Playing Tekken and Preventing Tekken: Thoughts on Kazuya Matchups in Smash Ultimate

Kazuya Mishima has been released as Smash Ultimate DLC, and the general consensus (whether you like his inclusion or not) is that Kazuya plays like he was pulled straight from Tekken. But more than just the superficial replication of his moves and the characteristic look of Tekken combos, what I’m coming to understand is that even the fighting game series’s simultaneous rock-paper-scissors scenarios (a hallmark of 3D fighters) is approximated through the Smash engine. Along with the fact that his moveset successfully makes him a vicious defensive monster, this makes it so that in order to fight Kazuya, you have to ask the following: How good is your character “playing” and “preventing” Tekken?”

In the Kazuya gameplay introduction video by Sakurai (above), he explains that Tekken is a game of spacing involving “highs,” “mids,” and “lows.” Spacing (maai in Japanese) is about trying to move into your favorable range while avoiding your opponent’s. High attacks are generally quick but can be both blocked high and avoided entirely by crouching. Mid attacks are often powerful combo starters but are on the slower side—they can be blocked high but not low. Low attacks must be blocked low but can be avoided by jumping.

In the context of Smash Ultimate, spacing is present but the platformer style of gameplay makes it inherently different. As for the high/mid/low system, it simply doesn’t exist. A shield is a shield, and you don’t block “high” or “low.” However, when you look at Kazuya’s attacks, the corresponding mix of hitboxes, intangibility, and armor frames (on top of Kazuya’s passive armor against weak attacks) result in attacks that ostensibly can be blocked or prevented in ways that vaguely resemble Tekken. How you angle your shield, whether you can crouch or hop over certain attacks, and other factors come into consideration when you have to fight Kazuya up close.

This is why I’ve begun to think of a character’s “comfort level” when fighting Kazuya. It’s less a matter of how good or bad their matchup is against him and more about how much fighting him can feel awkward because of his particular traits. Specifically, it’s about gauging both the ability to scrap with him if necessary and  to avoid that situation as much as possible. I’m not a Kazuya or Tekken expert by any means, but here are some examples of what I think in regards to certain characters’ “Tekken” and “anti-Tekken” capacities:

Kazuya is inevitably a 10/10 when it comes to playing Tekken, but a -1/10 when it comes to preventing Tekken. The former is obvious, while the latter has to do with the fact that he has some tools to keep the fight out of Tekken range, but they’re limited in use and he doesn’t really want to stay away anyway.

Kirby can go toe-to-toe with Kazuya surprisingly well given his solid up-close frame data and his crouch, which allows him to actually duck under Electric Wind God Fist. In terms of playing Tekken, he does okay—probably a 6/10. At the same time, Kirby is fairly slow and stubby-limbed, so Kirby is kind of forced to confront Kazuya directly—which means he’s probably a 2/10 at preventing Tekken.

Mewtwo has mobility and tricky attacks (like Shadow Ball and Disable) to keep Kazuya at bay, as well as a vicious edgeguarding game, meaning its ability to prevent Tekken is quite high—like a 7/10 or 8/10. But once Kazuya is in, Mewtwo’s relatively lackluster up-close frame data, along with his huge body means Mewtwo can become a giant punching bag if it gets complacent: 5/10 at best (and probably worse).

The other FGC characters—Ryu, Ken, and Terry—do not come from 3D fighting games, but their auto-turnaround and their ability to play footsies up-close means that they have special properties that make fighting Kazuya a profoundly different experience compared to if other characters take him on. I would probably give all of them high values for playing Tekken (at least 8/10) while not playing it varies between each of those characters’ due to their unique strengths and weaknesses.

So where do you think your Smash character falls on the Kazuya scales? If you have thoughts, feel free to leave a comment.

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