Tekken Wasn’t Supposed to Be a Fighting Game, But 25 Years Later It Stands Tall

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Tekken, by some accounts, came together almost accidentally. The fighting series has lived on to become a pillar of the fighting game scene, home to both tactical warriors and button-mashing pugilists the world over, but it didn’t start life as a game. It was supposed to be a tech test.

In an interview with Edge Magazine in 2013, Katsuhiro Harada—the series’ producer and the public face of Tekken’s dev team—revealed that Tekken didn’t start life as a fighting game.

“Tekken wasn’t designed as a fighting game initially,” Harada told Edge. “They more wanted to develop a test case for using 3D models. This was a vehicle to try out animation.”

“Our entire focus was on pushing the technological boundaries.” – Katsuhiro Harada, Bandai Namco Entertainment

But soon, it became a vehicle for Namco to compete with rival Sega and its premier 3D fighting game series, Virtua Fighter. While the sequel to Virtua Fighter was being developed for Sega’s more powerful Model 2 board, Sony and Namco collaborated on the System 11 arcade hardware. It would theoretically pack less punch, but also be less expensive. Tekken would be the debut, showing off what the team could do.

As developer Masanori Yamada told Polygon, Namco’s interest in creating a 3D fighter lined up almost perfectly with Sony’s PlayStation plans. Much of the project came together at the last minute. Yamada recalled cramming before a convention in 1994 to get an early demo working, and a time when the team had to drive a master down to the factory, so they all piled into one car and drove at twilight hours to deliver Tekken to the production line.

“Maybe I’m not supposed to say this, but we had one passenger too many, who we had to put in the trunk as we were heading to Hamamatsu,” Yamada told Polygon.

And yet, Tekken became one of Sony’s major forces on the fighting game front. Its third iteration would be included on the PlayStation Classic, and the more-recent Tekken 7 has become a hallmark for the series. I guess you could say the tech test was a success.

Lead image from promotional Tekken poster via Reddit.

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