Tekken 7 is set to debut at the Super Nova Fukushima Japanese arcade in just a few short weeks, with a full Japanese arcade release set for late March. Fans of the series have seen it played on multiple occasions thanks to an arcade location test last year, and a pre-release tournament on the popular Korean show, Tekken Crash.

With Tekken 7 included in the Evolution Fighting Game Championships in July, a lot of eyes are looking at the latest installment in the series. Many Tekken fans have complained that Tekken 7 looks like Tekken 6 with higher resolution visuals. On the surface that's certainly the case (although series producer Katsuhiro Harada claims the game only runs at 50 percent graphical prowess), but there's a lot more going on here that separates Tekken 7 from Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Tekken has always debuted in arcades before hitting home consoles. In most cases, there was a long wait between the arcade release and the eventual console port. Tekken 7 will likely be no different, but one thing the new game brings back is time-release characters. The early Tekken games would hit arcades with a barebones roster that would expand with one character releasing every week or so. That tradition ended with the release of Tekken 6 (having all characters available from the start), but it's coming back with Tekken 7.



At the moment, Tekken 7 has a small roster of only 20 confirmed characters. That's a stark contrast from the nearly 60 characters in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and over 40 characters from Tekken 6. In fact, it brings most Tekken fans back to the days of Tekken 4. When Tekken 4 hit arcades there were only 10 characters to choose from, with another 9 characters released over time. Most notably missing from the Tekken 7 roster are Jin Kazama, Nina Williams, Anna Williams and Yoshimitsu. The lack of these series staples could mean that Namco is holding back for the time-release characters, an update to the arcade version (similar to Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Unlimited) or the home port.

In addition to the changes in the roster number and staple characters, Tekken 7 introduces several gameplay mechanics that have been specifically designed to bring in new players. Namco released Tekken Revolution in 2013 as a free-to-play game for the PlayStation 3. That was the first step toward bringing new players into the Tekken community. It's no secret that Namco believes the fighting game market is saturated (which is one reason why Tekken x Street Fighter has yet to be released), so the fact that the company is actively trying to bring new players into the fold is clear with Tekken 7.

Think of it like Street Fighter. Capcom went from Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike to Street Fighter 4. Most would agree that 3rd Strike is the deepest, most intricate Street Fighter game to date, while Street Fighter 4 is a much easier game that caters to newcomers. The difference in sales is astounding, with Street Fighter 4 (all versions) selling roughly eight million copies (second only to Street Fighter 2), and Street Fighter 3 selling less than one million copies.

It's clear that making fighting games more accessible to newcomers generates more sales, and that's exactly what Namco has in store for Tekken 7. The new mechanics in the game are specifically designed to make the game easier for new players. Rage Arts and Power Crush add to the existing Rage system to give new players a way to absorb attacks and make a comeback. In addition, the Bound system has been removed in favor of a more traditional combo system, so newcomers have an easier time hitting combos and scoring high damage.

All of this adds up to a game that is different from Tekken 6 on multiple levels. The art style remains the same, which is why the two games look similar visually, but a lot changed under the hood to make Tekken 7 one of the most accessible Tekken games ever (behind Tekken Revolution) and hopefully bring game sales to new heights.

We'll have more on Tekken 7 as the arcade and home releases draw closer.