Tekken Arcade Cabinet

Tekken Cabinet gimpIn 1994 it had become a “kit” driven market in America. But Tekken was given its own dedicated cabinet due to it’s anticipated popularity and earning power. The design featured a large 24” monitor, oversized control panel for plenty of elbow room and splashy cabinet graphics. We used larger than life heads of game characters.

A move list card listed the core moves for each default character (missing from the photo on left…hmmm). We wanted to encourage players to practice, learn and experiment as much as possible.

More than Just a Good Start

The first arcade Tekken was successful for Namco but would be even more so in the long run. Company revenues doubled for three consecutive years and unit sales volume grew eightfold over four years. Company revenues eclipsed even the Pac-Man boom years. Tekken inspired the creation of yet another Namco fighter, Soul Edge. December 2014 marks the 20-year anniversary of Tekken’s arcade introduction.

So confident once the first Tekken shipped, work started on the list of what couldn’t get into the original. I started working on strategies that would build it into the brand. We added visual personality to the characters (e.g. Marshall Law’s head bobbing and footwork), dove deeper into the story (Mishima family twists and turns) and the main characters life away from the Iron Fist tournament (characters ending movies). The designers and engineers took the fighting engine even further with a sophisticated blocking scheme, added more moves, deep and varied combos, improved graphics and advanced the 3D nature of the game.

I departed from Namco after Tekken 3. Selfishly speaking, I feel many of the games greatest achievements occurred during my time. Many regard it as the best fighting game franchise ever. I still marvel at the talented engineers, designers, and artists that were at Namco Ltd. in Japan. Tours of R&D’s games in development were always a treat. Game music is often unrecognized or under-appreciated. To this day, Tekken 2 and 3 soundtracks are amongst my listening favorites.

In looking back, I’m amazed how a report over twenty years ago helped define Tekken. As a product manager, I’ve written plenty of other such reports, before and after this one. Similar in purpose, but this one had the most impact.

It was a rare opportunity to contribute in such degree from across the ocean. I’m grateful and better to have been a part of it.

More on Tekken…

If you’re interested in reading more about Tekken’s development, I recommend “On 20 Years of Tekken…“, an interview with Katsuhiro Harada, and “The Making of Tekken” by Retro Gamer.

The following is a YouTube video titled “Why do you play Tekken?” from tekkenchannel. It’s about 13-year-old Alexander “AK” Laverez, a young yet passionate master of Tekken from the Philippines.

 

Tekken 7 Update

The “real launch” of Tekken 7 is set for March 18th, as reported by avoidingthepuddle. A “soft launch” without network functionality is scheduled for February 18th, per shoryuken.com.

For more information, visit the Bandai Namco official Tekken 20th Anniversary web site.

Thanks for reading!

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7 Responses to Tekken History: The Making of Tekken

  1. Stephanie says:

    How fabulous to be integral to this successful venture with your vision. I enjoyed this story. Great product manager!

  2. Geoff Glendenning says:

    Hi Jerry, great article!!! I loved Tekken at the arcade and launched it on PS1 when I was at Sony EMEA.

    Here’s the commercial we did back in 1996:)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apfJTKrHy10

    When Soul Edge, although I know it as Soul Blade, was released, I thought it was, and still is arguably the best fighting game. Not simply because it had the 3D freedom of the arena (Battle Arena Toshinden, which was an early PS1 release had this), but it was more that with practice you could actually block your opponents moves, not by accident, but because of the brilliant design and control.

    I believe that this genre is ready for a new lease of life!?

    Cheers. Geoff

    • Jerry Momoda says:

      Awesome commercial Geoff! That Yoshimitsu is one bad man! Nice technical work on Yoshimitsu’s sit spins.

      I’m partial to Tekken as #1, but you can understand why. Tekken definitely is ready for a “new lease on life” as you say. Been waiting for some true innovation in the category. Soul Calibur may have missed the boat by not capitalizing on “Game of Thrones”, but that was (and still could be) a window of opportunity.

  3. tekke_n_ostalgia says:

    Great read. In a bout of nostalgia I started to play Tekken 1 again and found it very enjoyable to play the characters with the moves that defined them then and now in many ways, and reading this and the recommended articles made me appreciate Tekken even more.

    Reading the text I noticed that you gave Marshall Law his name, do you maybe remember why that name in particular?

    • Jerry Momoda says:

      Thanks for reading! If memory serves me right, Marshall Law was originally named Forest. At the time, who knew there would be sequels? I suggested the name Marshall Law because it was a play on the term “martial law”. Quoting Wikipedia, “martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civilian functions of government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or major disaster, or in an occupied territory”. I also thought of both U.S. Marshall (law enforcement agency), and a town marshall, the keeper of the peace in western movies. Familiar with the name Marshall used as both a first and last name, I thought it was perfect. And fortunately, Mr. Nakatani (producer) approved it.

      Mr. Ishii designed an absolute masterpiece. At the outset of joining Namco in 1993, I saw potential for a fighting game to compete with Mortal Kombat and Virtua Fighter. As I read the initial design document, and the four-button arms/feet concept, I thought it was brilliant. But if not for the System 11 3D hardware (less expensive version of System 12 and a precursor to PS1), I question if Tekken would have been as successful.

      Thank you for your appreciation of the game.

      • tekke_n_ostalgia says:

        Thank you for taking the time to respond!

        Law’s name always did remind me of Matrial Arts, and the word Law as “the one who rules”, or as “the one who is the best”, so “best martial art/artist”.

        Also, thank you for sharing this, yet another important gem in the lore.

        And their ability to also port it to PS1 hardware and fit all that onto a CD is amazing. So many stars had to be aligned and many people open minded for that to succeed, it boggles the mind.

        For me it was indeed the mix of unique characters that made me notice the game, and the controls that made me stick to the game.

        I remember recording VHS tapes of endings, and grabs as a compilation just to make the wait until next renting of PS1.

        To see Tekken grow into such a powerful title and to grow along side it as well is an honor.

        And I can’t even begin to imagine how awesome it feels to be there contributing, suggesting and deciding at the most crucial of the times for Tekken, well done sir! 🙂

        • Jerry Momoda says:

          Thanks for your comments and appreciation of Tekken. I’ll expand a bit more for you on the early development. Shortly after returning from Japan where I pitched the game concept, I received a key VHS tape. It contained a test, showing a rotating blocky human torso. Crude and not a game whatsoever, it affirmed that my presentation had an impact on management. Engineering commenced work on a project that would one day would become Tekken. Mind you, Namco wasn’t the first to the 3D game party. Sega had already released Virtua Racer and Virtua Fighter. Until Tekken, Namco’s 3D efforts were all in the high-end driving game genre. For a fighting game to sell in North America, it had to be sold in a standard upright cabinet. Better yet, it needed to be kit-able to reuse older game cabinets. Bottom line, price competitive so that it could be sold as a PCB with artwork. Namco delivered, and a battle for 3D gaming superiority would ensue.

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