Tekken has been called the pinnacle of fighting games on numerous occasions, acting as the medium to Mortal Kombat’s spine-ripping violence and King of Fighters’ more tamed approach to complex fighting mechanics. Like any key ingredient to a great fighting game, there must be an abundance of colorful, varied and interesting characters to battle with. In this regard, Tekken mastered its outrageously diverse and cool character range, from devils to dinosaurs. But it was Tekken 3, the most critically acclaimed entry in the series to date, that delivered the now iconic main protagonist of the series – the complex, dark-natured Jin Kazama.
The grandson to series antagonist Heihachi Mishima and son of resident narcissist Kazuya Mishima, Jin Kazama was the result of an unexpected, grim birth. His mother, Jun Kazama, presumed dead (but teasers for Tekken 7 would have us believe otherwise), struggled to come to grips with Kazuya’s reckless and literal demonic nature, but created a solace for him to confide in. The demonic power known as the Devil Gene carried over to Jin upon birth and set in motion the central conflict for a large majority of subsequent entries in the series, including a strong emphasis on broken family bonds and literally being torn apart.
Jin represented both sides of morality – something Kazuya bounced between far too often before eventually snuggling into the morally antagonistic but anti-hero demeanor. As an everyday schoolyard teenager with friends, relationships and remedial problems at first, it was the perfect introduction to a normal fighter we could get behind in Tekken. Jin, by nature, was a seemingly good-hearted individual with dreams and aspirations, not entirely affected by his lineage of corrupt and power-hungry fathers. Well, not yet anyway.
Tekken 3 allowed us entry into the personal life of a firm central protagonist and it was a brilliant breath of fresh air, especially for a fighting game in an age where the genre thrived on the conflicts of other main characters as opposed to their own (see Street Fighter’s Ryu and Ken or Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion and Sub-Zero). The excellent progression of the games’ main storyline saw a transformation in Jin, both literal and figurative. Now realizing his full potential as the human housing unit for a powerful, demonic superpower, Jin became the target of Heihachi Mishima and a number of other characters around him that would continue to be directly affected in later games. This was the first instance of a character in a fighting game have the main crux of the plot revolve entirely around him instead of branching into often irrelevant plot paths like most fighting games.
As each new entry in the series expanded upon the cursed Mishima bloodline, Jin never once left the spotlight. His sleek character design and confident stature within the already ballsy cast of Tekken characters instantly made him a fan favorite, and opened up the doorway for a pretty unique and unexpected character arc. The draw to Jin’s persona may be one-dimensional for the most part (as more recent Tekken games shifted focus to the entirety of the Mishima family and left Jin as another piece on the chess board), but his initial impact in the world of fighting games was iconic in its own right, tied to a spectacular fighting game heralded as one of, if not the best, in its entire genre.
Jin Kazama is now synonymous with Tekken, stepping up to the plate of poster character of the series. His iconic presence in the gaming industry was further cemented by his Devil Gene appearance and transformation, giving him an evil split persona emulated multiple times in the years to come (hell, even Street Fighter had a jab at it). Tekken is among the elite of fighters in gaming, and much like Scorpion, Ryu, and Kasumi, Jin became the face of his respective series for a good reason – style, depth, and charisma. All key ingredients for characters hoping to appear as a Video Game Icon.