This is the first in a series of articles written to help tournament ready fighting game players compete in Tekken. Though this article is written primarily for newer Tekken players, following the concepts presented here can help even veteran Tekken players who are aspiring to improve on a fundamental level.
I’m not going to sit here and bullshit you about how you can make Tekken fun at a casual level because I couldn’t care less about Tekken at a casual level. I’m also not going to try to convince you that tekken is worth playing, I will assume that you already know this. Tekken is a hard game, and being a competitor is hard work. But with the correct attitude, that work can be extremely fun and satisfying.
That being said...
How to have fun playing Tekken.
Many of today's fighting games are designed from the ground up to entertain players even when they are losing. Tekken however, has yet to adopt this style of game design. Entry level Tekken players often feel completely overwhelmed in the first few phases of the learning process. This is the turning point in which most new players quit, and is much earlier than the point in which the game starts to become fun.
Set Small Goals.
The first step to having fun when playing Tekken is, forget about winning. If your primary goal in Tekken is winning, you will most certainly quit far before that happens. Instead, set small goals for yourself with the purpose of obtaining a win. Be very specific. Focus on players who you have offline access to and make rivalries. Even if you aren’t vocal about them, treat them as your rival. This will let you focus your goals towards your rival’s character.
Good examples of small goals.
- Low parry the second hit of Law’s Junk Yard combo and follow up with the correct low parry combo.
- Break out of a double over stun.
- Block seeable lows like Bryan’s Snake Edge and punish correctly.
- Don’t get thrown by King’s Giant Swing when his back is to the wall for an entire match, or day, or week.
Bad examples of small goals.
- Place top 3 in a local tournament.
- Place top 5 in a local tournament.
- Win a match in a local tournament. (Yes this goal is too big.)
- Be able to beat the asshole that works at Super Arcade. (Way too big).
Every time you accomplish one of your small goals, you should feel like you placed top 3 in a tournament. If you approach the game this way, you will focus more on your own personal improvements. This is where you can begin to have fun playing Tekken. The more small goals you set, the faster you will improve, and this type of improvement will be extremely satisfying because it is literally quantifiable by your own goals. Think of these goals as pieces of a puzzle. When this puzzle nears completion, winning will occur naturally.
With the right mindset, it is very hard to not improve when losing in Tekken, and usually, improving in a game you want to compete in is fun.
Step one accomplished.
Selecting a character.
You may be wondering why I didn’t start with this topic. The reason is that character choice matters far less at the beginners level than the concept of learning the fundamentals. For a fundamentally solid player, switching characters can be very easy once you understand the core defensive concepts of Tekken. Unlike in most fighting games, in Tekken, You don’t have to worry too much about wasting time with a character that doesn’t fit your style.
Though every character in Tekken is very unique, most have similar punishers and launchers. If you get tired of a character you thought you liked, it isn’t hard to switch. Especially if you were able to learn the game system with your initial character. Focus more on learning things like how to get off the ground safely when you get knocked down, how to break throws, or even simply how to punish correctly. That being said, I would personally recommend selecting one character you really like, and another that requires very low execution. If you are an aspiring Mishima player, do not play two Mishima characters. Tekken is hard enough, there is no need to create even more obstacles for yourself. I will list a few characters below which I believe to require minimal left hand execution and are relatively straight forward.
Which fighting game related skills are most valuable in Tekken?
It may seem a bit obvious, but in Tekken, experience is extremely valuable. Knowing when your opponent is likely to attempt a low is far more valuable than seeing a low and reacting to it. Especially when it’s a low you have never seen before. This explains how players like Tomhilfiger, Arario, or even Ricky Ortiz can return after not playing for such a long time and still win. They understand the psychology of Tekken.
Knowledge is a natural byproduct of gaining experience and is also extremely valuable in Tekken. Ducking the second or third hit of a string and punishing correctly can literally change an entire match. The best way to gain knowledge is to ask questions. Lot’s of people know how to play Tekken and are dying to talk about it with other smart competitors. Try to find a mentor, or even two. Almost every top level Tekken player was trained by someone.
Reflexes are also a very important part of Tekken. The entire throw breaking system, whiff punishing, block punishing, and just about everything else in Tekken revolves around reaction time. If this is one of your strong points as a player, you will succeed playing Tekken. You will also have a lot of fun in the process because good reaction times allow you to set and accomplish more complex small goals. For example, break five throws in a row. Serious Tekken players should definitely focus on reaction time when practicing. Especially in regards to throw breaking. Not being able to break throws is one of the worst weaknesses a player can have.
Whatever idea you have, nine times out of ten, it’s a bad idea.Tekken is all about good defense. But I don’t want offense oriented players to think that it’s impossible to be aggressive. You simply have to pick your spots, and at the entry level, those spots are few and far between. When you are presented with a long move list that has tons of cool looking moves, you want to use them as much as possible. This is the first thing a veteran player looks for in a new competitor when testing their level of skill. Remember that no matter what move you do, a strong opponent can turn it into a mistake. Be patient and focus on absorbing and retaining as much defensive knowledge as possible to then use that knowledge to apply offense.
One of the most interesting and unique parts of Tekken is its depth in movement execution. Tekken grants players with exceptional left hand execution the ability to move faster. Movement is generally the most complex execution related part of the game because it applies to every character. For entry level players, this can seem very intimidating. I’ve heard players say they think it’s unfair that I can move faster than they can just because I’ve practiced moving. Just remember that there are several top players who have relatively weak or limited movement, and there are also players who can move very fast, but can not win. Great movement is simply a bonus. It is not essential to move like a top level Korean player to win. Though it certainly will help.
The good news is, all these fighting game related skills will improve very fast if you focus on setting small goals for yourself, and follow a solid game plan.
Part two of this article will focus on topics like formulating a game plan, dealing with move lists for 50 characters, and overcoming personal obstacles. If there are any specific questions you have that you would like to see covered in future articles, feel free to comment.