Tekken Tag Returns
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has been out in Japanese arcades for a while now, but that’s not the same game we are getting on consoles. TTT2 has been totally reworked for its PS3 and Xbox 360 debut, including far more characters, stages, modes, and even gameplay mechanics. What was just “Tekken 6 with a tag button” has now become one of the most complete and spectacular Tekken games ever made. It’s sure to satisfy longtime Tekken fans and newcomers alike.
Normally, Tekken sequels market themselves to the Tekken fan base only, but if there was any Tekken game that could make you give Tekken a second shot, TTT2 is it.
TTT2 is a “dream match” game. It takes place outside of the main continuity of the Tekken series in a sort of fantasy fighting tournament cobbled together through fan fiction-style Deus ex Machina. On the downside, this means that you don’t get to continue the epic and sometimes goofy Tekken narrative. It also means that the single-player arcade/story mode is very barebones when it comes to actual plot.
On the upside, it means that the roster can be absolutely huge! Several characters from the past, many of which are actually dead, have come back in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Jun Kazama? Sure. Michelle Chang? Why not. Both Forest and Marshall Law? Bring ’em in. You’ll be hard pressed to find a character from Tekken’s history that isn’t competing in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Even Kunimitsu and Angel are coming back as DLC!
This is a perfect example of Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s design philosophy of “gameplay first, everything else second.” Instead of focusing on reasons for including fan favorite characters that have long since left the franchise, it simply revives them from the dead, waves its hands around, shouts “Fantasy Fighting Game Tournament!” and calls it a day. And it works! Because it isn’t the stories behind these characters that make them compelling in a fighting game context, it’s their move-sets. It’s fun to compare Devil and Angel, or Jun, Jin, and Asuka. It’s fun to go through every single Mishima’s move-list and see how they diverge. It’s fun to see how Kunimitsu isn’t just a Yoshimitsu clone.
Of course, none of these moves mean anything if you can’t perform them. Fighting games have unfortunately run into a huge problem recently as the gap between pro players and casuals grows wider and wider, to the extent that causal gamers have begun to give up on the entire fighting game genre altogether. To alleviate these stresses, fighting games are now doing more and more to teach new players their game mechanics. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is no exception, as it includes one of the most useful—and more importantly, most fun—tutorials in fighting game history.
The tutorial mode, dubbed Fight Lab, puts you in control of a Combot, a robot built by Lee’s alter ego Violet. The goal, of course, is to learn the game. And learn it you will. The Fight Lab mode will walk you through everything from basic movement to mix-ups, teaching you even high-level fighting game tactics. However, it’s not what it teaches you that makes this mode stand out; it’s how these lessons are taught.
There is actually a tiny bit of story in the Fight Lab (more than there is in the arcade mode, at least). The scenarios that the Combot are put in are absolutely hilarious and dripping with the franchise standard Tekken goofiness. For example, you will learn how to safely approach by dodging dogs, birds, and flying sumo wrestlers. You will learn the properties of moves and hit locations by attacking the clothing of female characters until they are down to just bikinis. You will face pandas in tutus and mobile tanks, and you’ll walk around mine-fields with bombs. It’s this ludicrous and surreal progression of tasks that only gets goofier as the game goes on.
This is important because the fight lab isn’t just a frontloaded tutorial filled with text that asks you to remember everything at once. It’s a game in and of itself. It has its own goals and rewards; it just so happens that these goals also teach you the basics of high-level Tekken play. It’s one of the first fighting game modes that realizes tutorials shouldn’t feel like tutorials. It’s a huge step forward in fighting game development, and I could write an entire review on that mode alone.
Oh, and the Combot? You can eventually customize him with moves from the entire Tekken cast, building your own perfect hybrid fighter. That being said, there will likely be no competitive setting where Combot will be allowed, but it’s still fun to build up your own fighter from scratch.
You can also customize the appearance of every other character in the game as well, decking them out in the right costume to suit your personal tastes. For example, every male in my game can don either a trench coat or a thong. Or both.
Of course, the real meat and potatoes of any fighting game is versus play. As far as the actual game system goes, it’s pretty much still Tekken 6 with a tag button. Rage is still there, and you still gain it if the opponent hits you with certain tag combos. You can also spend it to safely tag in if you are in danger.
The biggest change is the ability to play as a single character rather than a two-person team. Single characters have more health and do slightly more damage, but lose all the tag options the game has to offer. The game seems pretty balanced between single and tag play, though pro communities tend to gravitate toward teams more than solos.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has also made serious strides forward in online play. The netcode is very smooth. While sometimes I had problems finding a match or would come across unfortunate lag spikes in random matches, most of the matches I encountered were playable and easy to get into. It’s a big step above Tekken 6, whose three-bar matches were sometimes better than its four-bar matches. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
However, the biggest online innovation that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has to offer is the World Tekken Federation. WTF (I see what they did there) tracks just about every statistic you could possibly want to be tracked. Sure, it tracks your win/loss record and keeps track of your place on the online leaderboards, but it also tracks particulars like average combo damage. You can actually keep track of your own development as a player this way by seeing how you take and deal damage. It’s the first of its kind in the fighting game genre and should become a standard for all fighting games from here on out.
Aside from what I have already mentioned, TTT2 has all the other bells and whistles you would expect from a fighting game. That means team play, survival mode, time attack, and so on. It’s easily one of the best looking Tekken games ever made, though most models and costumes are just rehashes from previous Tekken installments.
The audio is decent. I was never a big fan of Tekken’s electronic beats, but they are well put together here. The voice acting is pretty stellar as well.
Overall, I would call Tekken Tag Tournament 2 a must buy, period. If you are a Tekken fan, you’ll drool over the nostalgia and huge roster. If you aren’t, then this is definitely the game that will sell you on Tekken. Go out, buy it, and enter the King of the Iron Fist tournament yourself!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
The models have been redone and the stages look awesome. 4.8 Control
The characters control perfectly and the game is pretty well balanced. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
I’ve never been a fan of Tekken’s electronic music, but the voice acting is awesome. 4.9 Play Value
Though there is no real story to speak of, the fantastic tutorial makes up for it. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|