Tekken 7’s Heihachi and Kazuya
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Everything you need to know to get started in Tekken 7

Tekken 7 continues to increase in popularity everyday for both players and viewers. Here’s everything you need to know to jump right in.
Written by Ilyas Mohamed
12 min readPublished on
Tekken is known far and wide as a hard game to get into, with an even harder to reach skill ceiling. Watching Tekken has always gotten spectators hyped, from the subtle movements to the sheer brilliance of decision making. The magic of Tekken is that you don't have to (fully) understand Tekken to have a great time watching Lil Majin go to work at Evo. With Tekken Season 4 out, you may be new and trying to understand Tekken whether it be as a player or spectator. Here is everything you need to get started.

The basics

To get started, we have to first figure out what is on the screen, and Tekken's Interface is simple to understand. At its basic level, you have two fighters with a life bar indicating their health, and a clock timer that winds down, giving limited time to win. As a spectator, this is the biggest indicator to who is winning the match and what is going on. After 3 rounds, someone has (more than likely) won the match. But what are the commentators saying? Down Forward 2? Hopkicks?
Tekken has a unique button notation that is used to give a universal understanding for players, regardless of platform or controller type. Tekken uses letters for directions and numbers for buttons, while anime fighters do the opposite (number directions, letters for buttons).
All fighting games have a notation their community tends to use, since the games are played on a wide variety of controllers -- pad (PS4 DualShock), Stick (Arcade Stick for those more comfortable with arcade layouts), and recently Hitbox/Keyboard (special controllers meant to emulate arcade sticks with more precision). These aren't the only ones you will come across as everyone has their own preference, but the universal notation is meant for everyone to understand the same combos/terminology.
Tekkens basic layout consists of left punch (1), right punch (2), Left Kick (3), Right Kick (4). Moves can require a combination of these buttons (1+2) or direction attached (down forward 2). Universal throws are done by pressing 1+3 or 3+4, but there are command throws that use other inputs as well.
Characters have a versatile range of attacks, but those shared mechanics all have nicknames for quick understanding. For example, up forward 4 (UF4) is generally known as a hop-kick, since most characters can get a launch to start their juggle combos off this.
Each attack has a property of High, Mid, or Low based on where it hits your opponent. Understanding each move's property/speed allows you to formulate a game plan and attack holes in your opponents defense. The reason this is a big is because unlike traditional fighters than allows you to block lows and mids at the same time - Tekken allows you to block (holding back) Mids and Highs at the same time, While crouching (holding down-back) will only let you evade Highs and block low. You may also crouch to evade notable highs such as grabs!
The single biggest attractor, and what separates Tekken from other games, is the freedom in movement. Unlike other mainstream fighting games, Tekken has a 3D environment that puts the focus on evading your opponent. You can move forward and back, along with sidestepping left or right. Movement is a heavy focus in Tekken, because of defense being so reactive. Now that you know the basics, let's move onto….

Tekken combat

You’ve just booted up the game, and now you're getting pressured beyond reason. You want to be able to move as swiftly as the pro's you've seen and play some respectful neutral. Until you prove you can handle that, forget about it. The biggest issue new players have are strings - a series of attacks that come out one after the other. New players tend to get really focused on this and, at the start, the best thing to do is just block them to the best of your ability.
Strings usually have some variety towards their last move (last move might be a high 4, but in another variation a low 3) but, the biggest thing to note, is that they are not true combos and probably punishable! Identifying when your opponent likes to press these strings is a key part of playing Tekken, but can also be overwhelming due to the sheer volume of moves per character in Tekken. Know your punishes. It’s what you should focus on before hitting combos.
Tekken's move list is the most intimidating thing a new player can face (we’ve all been there). With over 100 moves per character, and some of them being extremely situational, how will you remember to use them all? The biggest thing to take in as you begin to learn Tekken is: having knowledge of those moves is great, but each character has a specific set of GREAT BUTTONS you will use more often.
These comprise a list of 10 or so moves per character that players will consistently use during a match simply based on their speed, damage, and how safe (unpunishable) they are. The ultimate goal for combat is to frustrate your opponent with these safe moves and help them make mistakes so you can get into the real combo system of Tekken: Juggling.
Popping up your opponent in Tekken can be devastating and, at a higher level, it's always hype to see pro's who play so conservatively score a counter hit and see the pop. The initial pop up is your "combo starter", and Tekken has an interesting system where you can keep the opponent in the air with various moves, followed by a "screw attack".
Screw attacks are moves that cause an airborne opponent to land on their backs and allow players to extend juggle combos - but can only be performed once per combo. Sometimes you may even start your combo with a screw attack! Your combos can be optimized for damage, corner carry, or for better setplay scenarios, depending on how disrespectful you're feeling that day.
The next thing to cover would be the Rage mechanic. When a character's health is low, they will have a red aura around them and their health bar. This is Tekken's comeback factor, which hasn't been seen in any other games in the series. You can use Rage for two things: Rage Art, or Rage Drive. Rage Arts are a big hit, super move that has armor on its start up.
These are usually used at the end of combos or as the number 1 fighting game gimmick - the wake up super (supers usually have invincible start-up frames in many games, so players tend to use it as a last ditch effort to turn the tables on relentless opponents).
Rage arts are great to steal rounds (if you have the read) and do more damage the lower your health is. These moves are usually very punishable however, so use them sparingly. Rage Drive is a bit different, actually giving a different, less risky move than Rage Art.
Generally you are safe, even on block, after this because of positioning. Rage Drives can be used in a variety of ways -- to close the distance between your opponent, as a combo starter and big hit if done raw, and are generally great to use mid-combo for a combo extension (since it unscales the next hit).
In Tekken, it's important to understand your moves altogether - but how are you going to land them?

