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See what Tekken looked like before it became Tekken

Early design docs show a much different cast

Matt Leone has written about games for three decades, focusing on behind-the-scenes coverage of the industry, including books on Final Fantasy 7 and Street Fighter 2.

Before it was Tekken, Namco’s marquee fighting franchise went by the name Kamui, and a new video showcases the origins of how the series came about.

Over the past year, Bandai Namco has been putting out short history-lesson videos on classic games under its Namco Museum of Art brand on YouTube, covering games such as Galaxian and Xevious, and showcasing the artwork behind them. On Friday, it posted its latest video covering the origins of 1994’s Tekken.

Diving into the history of the PlayStation-based System 11 arcade hardware, the video talks about Tekken’s origins as a fighting game for the new hardware, showing early development footage reminiscent of Sega’s Virtua Fighter, with two simple-looking characters fighting in front of a wide-open background.

Where the video gets especially interesting is it includes a number of shots of old sketches and design documents for the project, both when it was known as Kamui — showing characters that look far different from the Tekken cast we know today — and Tekken, showing concept sketches of characters like Jin, Paul, and Heihachi.

The video goes on to show what those characters looked like as they shifted from 2D drawings to 3D models, listing out details like the number of polygons used for each character, giving a rare look into the making of the game.

In June, Bandai Namco general manager Katsuhiro Harada announced that the latest version of Tekken, Tekken 7, has sold more than nine million copies since its release in 2015, putting the franchise’s total to over 53 million.

For more on the early days of the series, check out our 2019 story on the challenges of developing 3D arcade games in the early ’90s, featuring an interview with Tekken programmer Masanori Yamada.