What Have We Learned From Tekken 8’s Nina Williams Reveal?

On the face of it, Tekken 8 revealing Nina Williams is not particularly exciting. Nina has been in every single Tekken game since the beginning, and is a core character that everyone already knew would be present. It’s a little like Call of Duty revealing the next game will have army boots or FIFA advertising the inclusion of Aston Villa. She’s not the main selling point, but it would be weird without her. That has prompted me to look a little deeper.

Nina wouldn’t make my top five, but she might make my top ten. A couple of my most-used fighters are less relevant to the story, so I’m left hoping they make the cut. Xiaoyu and Hwoarang are locks, but the likes of Lili, Alisa, Katarina, and Leo could yet be shown the door or kept back as DLC. Nina is a character I’ll use a little bit and then probably ditch, and she was always going to make the final roster. That being said, Bandai Namco knows Nina’s reveal won’t cause much excitement as an already expected fighter. Once you take a look at the trailer in its entirety though, you find some reasons why she might be at the front of the queue.

First off, there’s the design. Nina had the most narrative-driven character design of Tekken 7 as a runaway bride. She also has the most intense storyline of the cast, which is saying something for a fighting game. Nina (and her sister Anna) were put into cryogenic sleep after Tekken 2, causing them to remain ageless. While under, her ovaries were harvested, and used to create Steve, a boxing character who debuts in Tekken 4. Nina was put into this sleep because of a failure to assassinate Kazuma, and continues to work as a hitwoman when she is released. This is the reason for both Anna’s absence from the Tekken 7 base game and Nina’s wedding attire – she steals her sister’s dress on her wedding day to attempt to assassinate her sister’s fiancé.

In Tekken 8, Nina is back in her more usual clothing, with a leather jacket, aviators, fishnets, and her signature purple dress. While there’s obvious narrative development, it sees a growth in gameplay too – Nina’s special attacks include firing a volley of bullets from her side pistols.

Obviously, Nina can’t just pull out her pistol and shoot you in the head at the start of the fight, ending it all in one hit. But it hints at what might be a new layer of Tekken combat, at least for some players. Other characters have weapons included (Alisha’s chainsaws, Yoshimitsu’s sword, Lei’s sidearm), but most extra attacks come via customisation and upgrades, which allow you to use everything from guns, to lightsabers, to sushi platters to annihilate your foes. Even Nina has had default weapons before, with both knives and pistols having previously seen some use. However, the fact Tekken chose to push this attack at this time seems interesting.

Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just knowing Nina is popular, not wanting to reveal a surprise just yet, and the pistols being the most visually spectacular attack she has. But there was a lot of criticism that the customisation of Tekken 7 grew out of hand and veered too far into silliness too often. Giving each character an optional weapon to be pulled during a special move might make for a convenient reason to get rid of the miscellaneous custom items that double up as weapons but often make you look ridiculous. Nina Williams is a welcome reveal, but I hope she’s a hint at a slight tweak to the formula as well.

Nina isn’t much of a surprise, but more information is always welcome, and her gameplay shows Tekken staying true to its close quarters, frenetic fighting style that makes best use of a 3D arena. Tekken has always been right at the top of the fighting genre, and as Street Fighter looks to have readied itself for a serious title fight, Tekken 8 needs to be on its A-game. Nina Williams suggests it is.

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