Movement

At lower levels of play, you might not see any movement at all besides the regular stuff on the 2D plane, and maybe the occasional sidestep move that the character possesses. Movement in Tekken is where most people have fallen in love with the game, though. It might have something to do with the fact that you aren't blocking (which every FG player loves to do) but you are still not getting hit. Evading just looks cool, no two ways about it.
When you evade your opponents moves, it shows that you have an understanding of their moves and how to counter them. If you were to start Tekken today, and faced someone who knows what they are doing, you would have a hard time just aiming to hit them. Once you start getting better as a player, movement flows into everything - from your attacks to baiting to natural spacing.The feeling of getting in your opponents head and making them mess-up just from movement alone is completely unrivaled.
How do you acquire this godlike movement? Well, as Anakin states in the video above, do not overwhelm yourself with all the movement options if you are just starting out. The four you should focus on at the start which you will see used together are: Back Dash, Forward Dash, Side Steps, and Side Walking. Back dashing (done by tapping back twice) allows you to move out of position to let your opponent whiff, and just create better spacing.
Forward dashing (done by tapping Forward Twice) is a great way to follow up and pressure opponents, or to bait your opponent into pressing a button. Side stepping/Sidewalking is a great way to avoid linear attacks and can be used as an evasive up close and at range. The best way to start using side steps (if they feel unnatural at first) is to think of them as backing away from your opponent.
When players get pressured, they tend to move back until they hit the corner. If you are constantly getting chased and feel you cannot backdash to create space, feel free to move into the background or foreground as they are spaces your opponent isn't really facing. This is the extra space you can use to create distance/evade.
Sidestepping is a foreign concept to most players who didn’t come up on 3D but, once you understand which direction to sidestep versus most characters, it allows for a whole new dimension of movement. Side Walking is the enhanced version of this - to avoid big moves or to reposition yourself to a better point in the stage.
Combining movement with attacks or blocking is very rewarding and can be quite tough to start out. It is the hardest thing to get used to as you play Tekken due to the margin of error in things that could happen, but it is also the reason why Tekken has such a high skill ceiling. Perfecting movement can place you on a level above your opponents - so do not forget to take notice of players movements when playing or spectating.

Tekken terminology

Whether you are looking to get into Tekken or just want to understand what it is the commentators are saying, there are a few terms you will have to get used to as you hear them frequently. We have covered Hop Kicks and Screw Attacks, but there is much more to learn before you get into it. These include Power Crush, Snake Edge, and Tech Rolls.
Power Crush is a move that all characters have that armor through High and Mids. You will know how it looks because your character (or opponent) will have a white glow around them. It can be used to reset pressure and check your opponent for the constant pressure they are dealing out. It can be cancelled out by throws and lows - but the most devastating, and newbie killing move of all, is a Snake Edge. Snake edge is a move specific to a character named Bryan in Tekken 7 but, really, the term is used for a sweeping low that gives combo on hit.
This should not be confused with Hell Sweeps, which come from command dashes and aren’t blockable on reaction due to the mixup threat from the command dash. Hell sweeps also do not lead to full combos, but can get a mix-up vortex going since they result in a knockdown. While a snake edge is reactable, most players get hit by it because they aren't aware of the startup animation or aren't comfortable blocking low. These moves are launch punishable if blocked.
In Tekken, if a player is knocked down, they don't have a specific time to get up like other games. They have access to ground techs (the ability to choose how you will get up after a knockdown by pressing a face button) and some are more useful than others. While on the ground, you can do a backroll, where you create distance between you and the opponent.
The second one is the most common tech you will see: the side tech roll, where you roll to the side to get away from your opponents linear rush. You can also kick (3 being a low, or 4 being a mid) to fish for a counter hit against your opponent. Sometimes, the best option is to do nothing and watch if your opponent is trying to read your wake up options. Each tech roll is seen as a way a player understands the situation they are in - so try each one out and get comfortable with them.

Final thoughts

Like most fighting games, Tekken has no end game. There’s no “finishing” it. You can learn something new everyday no matter where you are, skill wise. Tekken is great to watch and witness that high level movement/poke game that players engage in.
With the increase in popularity, as well as the celebrated release of Season 4, now is a better time than ever to keep up with, or join, the scene. There is a great community that will teach you everything from basics to advanced techniques, and some of the greatest people you will ever meet can be found in the fighting game community.
Tekken is satisfying. Your knowledge shows and you can see your game level up the more practice you put in while learning to understand higher concepts. The most important thing, regardless of any game, is to have fun and enjoy it, so take a chance with Tekken 7 or read up on the game so you can follow the competition closely!