduced to both the main campaign story mode continuing Jin and Kazuya’s fated battle, as well as another story mode known as Arcade Quest. The latter features an avatar you create and is a much more lighthearted romp where you tackle arcades and locals and work your way up to a fictional major where you challenge for Tekken championships. More on that in a bit.

The main Tekken 8 story mode is truly shaping up to be the final chapter of a long and storied adventure through this series. Heihachi is supposedly really dead for real this time, no take-backs definitely… maybe. That leaves Kazuya to take over the Mishima empire with his son, Jin Kazama, attempting to fight back with the Devil Gene. Early in the story, Jin loses his ability to access the Devil Gene and takes a sound beating from Kazuya, who then hosts a new King of Iron Fists tourney that will decide the hierarchy of the world, why not. With the stakes so high, many factions hedge their bets on Jin rediscovering what fuels his Devil Gene powers and using them to defeat Kazuya. It feels like we’re in for a big finish that will close out a ton of loose ends in the long-running Tekken narrative.

A player-designed avatar with other characters in Tekken 8's Arcade Quest
Source: Bandai Namco

Arcade Quest is a much sillier and fun adventure. After making the character that you’ll also use in Online play, you engage in a storyline with all sorts of other created avatars. The purpose? Rise through your local hole-in-the-wall arcades, play the locals, rise to the occasion in tournaments, and eventually push your way up to the chance at competing in a fictional major. Arcade Quest is a completely different thing from the main Tekken story, but it’s also a fun little aside. For one, it’s a great place for players of all skills to practice their favorite characters and grow their talents. The mode features a lot of tutorials that end up feeling more natural for the way they’re presented, as well as the options to skip to the lessons in a lot of cases if you know what you’re doing. It’s also just a fun take on the road many of us took to get into the FGC and the tournaments we love.

Modes for all occasions

Kuma taking on Kuma in Super Ghost Battle

Source: Bandai Namco

Tekken 8 isn’t just stories and online matches. There’s also plenty to do whether you want to throwdown locally or online, learn, or simply have some fun, and I had a chance to explore much of it during this recent preview.

The part I think everyone will be able to get behind is the new Super Ghost Battle mode, which was introduced along the way in Arcade Quest. In Super Ghost Battle, the CPU opponent will use AI to learn your patterns as you play against it. Your combos, the ones you usually hit, the ones you have a tendency to drop, your habits for lows, overheads, throws, Heat Engagers, and more will be recorded as you play. Then, the opponent will start adapting to you based on how you play and utilize your own strategies against you. It’s a great way to learn where you’re strong, where you’re weak, and what gaps you should be filling, and I think players of all skills that stick with it will gain unique insight from the mode.

Tekken Ball in Tekken 8 between Marshall Law and Yoshimitsu.
Source: Bandai Namco

I also had chance to fiddle around with Tekken Ball, which seems like it’s going to be a fun way to blow off steam and play a deceptively unique competition. In typical Tekken Ball fashion, players will bounce the Tekken Ball back and forth with the attacks of their characters. Different attacks will either volley the ball or launch it. The more you volley it, the more power it gains, and if you can hit your opponent with a heavy charged ball, you can knock their block off. It’s light-hearted, amusing, and is feeling like a great place to go when you want to rest between matches.

Get ready for the next battle

Reina sitting in her throne post-victory in Tekken 8
Source: Bandai Namco

We are so close to Tekken 8, and this last preview was an incredible look at a near final build that answered most of my remaining questions. This roster is thick and diverse, the modes are plentiful and fun, and the fighting systems have made even the characters we’re most familiar feel fresh in a variety of ways. The game nearly upon us with a launch in January, so we’ll reserve our final judgements, but if this final preview was any indication, fighting game fans are in for a treat to kick off 2024.

This preview is based on a early PS5 build of Tekken 8 presented by the publisher. Tekken 8 comes out on January 26, 2023, on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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