Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Review
Tag team champions of the world.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 arrives into fighting fans’ homes sporting a distinct retro vibe. Of course it’s a brand new game, built with cutting edge technology and a whole host of other new fancy features, but there’s no denying that Tekken’s return to the tag team format feels like a nostalgic reunion with an old, familiar friend.
The tried and tested formula of Namco’s premier pugilist is alive and well, with rock-solid frame rates, improved lighting and subtle incidental details prettying up the presentation values from Tekken 6. But under all the added glitz and glamour is a heavy punch of old school excellence – transporting original Tekken Tag Tournament fans on a Delorean of delight.
It’s been eleven years since the first Tekken Tag Tournament graced the PlayStation 2, and in that time, the landscape of gaming has changed significantly. During Tekken’s tag team hiatus, Capcom has boldly stepped into what was once Namco’s territory with the release of Street Fighter X Tekken and Marvel vs Capcom 3; each of which were worthy contenders for Tekken’s empty throne. But the king of the iron fist tournament has returned…
Tekken aficionados tend to consider the original Tekken Tag Tournament to be a jewel in the crown of fighting games and rightly so. With the announcement of an unexpected sequel, and the previous lacklustre entries in the Tekken series, there was always the risk that long term followers would be put off by a sequel that failed to deliver on its predecessor’s legend. Fortunately, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 not only delivers a fantastic fighting feast, but it manages to throw in a whole lot more for good measure.
A Test Of Character
The non-canon nature of the Tekken tag subseries means Namco Bandai have had no qualms about including every character possible in the long running franchise’s history. With upcoming free DLC, the roster will stand at 59 characters (and counting). So if you’ve been longing to play as Tiger Jackson or Prototype Jack then here’s your chance.
Along with the largest roster outside a M.U.G.E.N game, the number of customisable options in TTT2 are massive. The ability to swap menu and stage songs for any track on your hard drive is a neat touch as well as character customisations and costumes changes that ensure that your favourite characters remain unique to you.
The game really wants you to have it your way, and feels like a love letter to fans of the series. That said, it would have been nice to see an online version of Tekken Bowling as a bit of nostalgic fan service; but alas, no mini-games are included in this package at all. Naturally, it’s not a deal breaker but a shame nevertheless.
Bound For Success
Newcomers to the series or Street Fighter X Tekken players should note that Tekken utilises a 3D environment to wage its battles whereas Capcom’s games are set on a 2D plane. The transition from 2D to 3D isn’t just for aesthetic purposes; players will need to learn how to side step in and out of oncoming attacks, so prepare to start thinking three dimensionally.
Move lists are so vast that with well over fifty characters to choose from, mastering more than one fighter may put off the casual players.
Tekken is a curious franchise because it seems so straightforward at first: each limb on the body has its own button, but that’s where the simplicity ends. Each direction on the controller and any combination of the four buttons can produce radically different punches, kicks, throws and stances. Those with lax memories need not apply if you want to master Tekken’s intricacies.
Move lists are so vast that with well over fifty characters to choose from, mastering more than one fighter may put off the casual players. Oh, and the final boss in TTT2 is hard as nails, with many of attacks often leaving you muttering obscenities over his unfair, cheap attacks. Winning is all the sweeter though when victory is claimed over Tekken Tag’s overpowered tyrant.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s controls differ from the standard Tekken games in the fact that they include an extra tag button which can also be activated by a flick of the right analogue stick. And, unlike other tag games on the market that tend to let you fight to the last man, the round will end as soon as one of your two characters’ health bar hits zero. The mechanic can seem harsh to newcomers but tagging is a serious component of the game and knowing when and how to tag can keep both your team members alive and help you notch up those crucial wins.
To add more depth to simply swapping out your team members when you get the chance, you can also “bound” your opponent, a la Tekken 6, which sees them bounce of the ground allowing you to tag in your teammate to continue the onslaught. The other new technique called Tag Assault sees both characters appear together to create longer combos. This action in particular shows off how impressive the graphics and performance are in TTT2 when all four characters are causing mayhem on the screen.
