Katsuhiro Harada explains Tekken 8’s new ‘casual’ control scheme

We got a chance to try out Tekken 8 along with its new Special Style that, according to its developers, is designed for casual play.

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Recently, we got a chance to try out Tekken 8 along with its new Special Style control scheme that, according to its developers, is designed for casual play and more accessibility to both newbies and veterans. And during our preview, we also got a chance to ask Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada about this new control scheme.

It’s fair to say that Tekken and other fighting games are difficult to get into especially as the barrier of entry is incredibly high. What this Special Style aims to do is to lower that barrier so that new players can get started more easily.

Essentially, this Special Style is a combination and evolution of Tekken 7’s “Easy Combo” and “Assist” features. How it works is that you can activate Special Style at any point during a match by pressing a button (L1 in the DualSense controller’s case), and it changes the face button commands to a recommended move and combo for each character. By pressing L1 again, you can instantly go back to the standard controls.

With this, by just pressing Square, you can pull off a powerful specialty move of one character without having to learn the required inputs for the standard control scheme. Pressing Triangle consecutively will also let you do air combos easily. As we’ve shared in our hands-on, this system works well to give newbies access to moves instantly, making it a promising way of lowering that barrier of entry.

Of course, having a system such as this can seem like it’ll be a crutch. Though that probably won’t be the case as Harada explained:

Say you just told us that you started as a beginner with the Special Style, and that’s all you ever use. It [becoming a crutch] might be true to some extent, I mean, you’ll be very strong at first because all the good moves are selected. But it’s also kind of inevitable that once you see different tournaments or different people playing, you’re going to get bored doing the same thing over and over. You’re likely going to want to add just one more move or one more combo which will then prompt you to go into the more traditional moves set and actually learn a little bit more [about the characters’ moves].

While the Special Style lets even new players instantly pull off cool and powerful moves, we can attest that it does feel limiting. After all, the Special Style palette limits you to only a couple of moves that can’t be modified or changed. This means there’s an incentive to learn the rest of a character’s moves, especially if you go up against a stronger opponent. Though even if you’re against a fellow newbie, the limiting nature of the Special Style will likely mean you’ll get an itch to learn more moves which you can only pull off with the normal control scheme.

In Harada and Murray’s presentation, they mentioned how the Special Style is designed for Tekken 8 casual play and to help new players out. But this new feature isn’t just for newbies as it’s also made for even veteran players as it helps make learning and playing new characters easier.

Harada explains how veteran players can take advantage of this new control style:

It’s true that it’s designed for newcomers to the series to make it more accessible. But it’s not just for them. It’s for intermediate or advanced players as well. Even experienced players, while they know their character, they might not be an expert in another.

[The Special Style] cuts out the work that’s necessary to try other characters because you don’t have to do all that prep. [All their big movies] are already set to that palette, and you can try out different things, you can learn different combos, and kind of get a feel for the character when you otherwise couldn’t.

It’s interesting that a system such as this was made for both newcomers and long-time series players. After all, many hardcore fans of certain game series or genres tend to decry casual-friendly additions to new titles.

Though the Special Style’s implementation does make sense. After all, the sheer number of moves and combos to learn is a thing that both newcomers and veterans face. For newbies, it’s one of the many aspects of fighting games that make them difficult to get into, and removing that does make the game easier to start with. Meanwhile, veterans can still run into this issue if they want to try out new characters, especially as Tekken has such a large and varied roster.

In developing the Special Style and explaining the thought process behind adding it to the game, Harada said:

We have this image of a staircase of how you improve and progress your skill in a game. With fighting games, that first step is just so huge, whereas in another game like a shooter, they have things to help beginners like aim assist which helps a lot. Though you might fall into the trap of just having it on all the time at first, and you might want to get better by learning more of the game and learning to play with it turned that off.

But again, the first step in a shooter isn’t as huge as the first and second steps in a fighting game because of the controls. Each character’s controls [in a fighting game] are drastically different.

We’re trying to make it easier for people to overcome that first step with this control scheme. But we just wanted to highlight that it’s not just for new payers but it’s also for more advanced and immediate players who want to try out other characters outside of their mains.

With the introduction of this new “casual” control style coupled with the interesting new Heat system, Tekken 8 is promising to shake up the series in more ways than one. And from the looks of it, the game might just become the most accessible entry to the series yet.

Tekken 8 will be released on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC soon. Though there’s currently no word yet on a release date or window for the game.