As fighting games have once again returned to popularity with mainstream gamers a lot of long running franchises have either diluted elements of their combat to make them more accessible or they have tried to teach newcomers the ways in which the game should be played. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a game that wants players to spend countless hours becoming a great fighter through learning all of the fighting mechanics the series has been honing and perfecting for the last twenty years.
The core fighting mechanics of the Tekken series remain familiar in this entry. The learning curve to become truly good at the game is certainly much higher than many other recent fighting games. Simply looking at the moves list and hoping a couple of special moves will help you out in a match isnít anywhere near as viable an option as it might be in other fighters and thereís also no easy comeback tactic such as the ultra moves from Super Street Fighter IV. Unlike Capcomís fighters there are only four main attack buttons, each controlling a particular limb of the combatant rather than different inputs for differing strengths of attack. Newcomers to Tekken, or 3D fighters in general, might well be put off by what may initially seem like a painfully slow and occasionally unresponsive game in comparison with some of Capcomís fighting games but as you become more familiar with each character and the combat system in general you will be able to chain moves together in a very quick and fluid manner. Fighting in Tekken is less about special moves and mashing out combos than it is about finding the rhythm of the game and finding the right openings to unleash an attack.
Players new to the series in general should make the Fight Lab their first port of call before attempting even the arcade mode, let alone trying to fight with Tekken veterans online. Playing as a generic robot the player is given lessons in the basic game mechanics. The mode also stands as the story mode while various characters converse and give instructions as you attempt each challenge. As a tutorial Iím not sure novice players will play through the tutorials towards the end as each chapter ends with a test of your abilities, some of which could be very frustrating for newcomers. An early problematic test is the defense and punish challenge as youíre expected to block a series of moves before inputting an appropriate punish while looking out for throws to break out of. The combination of a time limit and the repetition of having to KO several fighters with expanded combos could very easily cause players to give up with the Fight Lab. The fact that you cannot progress without passing these challenges will likely lead to a great portion of players simply giving up with the training. More accomplished fighting game players would also be advised to check the mode out as it does detail some of the gameís more unique basic features of the series.
While the core fighting mechanics are familiar to previous mainline Tekken titles there is the new Tag Assault system in this entry. Like Street Fighter X Tekken a round is lost when one member of the tag team is knocked out. When a character gets tagged out they can regain a limited amount of health while their partner takes on the fight. Upon receiving damage the tagged out fighter will be able to build up their Rage Metre which may build up faster if the two characters have any affection for one another. Once their rage has built up they can be tagged back in and will have an overall damage increase in their attacks. If a player is feeling particularly pressured and has just hit the ground they can sacrifice their rage and recoverable health to Crash Tag their backup fighter to alleviate the pressure of recovering the current one. Constantly tagging in and out isnít a particularly safe strategy as the character being tagged in has quite a large window in which theyíre vulnerable. Although evasive tags are manageable the more offensive options of tagging in such as performing a launcher combo or a tag throw are a much more reliable way of getting the next fighter in without such a great chance of being dealt a harsh punisher combo.
Thereís also the standard Arcade mode as you select either a single player or a tag team and proceed to fight your way through a series of battles. Thankfully the game adheres to the recent trend of fighting games and does not have you fight through arcade mode to unlock all of the characters. There are also the standard extra modes including Team Battle, which features tagging pairs rather than a long line of solo fighters on each team, and Survival and Time Attack Modes. Although more features are definitely welcome Iím sure most players will only give them a quick look before retreating back to a more standard game mode. As always thereís a Practice Room which allows players to fight against a dummy that has a limited amount of customisable behaviour. Up to four players can also engage in Pair Play in which two players pair up as a team to brawl one another locally which is a lot of fun if you can get the friends round to play it.
The character roster will be daunting for any player fresh to the series with the game featuring a selection of almost sixty character that the series has slowly gathered since 1994. Itís a testament to the overall balance of the game that while some characters may initially seem quite similar they all have their own bag of tricks to bring to the table. There are numerous different play styles catered for whether you want to rush your opponent down or play more conservatively. The amount of experimentation available for different tag combinations will take the more dedicated players a long time to uncover various little tricks and strategies.
As you continue to play the game you acquire points to spend on various unlockable features throughout the game. Points are spent on customising the appearance of each character with the ability to select different items for each fighter. There are a fairly large amount of unlockable pieces of clothing and headgear for every character and do to some extent create a more unique identity for each player especially when fighting online.
The online runs extremely smoothly for the most part. During my time playing Iíve not experienced any of the issues of other fighting games such as the slo-mo in Super Street Fighter IV or the lag in King of Fighters XIII. There are the usual ranked and casual battle modes with the former allowing players to progress in battle rank through victory. Beyond the actual meat of the combat there is an extensive recording of statistics for you to keep track of. There is also the ability to link the information along with other console versions you might own on the World Tekken Federation website in a similar fashion to the Call of Duty Elite service. Thereís also a replay channel in which you can view previous matches or download ranked battle data from other players. There is also ghost data to download and fight against in a similar fashion to something like the downloadable racing data in a Mario Kart title. Overall the online features are very impressive and the profile and account systems are far better than other online fighters. The only minor issue is that to unlock the full feature set you are required to sign up for a free Namco ID.
Loading times are frequent throughout navigating menus especially when accessing certain online features as the game downloads and uploads various player and ghost data each time you connect. Thereís also some smaller loading times scattered between rounds in certain modes like the previously mentioned Team Battle which while common for the genre still irks somewhat when the game occasionally feels somewhat fragmented while playing. The default setup for the Xbox 360 disables the analogue stick forcing you to make movements with the awful D-pad although the settings can be tweaked. An arcade stick does provide the purest experience but the Mad Catz FightPads do work very well for Tekken and other 3D fighters and itís definitely recommended to get a dedicated controller, especially for the 360 version.
Visually Tag Tournament 2 looks pretty much identical to the previous main series entry, Tekken 6. The series has a more realistic appearance thatís more comparable to a Dead or Alive game rather than the more exaggerated Marvel vs. Capcom. Character models are all detailed featuring smooth animations which are a necessity in such games. The environments are also well done even if the locations themselves arenít particularly outstanding. The thumping customisable soundtrack is also outstanding. Voice acting is all done in each characterís native language featuring Japanese, Spanish and some iffy English dialogue among others.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a game that the vast majority of potential players will already know if theyíre going to like it or not. Newcomers will face a much more difficult time getting to a decent playing level in comparison with other recent fighters that have arguably made a greater attempt at courting new players. Tekken veterans will be able to jump straight in and get to grips with the tagging system without needing to worry about how the fundamental mechanics work. Overall the game is polished and well balanced but probably wonít be winning over players who have had difficulty with the series previously.