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Tekken 7's first new character might be an Arab fighter, depending on reaction

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One of the new fighters coming in Tekken 7, the Unreal Engine 4-powered fighting game from Bandai Namco, might be an Arab fighter, game director Katsuhiro Harada announced on Facebook today. His inclusion in the game depends, however, on the reaction of the Middle Eastern fighting game community.

Harada posted concept art of the unnamed Arab fighter on Facebook today with a lengthy note about the character's background and inspiration. The Tekken team has been considering the inclusion of an Arab character since 2008, Harada said, but with little exposure to regional culture and clothing, they couldn't "fully design it back then." That's changed in recent years, with Bandai Namco holding special events in Dubai and the team visiting Saudi Arabia.

Now Harada and team are turning to the Arab community for feedback about their proposed character.

"If the Tekken fan community, especially those in the Middle Eastern area, end up liking this character, I would like to feature this character in the game," Harada said. "On the other hand, if this character is not received well by the Middle Eastern Tekken fan community members, there is a possibility that the character will be considerably changed or letting go of the idea of featuring this character in the game.

"The development team likes this design and think that this character is a cool Arab fighter, but if there is something in particular to mention, please do let us know."

There's a good reason Harada is soliciting this kind of feedback. In 2012, the Tekken team drew criticism for a Tekken Tag Tournament 2 stage set in Saudi Arabia that featured the Arabic script for Allah. When it was brought to his attention, Harada pleaded ignorance and promised to quickly change the stage.

The Tekken team sought similar early character feedback last year for Tekken Revolution. Harada and team proposed a number of new characters, including a salmon, a woman sumo wrestler and a version of Paul Phoenix transformed into "a very cute girl." Fans ultimately chose Eliza, a woman vampire with a narcolepsy problem.

Harada points out in today's Facebook post that the Arab character may not wind up appearing in the game, regardless of the reaction. "This is just a concept sketch," he said. "Nothing has been set in stone, so please do not jump the gun and think everything is already fixed and decided."

Bandai Namco announced Tekken 7 at the Evo 2014 fighting game championships. Harada further detailed the forthcoming fighting game at San Diego Comic-Con.