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.

Kazuya Mishima in Smash Ultimate: I Sensed This Coming

I’ve been going a little hog wild with the Smash Bros. DLC posts lately, devoting entries to Goro, Kerrigan, and Nightmare just in the past couple weeks. But one thing I’ve felt for a while is that Smash was lacking a representative for 3D fighting games. It’s why I tried to come up with a moveset for Akira Yuki from Virtua Fighter before he was revealed as an Assist Trophy in Ultimate. Now, we have our answer: Kazuya Mishima from Tekken.

While I never made any formal blog posts about it, I did entertain the notion in my Min Min analysis. I also made a couple of tweets last year arguing in favor of Kazuya:

Over time, what I’ve wanted to see out of Smash more than even my dream character picks (NiGHTS is the only one remaining, really) is to have it reflect a greater breadth of gaming: genres like the beat ‘em up and the RTS, and even influential consoles like the Atari 2600 and the Commodore 64. This includes 3D fighters. While 2D and 3D fighting games look similar from a distance, they’re actually two very different gameplay experiences. I’m glad for the inclusion of Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter and Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury, but I found it odd that one side of the fighting game genre was so lopsided in Smash

I know very little about Tekken other than having a general sense of how the game plays at a casual level, as well as familiarity with most of the characters through pop culture osmosis. From what I’ve seen of people’s initial reactions, Kazuya in Smash comes across as somehow having been transplanted straight from his source games into this new environment. We don’t have any detailed gameplay explanations to reference (the Kazuya showcase will air on the 28th of June), but if it was challenging enough to convert Tekken characters into 2D for Street Fighter x Tekken, I wonder how Sakurai and his team have made Kazuya work. It feels harder to translate Tekken moves to Smash compared to Street Fighter or Fatal Fury/King of Fighters.

Speaking of adapting fighting game characters to Smash, I realized a huge distinction between them and most of the roster: A lot of characters come from singleplayer games where the goal is for them to be relatively simple to use, and Smash movesets are designed relative to that. Not so with Kazuya and pals. In fact, Kazuya and the other Mishimas are generally considered among the hardest characters to master in Tekken. I think it’s why they can be so polarizing when in this crossover context.

Incidentally, the Kazuya trailer begins with Kazuya tossing Ganondorf off a cliff. Kazuya has a move called the Demon God Fist, or Majinken. Ganondorf’s neutral special, Warlock Punch, is actually also called Majinken in Japanese, albeit with a slight kanji difference. In other words, it was a battle of Demon Fists, and Kazuya won.

Welcome to Kazuya, and remember: the most important thing to come out of this is that the Banjo & Kazuya Mishima gag is real now.

Gotta Defeat M. Bison By Christmas

Ever since the Clannad side stories, there has been a small trend in dating sim and visual novel anime where, rather than trying to incorporate all of the vital elements from all of the characters into a single on-going story, adaptations would instead create smaller, alternate-path arcs. In this new model, as shown by last season’s Amagami SS and Yosuga no Sora, every few episodes would be devoted to one girl, and once her story was over, the next episode would act as if that story never existed, instead focusing on the idea of “what if the hero ended up with this girl instead?”

I’m not entirely supportive of this style of storytelling and I worry about its misuse to some extent and the way it can potentially trivialize not just the girls but the male protagonist himself, but the format has merit. In fact, I think it could be of great benefit to a genre of anime that had its heyday in the 90s but is almost non-existent today. I speak of the fighting game adaptation.

Now if you haven’t much experience with fighting game anime, it’s safe to summarize the genre by saying that most of it is very bad, to be somewhat kind. As to why the general quality of fighting game anime is so poor, the reasons are many, including budget, but much of it stems from the sheer numbers of characters that populated the source video games even as far back as Street Fighter II and its 12 warriors. Consider that fighting games have a large number of selectable characters, and that the player picks one and plays through the entire game with them. In time, every character gets their own fanbase. So if you’re making a fighting game anime you most likely want to appeal to the fans, and thus your adaptation has to include all of the characters. 12 is a lot, let alone the 16 when the actual Street Fighter II animated movie came out or the 30+ of the newest games, and inevitably what happens is that the characters don’t all get the same amount of love. Zangief fights Blanka in a ring just because. Lawrence Blood is made into a servant of Wolfgang Krauser just to fit him in.

Generally speaking, that’s fine. Characters should have different levels of focus in a story, that’s the difference between a main character and a side character after all. But while fighting games have official protagonists, your Ryus and Akira Yukis and Terry Bogards, in the context of being a video game the “main character” is whoever the player chose. So with fighting game anime having trouble with allotting enough time and attention to all of the characters, characters who are each important to someone out there, it begins to resemble the dilemma that dating sims, which are themselves video games where a variety of characters are “absolutely important” in their own paths.

That brings me to the big question. What if fighting games took a note from Amagami? What if, instead of trying to cram every character into one story, each episode or OVA was just, “what if this character won the tournament?” Each individual fighter can get their moment in the spotlight that they so rightfully deserve? Most likely this wouldn’t solve the budget issue, but it would showcase the characters in their proper glory.

Once an anime is made this way, call me. I have some very good ideas for the English voice cast.

Well My Parents Don’t Drive Awesome Flying Cars

For the most part, video games have advanced in a positive direction in terms of artistic progression. Though I don’t agree entirely on how our newfangled advanced realistic graphics are being used or certain trends in storytelling or interaction, I can say that we’re doing okay. At the same time though, I’ve come to realize that when video games look this good and have fully elaborated stories and such, it often leaves less room for creative, off-the-wall adaptations in fiction.

At this point with games looking and feeling closer to the realm of film and animation and other storytelling mediums with characters having concrete personalities, there  are fewer opportunities to make great leaps in interpretation. Yes, I understand that products like the Super Mario Bros. movie are exactly the kinds of disaster that comes from being too “loose” an interpretations, but I believe there is a definite charm.

This applies not just to storytelling but also visuals as well. Although the Tekken OVA of the 90s was awful, could you imagine a Tekken anime today, given the fact that it would be 2-D interpretations of such detailed 3-D characters? Good looking or not, you could see the move from blocky polygons anime designs to make some sort of sense.

Basically, I’d like to still be in a world where a racing game with a normal setting could be interpreted as a futuristic setting with talking computers inside my motor vehicles.

Is that too much to ask, I wonder?