Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Review
I’ve been a longtime fan of the Tekken series. I got my first ass kicking on Tekken 2 on PSone, and I spent hours in the mall playing the arcade version of Tekken 3. When I got my first PS2, one of the first games I purchased was Tekken Tag Tournament. That was, believe it or not, 12 years ago. Namco Bandai has finally released the long-awaited sequel Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and luckily, it’s quite good, but not without its problems.
One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed Tekken more than most other fighters is its sense of humor. The storylines are usually purposefully silly and nonsensical, featuring characters such as a Panda bear, a Velociraptor with boxing gloves, and a luchador with a lion mask. Of course there are plenty of serious characters such as Jin, Hwoarang, Kazuya, etc., but even they get mixed into the silly CG endings of Kuma and others. However, Tekken’s fight mechanics have always been seriously solid, with a high level of polish. Like any fighter worth its salt, Tekken has always placed strategy ahead of button-mashing. In Tekken Tag Tournament 2, you need to spend an inordinate amount of time studying your main fighters’ moveset, as well as every opponent. The games have never been entry-level fighters, but with each entry in the series, more mechanics are added, and the bar for entry is raised even higher. That’s where the new Fight Lab mode comes in.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s Fight Lab mode is designed to help first-time players get their bearings in the Tag 2 universe. It features Violet programming his robot fighting machine Combot, with the player learning the basics and moving into more complex functions. And there is a lot to learn in this game – it’s a bit overwhelming at first. I’m happy that Namco decided to put Fight Lab in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, but it doesn’t do a great job of teaching you. You’re just shown a quick demo of what you’re supposed to do, and then forced to re-enact it, usually while being bombarded by bombs, missiles, and pizza-throwing superheroes. If you get knocked out, you usually need to replay tutorials you’ve already beaten. And for some strange reason, there is no menu in this mode- you have to play until you reach the next level, and if you get stuck, you can’t exit the mode or even have the game replay the demonstration. I appreciate the thought, but this mode seems a bit rushed and shoehorned in. Unfortunately, it’s practically mandatory to complete it, unless you want to get decimated in Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s online and against the (as per usual) extremely cheap bosses. Learning Tag Assaults, Precision Blocking, and Throw Breaks is essential, as the game is not very well balanced, and a lot of my time online was spent getting caught in the same cheap combos over and over again, until I spent some serious time in Practice mode. Hopefully a patch or two can make Fight Lab more useful, and the fighters a bit more fairly balanced, but in its current state, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 can definitely be a bit frustrating.
The graphics in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are fantastic. The motion blur added in Tekken 6 is back, but this time it doesn’t cause frame rate problems. The character models are more detailed than ever, the environments are destructible (and feature multiple levels), and the frame rate is buttery smooth. The netcode seems much better this time around, and I haven’t seen much lag, which was prominent in Tekken 6’s online fights. However, I did have to wait a few minutes in between most matches, and during the search you’re at least allowed to practice fighting against Mokujin. The upgrades aren’t quite as readily apparent as the jump from Tekken 4 to 5 was, but all of the code revisions and updates have made for a solid, stable fighter. The Netsu/ Rage mode (where fighters low on health get a damage boost) from Tekken 6 returns, as well as the air-combo enabling Bound. There are some new modes, such as the ability to choose between 1v2 and 2v2, as well as a Pair Play mode that allows 4 players to beat the hell our each other in a chaotic, frenzied bliss.
Tag throws are back from the last game, and now there’s the decidedly overly-powerful Tag Assault, where you can tag your partner in mid-combo, control them for a few seconds, and rack up an insanely high combo. I’ve seen combos pulled off at the start of a fight that didn’t end until the other player was knocked out, allowing zero time for reversal or reprisal. Tekken Crash can offer you a chance to get back in the fight when your Rage meter is flashing, but by that point you’re usually 90 percent dead anyway. That’s not fun, it’s just frustrating. I think Tekken Tag Tournament 2 would benefit from including an option of whether to play with the more advanced combat systems, as it would allow new players a chance to have some fun with the game, before graduating to the more advanced echelon of fighters online.
The customization that was first introduced in Tekken 5 is back, although it doesn’t seem quite as deep in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. There’s quite a lot to buy for your characters, but they mostly consist of upper body and lower body clothing. You can’t add accessories like watches or bracelets or change shoes, but there are plenty of crazy hats, butterfly wings and battery packs you can add to your fighter in an attempt to strike fear/ confusion in the hearts of your opponents. It doesn’t add anything to the gameplay, but it does give you something to unlock with all the points you earn during matches, and is sort of a badge of honor dictating how many hours you’ve put into the game. Online, the more ridiculous your opponent looks, the more likely it is he or she is going to kick your ass.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a worthy entry in the series. It makes a few notable improvements, but also has some balancing issues and a high barrier for entry. You really need to be (or become) the King of Iron Fist for this game to be fun. But with its huge roster, you’re bound to find a tag team you can learn well enough to enjoy the game with. Just be warned that first-timers will not be able to just jump in and play with any real success.