Ghost Battles in Tekken 8 have taught me one thing: that fighting games are an inherently social experience. While many people think it’s all about memorizing combos then styling to a chorus cheering you on, it’s actually about your ability to read into your opponent’s behavior and forcing them to play in a way that’s advantageous to you. It’s why so many games’ arcade modes get boring quickly- a computer just doesn’t adapt in the same way a person does.
The recent Tekken 8 Beta introduced the game’s social features, one of which being the Ghost Battle feature. Here, you can battle a simulated match against your opponent, using composite data from their real matches. It’s far from the first fighting game to do this- Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R has something similar on PC.
But Tekken 8 definitely has come up with the most brilliant use for the feature. For context, in many a fighting game beta, you’re often stuck in lobby hell until you get into a match. Heck, even the last Tekken 8 Beta saw me trying to lab Lili combos only to be interrupted by a match notification, only to have the other person disconnect. It’s an unfortunate side effect of things that require human input- the disappointment of having no partner to dance with.
And yet, with the Ghost Battle you don’t have to worry anymore. With the new lobby system, as long as there are other people in the lobby you can easily just fight their ghosts. Even if you have a terrible connection or that person has a queue to fight them (not unlikely once vtubers get in on the game), you can just get into a match- no more wasting away in the afternoon watching the “Finding Match” circle as you wonder how your matchmaking experience in both love and Tekken have been terrible.
Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good
Of course, we also need to talk about the quality of the matches themselves. During my time in the beta, I got to try a few of these ghost matches, and it really feels like we’ve found a solution to teaching people how to read behavior. A huge problem with arcade modes is they never feel like a real person is behind the controls- instead it feels like a kind of flailing and hitting buttons.
Seeing the Ghost mimic a player’s movements is actually pretty rad- one of my opponents got into the habit of backing out once I got too aggressive- then beating me down with harsh punishes for my greed.
But I think when it really clicked for me was in another Tekken 8 Ghost Match. This was a player’s sub-character, with significantly less time played than their first. The round started as normal, and I managed to pull my act together long enough to actually get a knockdown. On wakeup, the Ghost suddenly activates Special Style- aka the easy input mode. As the controls pop up mid match suddenly they charge in, promptly kicking my butt.
Future rounds would later start in Special Style- much like a player who’s only sticking to tactics that work, it’s really cool seeing the Ghost just kind of ditch Arcade Controls in favor of Special Style.
No Match For The Real Thing
Of course, I don’t think Ghost Battle will mean all that much when it comes to replacing the real thing for Tekken 8. Fighting games are a social experience, and fighting a Ghost will ultimately bring as much satisfaction as talking to an AI chatbot of someone you met on Tinder. As you get better at the game you’re sure see the seams in the Ghost’s programming and you’ll be right back to the same problem you have with most games’ Arcade Mode CPUs.
I do think, however, that this will result in a much better fun-per-minute online. I don’t always have three hours to spend in lobbies- sometimes I can only hop on for a bit before bed every night, and being able to skip the queue of shame so I can get my butt kicked by a Ghost ensures that, at the very least, I get to play the game against different people, whose only unifying trait is that they’re better than me at Tekken.