The early nineteen eighties were considered the Golden Age of arcade video games and the Japanese company Namco was regarded as the front-runner in the industry with its growing number of successful arcade games that would prove to be timeless classics. But the beginning of the 1990s the popular arcade genre has shifted over to the fighting games, which were now seen as the next big phenomenon with the release of Street Fighter 2 in 1991.
Many other companies began to develop their fighting games to compete with this new juggernaut in the industry including Namco. The first developed and released weapon and the fighting game was called Knuckle Heads that was directed by Masamichi Ave. The game wasn’t a success, so the Namco company started working on a new and more ambitious approach to this type of games. At the time, there was the growing consensus within Namco that true to life animation was going to become a huge aspect of video game graphics going forward. Namco began conducting a lot of research and development into a polygon based graphics.
Hajime Nahatani, a longtime employee at Namco, was placed in charge as the producer for the game. When it came to control schemes for fighting games, most of them at the time normally had buttons that were based on different levels of strength.
For this game, there would be a four-button control scheme, each one designated to the limbs of the characters on screen. This way the player could execute some punch and kick combos quickly and more intuitively.
When designing the universe around the game, the developers wanted to have the feeling of realism, but within the bounds of a video game. So while the character design appeared true to life, the overall feel of the game would have an element of fantasy that allowed for a wide range of expressions, normally reserved for movies.
In 1994, Namco manufactured an arcade system board called Namco System 11 whose hardware was based on the Sony Playstation with a new fighting game named Tekken, which translates to iron fist and it was released in arcades by late 1994 in Japan and worldwide the following year.
The story of the Tekken game revolved around a worldwide Martial Arts Tournament that is sponsored by the giant financial group known as the Mishima Zaibatsu. The fighter who could defeat the leader of the conglomerate Heihachi Mishima would granted a cash prize of one billion dollars and the title King of the Iron Fist.
Players were able to choose between eight different playable characters who would battle against other fighters in several stages based on actual locations around the world. There was the ninja Yoshimitsu, the silent assassin Nina Williams, the aspiring Martial Artist Marshall Law, the hot-blooded American judo expert, Paul Phoenix, the military cyborg Jack, the masked wrestler King, the wondering fighter Michelle Chang and Kazuya Mishima, the cold blooded son of Heihachi Mishima. Each character would face their unique sub bass before the final stage of the game.
The sub-bosses were clones of the original eight characters regarding move sets with a few of their exclusive attacks. There was the sumo wrestler, Nina Williams younger sister Anna, the aged martial artist, Heihachi adoptive son, Heihachi bodyguard Kuma, a cyborg prototype Jack, a masked wrestler Armor King.
When Tekken series were released in arcades, it was well received by players and critics who saw it as a good start for potential new series of fighting games. However, it was viewed as an attempt to imitate Sega’s virtual fighter since it featured many similarities regarding its aesthetics and mechanics.
When Tekken was ported to the console in 1995, the game received some bonuses featured not found in the arcade version. These features included the ability to play as the sub-bosses including final boss Heihachi Mishima, original full-motion video cutscenes, and version of an arcade game Gallagher which if completed would unlock a devil version of Kazuya Mishima. It was considered a successful emulation of the arcade game. Tekken would become the first PlayStation game to sell over one million units.
Tekken 2 was released in Japanese arcades in 1995. Kazuya Mishima is now the owner of Mishima Zaibatsu after having won the tournament. However, despite his supposed death at the hands of his son, Heihachi Mishima returns and seeks to reclaim his title from his son. Tekken 2 had given some new attacks for the characters and new abilities such as reversals, back throws and tackles that were modified to inflict more damage based on the players running distance.
Tekken 2 was the number 1 arcade game in America for 24 weeks.