It’s been ten long years for Tekken Tag Tournament fans since the original concept first debut back in 1994. Despite the Tekken series progressing forward with new releases during this time, the Tekken Tag Tournament concept mysteriously went on hiatus until it emerged again this year with Tekken Tag Tournament 2. It’s fair to say there’s a certain amount of expectation riding on Namco Bandai’s latest beat-em up, so how well does Tekken Tag Tournament 2 stack up against the original?
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Release: (AU) 13th September 2012, (EU) 14th September 2012, (JP) 13th September 2012, (NA) 11th September 2012
Tekken Tag Tournament was first released at the arcade and later ported to the PlayStation 2 as a non-canon spin-off of the Tekken franchise without any direct link to the current Tekken storyline. The Tekken Tag series was simply an amalgamation of as many characters from the Tekken universe, thrust together in an all out beat-em up. The real hook that excited the arcade fraternity was the introduction of the tag team battle system, where players could create their own dynamic duo and switch between characters to battle their way to victory. The idea was ingenious, opening up a world of tactical gameplay resulting in exciting come-from-behind wins.
For those unfamiliar with the ways of Tekken, button assignments aren’t your typical low, medium and hard attacks, instead the buttons correspond to each of the fighter’s limbs. The trick in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is learning to string the huge array of combos together with speed and accuracy in order for attacks to flow and connect together. It’s easier said than done for the uninitiated, particularly with the steep learning curve that may leave newcomers to Tekken Tag 2 feeling intimidated and rigorously beat down.
Expanding on the original tag mechanic, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 extends the move set to now include tag combos and combination attacks. Tag combos, or Tag Assaults as the game refers to; allows for two characters to simultaneously pummel an opponent all at the same time. Tag assaults are harder to escape from and if executed perfectly, can devastate a character’s health gauge in seconds. The introduction of tag throws; as the name suggests is a two character throw combo, adding even more variety to the button smashing repertoire.
Having multiple characters interacting onscreen all at the same time was previously unobtainable however with an all-new engine underpinning Tekken Tag 2; the developers have been able to produce a superior fighter with functionality that was once unachievable. Of course the option is available to completely forgo tag team setups for a single, solo character should you feel so inclined to do so.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 features 59 playable characters on the roster, a step up from the 41 character selection from the earlier arcade release. New characters emerging in the console version include re-imagined favourites from past Tekken releases, as well as never before available characters such as a slimmed down version of Bob and even Lili’s butler, Sebastian gets into the mix. Characters also speak their native languages; for the first time in some cases, a nice attention to detail on the developer’s part. I was taken by surprise to hear Christie Monteiro speaking Portuguese in her ending, but I assure you this is all part of the grand design.
Battles are fairly intense as bodies collide with each other in spectacular fashion. Walls and floors crumble should enough impact be inflicted on them, sending characters crashing down through ceilings and into new found areas. It all adds a bit of variety to the different stages, even if it does feel a little pointless at times. Visually it’s all smoothly executed and engaging with my only gripe being the longer than expected loading times in between each match. It can feel a tad long when you’re in a brawling kind of mind frame.
Although the original Tekken Tag had no actual story, Tekken Tag 2 attempts to paint a reasonable picture for why the characters have all assembled together. The opening CG animation roughly details some sort of ‘special’ off-shoot Tekken Tournament, much in the same vein as the traditional Tekken event from the mainstream franchise. To be quite frank, I don’t think many will mind the lack of relevance or details here.
The wealth of game modes will keep you entertained for hours, even if it does feel intimidating initially. The staple Arcade mode experience is there for unlocking character endings, Versus and Team Battle modes for challenging friends, Time Attack mode to race against the clock, Survival and Ghost Battle for endless battles, and an intriguing Fight Lab mode; complete with its own motion-comic cut scenes. Fight Lab is in essence more of a tutorial mode helping new players adjust to the demands of Tekken Tag 2. It isn’t exactly the most forgiving mode, kind of like a stern teacher schooling you on what not to do, but most will come out of it a much more experienced fighter from having done so.
Once you’ve established yourself as a worthy contender, online modes are perfect for testing your skills against real opponents. Well developed and fairly lag free from my experience, you can challenge friends or wandering warriors to casual matches, or rank up for bragging rights. Drawing inspiration from the Street Fighter series, there’s the inclusion of a Tekken Channel mode where you can kick back and watch replays of other player’s matches. I imagine the bulk of gameplay for Tekken enthusiasts will take place in online encounters. Most should be pleased with the online capabilities as the system is fairly robust and solid.
Customisation options are plentiful with loads of different items to unlock and equip to the characters to add your own personal touch. Some of the randomly generated gear combination the characters parade themselves in will make you question the AI’s sense of fashion. Majority of these items are purely cosmetic however some unique unlockables will impact on the gameplay. You can even go as far as customising the LED pattern for a characters introduction before a fight. Unlocks can be earned throughout gameplay however a dedicated game mode is available for completionists.
This time round, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has taken all the greatest elements from the original brawler and combined it with a slew of new features. The line between innovation and keeping faithful to the tag design is a fine juggling act but despite the degree of difficulty (and I don’t mean executing combos), Katsuhiro Harada and the team at Namco Bandai have engineered and delivered a successor that rivals its predecessor in just about all aspects. Online modes complement the game perfectly for that almost genuine Arcade experience in your very own home. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a solid contender for beat-em up of the year and downright worthy of the ‘Tag’ moniker.
8.5 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.