Tekken’s glory days seem to be far behind it. Capcom’s fighting games have been the main triumph of this generation, with the likes of Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 being fan favorites. Tekken’s last game outings have been the less-than-great Tekken 6, Capcom’s Street Fighter X Tekken, and an HD port of Tekken 5 from the Playstation 2. The PlayStation 2 days weren’t brilliant either, with only Tekken 5 making up for the mess known as Tekken 4.
With Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the good old days of Tekken 2 and 3 are back. It is by no way as big of a comeback as Street Fighter IV, but it is still an excellent reminder of what made Tekken such a masterpiece in the first place. It has an incredibly strong roster, which consists of over 50 fighters and more stages than ever before. It also has a great selection of online and offline modes, and all the collectibles and customization features you would expect from a modern fighting game.
In the Online menu, you get your choice of either ranked matches or player matches with options to filter based on player level and connection status. In the Offline menu, you get the basic Arcade mode, a Ghost mode where you get to level up against a selection of simulated fighters, a Fight Lap mode, and a Practice mode. When you have two or more players, you can have fun with the standard two-player versus mode, a two-on-two Pair Play mode, and a 16-player Team Battle mode. Which ever mode you choose to play, it still feels like classic Tekken. With the two face buttons controlling fist-based attacks the other two unleashing kicks, a combination of them can be used to grab and throw your opponent. Using the D-Pad or analog stick will allow you to target hits to high, middle, or low areas, block low and mid attacks, and duck or jump. So overall, it still feels like the good old classic Tekken.
Beyond this, each character has a massive list of combos that can be strung together to make some brutal attacks. Tekken is better for button mashing than, say, Virtua Fighter 5, but only to a certain point. Against tougher opponents and humans, there is a level of skill needed to take down your opponents.
Tekken Tag Tournament brought about the formula of a tag team system, where you pick two characters at the start of each match and switch between them at almost any time during the fight. Different combinations can be used to provide balance against a particular threat, as well as giving you a chance to bounce back when you are about to be KO’ed. Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom, one KO is enough for you to lose a round in a best-of-three or five, so this means you cannot use characters as an extra life. There is strategy to this formula, like knowing when to switch characters and when to hold off a few more seconds.
The game introduces a small amount of switching moves, which allows you to tag your partner in mid-attack to come in and finish the job. It does not have the depth of Marvel vs. Capcom’s team attacks, where different combinations of characters have different attacks, but it does add to the excitement of the fighting.
While Tekken Tag Tournament 2 seems like a conservative 3D fighter, it is more willing to play with the formula than any Tekken since number 4. Fights can take place in arenas with multiple levels, with players going through a barrier or through the floor to arrive in a different area. Other levels see you fighting in snow or water in the way that Virtua Fighter 4 and 5 do. The dirt, mud, and water now visibly affect character clothing, with the mud making them dirty and the water making them look wet. Finally, sidestepping moves ensure that when you are fighting on a 2D plane, there is room for a little movement.
The more you play Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the more you respect its achievements. Like every other great Tekken, you can pick it up and play against the computer or a human that is not as skillful and still have a half-decent time and chance of winning. There is a lot of depth to the system of Tekken after you master the timing of blocks, counters, ground-pounding blows, juggling combos, and finishing off your opponent with a flurry of blows.
However, this is unlikely to be the case when you first go online. We would always argue that fighting games are best played with your friends when sitting in the same room. However, we know that is not possible all the time, and there are some players who do want to work their way up the ranks and play against the best in the world.
Here, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is no letdown. Granted, there are few European players to actually fight, and we had to open up the connection speed filters to get any matches started, but even with nowhere-near-good connections, we still got to enjoy some smooth matches with barely any lag. There is also no sitting around in a lobby for ages, as once you pick your characters, the game puts you in a dojo where you practice your moves while waiting for another player to join. While TTT2 sets you against players of your own level, give or take, we still managed to find ourselves in a match within seconds.
Most recent fighting games have had a practice mode and some have tutorial or challenge missions. TTT2 goes one better, however, with its single-player Fight Lab mode. Following Lee Chaolan in his Violet persona, it has you playing in experimental combat, training him through a series of different scenarios so he can get through the tough Tekken universe. Each chapter of Lab mode covers a basic skill set, ranging from the simplest attacks and combos to some of the most complex systems in the game. The best thing about Fight Lab is that it’s fun and challenging, not like most tutorial modes, which are dull and boring. After some time, you learn to love the weird cut-scenes and odd humor.
Tekken’s character roster is, as with Street Fighter’s, amongst the best and most iconic in the business. There are very little fighting games that can create characters as memorable as the like of Law, Yoshimitsu, Kazuya, Paul Phoenix, and Jack. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 does not introduce any new characters to the roster, but it does pick the best characters from Tekkens past, including the likes of Bob, Lars, Miguel, Zafina, and Alisa. You can argue that many are just variations on the same character, especially when you have the likes of Kazuya and Devil Kazuya, King and Armour King, and Law and Forest Law, but if you dig deeper you can see there are plenty of different moves or different playing styles. Also, TTT2 manages to do a good job of balancing over 50 characters, which is different from fighters that struggle to balance eight to twelve characters.
Graphically, Tekken has managed to catch up with Soul Calibur V. Characters are the most realistic they have ever been, the effects are stunning, and the arenas are packed with wonderful detail. You will find yourself fighting on rooftops, in front of crowds drinking cocktails, and in flamenco bars with dancers in the background. Sometimes, you even wish the fighting would stop just so you can admire the view.
If you have played your fair share of fighting games and are looking for a genre-busting title, this, unfortunately, is not your game–and the same applies if you want a rich, full-on single-player experience. Yet Namco’s latest has the feel of a “Tekken’s Greatest Hits” game, with all the great music you know and love, plus a few songs you might not have remembered. It might not put Tekken back on top of the fighting game genre, but for the first time in many years, it feels like it could be a real contender.
This is the strongest Tekken that has been released since Tekken 3, and is a very generous package full of characters, stages, and game modes. It has a steep difficulty curve for the newcomers, with the main focus being on online and offline versus play. The Fight Lab mode gives players a chance to build their skills, while the new tag-team mechanics add a great twist to the Tekken formula. It does not overcome Street Fighter IV as the best in fighting games, but definitely puts Tekken back on the map.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 developed and published by Namco Bandai Games.
- Lots of Characters, Stages, and Game Modes
- New Tag-Team Mmechanics
- Steep Difficulty Curve
- Focus on Online Play