The Many Faces of Yoshimitsu

A brief history on the design of one of the most Iconic fighting game characters.

As a franchise, fans have come to expect certain things from Tekken. With the newest iteration already out in Japan, Bandai Namco wanted to show off one of the mainstays of the franchise—Yoshimitsu, who’s now available. As a mainstay in the series, his high-octane fight style, mixed with his noble spirit has made him a fan favourite. But he might be best known as the character that is constantly redesigned. Every entry in the series, Yoshimitsu looks different, and this game is no exception. Now he’s an alien. But he wasn’t always that way. In terms of design, he’s one of the most tampered with characters in any series.

Before we get too deep into this topic it’s important to note that Yoshimitsu is the name given to the leader of the Manji party (a group of thieves who steal from the rich and give to the poor). It’s also the name of the sword that the leader wealds. He’s one of the only characters to cross over between Tekken and Soul Calibur, and in every game he looks different. But Bandai Namco doesn’t ever come right out and say the characters with different designs are actually different people. In fact, there is quite a bit of continuity from game to game and his second skin tends to stay the same from game to game. With that being said, his radical changes from entry to entry leaves this open for debate.

Tekken 

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You look a little polygonal there buddy.

Yoshimitsu’s story begins in 1994 with the release of the new cutting edge fighting game Tekken, an arcade game that was ported to the original PlayStation. As the head of the Manji party, he entered the tournament as a distraction so his clan could run off with the funds without being noticed. During this time he crossed paths with the corrupt sumo wrestler Ganryu. Disgusted by his lack of respect for the Sumo code, Yoshimitsu steals Ganryu’s gains and gives it to the poor. Robin-Hood style. This title saw his most human form. He wore a helmet with horns, and traditional Japanese armour along with some good old-fashioned chainmail. But with the limitations of the PlayStation, you can make an argument about what he is exactly.

Tekken 2

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I dig the hat

As the series pressed on, he began to develop more of a back-story. In Tekken 2 players learn his blade is passed down to whoever leads the Manji party. Once the successor is chosen, the leader is sacrificed and the sword absorbs his power, passing it on to its new master. This is a pretty easy way to explain why he’s different in every game despite there being no mention of any iteration being a different character. With that, players got their first look at the newly designed Yoshimitsu. Gone are the horns and chainmail, replaced by a cool hat, some new shorts and what looks like new armour. This version of the character is still fairly human, his face is clearly a mask designed to look like a demon, which is something Samurai warriors wore, so for all we know, he’s still human.

Tekken 3 

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I refer to this as his "skull Sith" look

That theory is really tested in Tekken 3, though. Aside from walking upright, there is nothing that suggests he’s from earth. His flesh looks like it has no skin. His armour looks like it is made out of bone, and his skull looks more akin to alien than anything on this planet. There really isn’t much more to say here. But this was the most radicle redesign until, well, the next redesign.

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Tekken 4

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He went through a bug phase.

 

Which takes us to Tekken 4. Our demon-samurai-person-maybe-alien-clan-leader joins the Iron Fist Tournament, to help raise funds to aid the increasing amount of political refugees. But to do so, he bought some sweet beetle armour. That is including the two horns in the centre of the helmet, and wings. It’s uh… It’s a thing that happened. It’s probably better if we never talk about it again.

Tekken 5

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Always protect your dreadlocks.

Moving into Tekken 5, Yoshimitsu enters the tournament out of revenge. This time around though, his wings are gone, and he looks sort of human again. He’s back to wearing more traditional armour, he’s got some kind of visor helmet going on and his dreadlocks are protected too! At least, we can only assume that’s what they are.

Tekken 6

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Again with the bones.

He must have cut them by the time the next game came out because in Tekken 6 the Manji leader is rocking a full on Mohawk to restore his sword’s power. This is my favourite redesign of the character as it blends a bit of everything in this iteration. He’s wearing a skull mask, with a bone chest plate, but he’s still wearing plate mail armour and he looks almost like a samurai.

Tekken 7

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Looking a little squid like today.

Which leads us to now. This is the most extreme change we’ve seen from this character since his beetle suit. There’s less armour, and he is clearly alien. He’s got tentacles coming from everywhere, and his pants have some kind of glowing design. He looks like he’s from out of this world. And it’s badass. We don’t know what his motivation is, but his latest design is really cool and sets itself apart from any incarnation of the character we’ve seen.

But Tekken isn’t the only series where Yoshimitsu exists. He’s also a mainstay in Bandai Namco’s other huge fighter series, Soul Calibur. However, according to the Tekkenpedia, this character is a distant ancestor of the Tekken Yoshimitsu. He lost his arm defending his village and sought Soul Edge to regenerate it. But when he finally got the chance to do so, he decided he would be no better than Nightmare (who isn’t the kind of person you want to mould yourself after). In this series, he actually stays kind of the same with traditional samurai armour with a flag on his back.

The flag really brings out his eyes.
The flag really brings out his eyes.

But that’s part of his charm for over 20 years, this character has changed, but stayed relevant in two of the biggest fighting series’ in the industry. Part of that is his gameplay, but his constant evolution does make every instalment in the Tekken series that much more special. His latest design is definitely cool and sleek, but whatever they have in store for the next game in the series, I’m sure they’ll find a way to top this.