These advanced techniques aren’t easy to master, but in the right hands, tag moves can end matches very quickly. Fans of the original will be glad to hear that pairing certain characters together, such as Baek and Hwoarang, who have a distinct connection to each other, can produce specific tag throws that often look spectacular and cause greater amounts of damage.
A noteworthy addition to the mix is the inclusion of Tekken 6’s Rage mode which offers added damage to the attacks of weakened fighters. It’s unlikely that Rage mode alone will win many fights, so the comeback mechanic is certainly not a game breaker.
The stages themselves (numbering 23 currently) offer walls and multiple levels to negotiate often allowing for extra hits in your combo string that could not have been achieved otherwise.
Casual players may delight in mashing away at the face buttons with the notoriously deadly Eddie Gordo – threatening the pride of more experienced players in a sea of flailing legs – but experienced Tekken players have the ability to land one blow followed by a string of juggles that end matches before they even begin. When up against the latter group, it’s hard not to feel like a little kid pleading for a respite from endless beatings.
To help new players get up to speed there’s a five chapter training mode called Fight Lab. In this training mode you learn all the basic moves while enduring a zany plot revolving around Lee Chaolan’s alter ego, Violet, and his designs to make the perfect fighting robot – the Combot. Incidentally you can fully customise the Combot with most of the other rosters’ move sets which makes for some interesting fights online.
The Fight Lab mode’s story, and I use the term loosely, stands as the only attempt at a narrative in the game. Fans of Tekken’s trademark quirky humour will find it endearing but the lack of any deep single player campaign does stand out as a missed opportunity.
Playing through arcade with each of the numerous characters is rewarded with a brief cinematic, but I’m guessing most players won’t feel inclined to trawl through the game with a hoard of characters they probably don’t want to play as; it would have been nice to see a quest mode similar to previous Soul Calibur games. It’s a shame that the single-player offering is relatively light on narrative depth, but then again, when all is said and done, TTT2 is a competitive thoroughbred which is all about knocking the tar out of your opponent.
If you’ve defeated all your family and friends, TTT2 offers a robust online offering. Issues with lag and latency are almost non-existent, due to the fact TTT2’s online net code is a tweaked version of the Soul Calibur V’s code – arguably the smoothest experience to date. Be warned however, that the competitive scene here is fairly unforgiving so be ready to taste the salty cuisine of defeat until you’ve earned your chops. Luckily, there’s a league system in place which keeps players of the same skill level together. Should you successfully defeat players of your own skill level, you’ll earn points and promotions through the ranks, increasing the difficulty of your next prospective challenge.
During my time playing online on the Xbox 360 version the only issue I encountered was when earning achievements, the game seemed to freeze momentarily. As achievements can only be earned once, it’s unlikely that this will become an ongoing issue.
To complement the robust online package offered in TTT2, players can keep up to date on their statistics through the stat tracking service called the World Tekken Federation (yes, WTF is the abbreviation). Here you can peruse all sorts of analytical data and monitor high profile players to see which character and techniques they use.
Although its only brief, it’s worth mentioning that the audio in Tekken games has always been stellar and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is no exception. The score is classic Tekken with composer mainstays Akitaka Tohyama and Nobuyoshi “sanodog” Sano delivering crisp tunes ideal for the subject matter.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 3.
Return Of The Armour King
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 offers nearly everything a fan of the series could desire, with a fresh lick of paint and highly polished presentation values throughout. The wealth of options and customisation built around a rich fighting engine just keeps on giving and any fighting game enthusiast will find something to please them in this robust package. The lack of a decent single player campaign is disappointing but who are we kidding here? This is, after all, a fighting game and as such stands as one of the best on the market. The Tag Team Champ is back.