While some of the games in the Tekken series haven’t grabbed me, I do remember having a great experience with the original Tekken Tag Tournament in the arcade and on the PS2. While the ability to switch fighters in the middle of the match was nothing new, the mechanic where you lost the round if one of your fighters lost all of his or her health bar was. It put a new strategy into how you would switch characters. However, this game came out in 1999 in the arcades and 2000 on the PlayStation 2. Now after over a decade of hibernation, Namco has finally produced a sequel with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
The Tekken series has had a long history on the Sony consoles, most likely because the Tekken games used PlayStation-based hardware. Not only were the first five Tekken games exclusive to the PS1 and PS2. That changed when Tekken 6 was released on both the Xbox 360 and PS3. While only Tekken Hybrid ended up on the PS3, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has found its way back on both Microsoft’s and Sony’s hardware. I was able to get a look at the Xbox 360 version.
These days it seems like fighting games are trying to compete with each other to get the highest number of fighters included. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 comes with more than 50 characters on its roster. All of the characters from Tekken 6 are available, while a few characters we haven’t seen since earlier incarnations of Tekken show up here. Some of the most unique fighters are found in this roster. While I could talk about the oddity of having a panda, a brown bear, robots, and a man who wears a mask that looks like a tiger, I’m talking more about the styles of the characters. The typical lightning fast female, the hulking brute, and the Bruce Lee clone are present and accounted for, there are other more unique fighting styles represented. For instance, Bear (the brown bear) may be powerful, but his short legs and arms make it a challenge to attack from a distance. Christie fights more with her hands on the ground and her feet in the air than she does standing up, giving her great range. Plenty of nuances exist between the speed, strength, and abilities of all the characters. The best way to discover these nuances is to try all of the characters. Since you can play with two characters at the same time, it does make it easier to try out different members of the roster in each match.
The controls for Tekken are simple, making the game accessible to newcomers. Each of the face buttons is associated with a specific limb. The X and Y buttons activate the arms, while the A and B buttons control the legs. Special moves generally involve hitting buttons in succession, occasionally with the D-pad. The bumpers tag your partner in, and if you time it right it will activate a tag team attack.
Plenty of kicks and punches are thrown in the Tekken ring. These attacks can be used for juggling to create combos. The longer you can keep your opponent in the air, the more attacks you can get, and you will prevent your opponent from tagging in their partner. This is important, since the round ends when one character runs out of health. The fights can be short, as someone who knows how to juggle an opponent can deplete their health quickly, but these combos are not easy to pull off. This makes Tekken very accessible to pick up, but those who want to dig deeper and find strategies within the characters can do that.
Plenty of offline options are available. While some of these modes are expected, like the Vs Battle, Time Attack, Survival, and Practice, a few modes stand out. Arcade mode is typical, but like most other fighting games, the boss at the end is nearly impossible to defeat. The difference between Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and other fighters is that the end boss is incredibly difficult but it doesn’t feel cheap. The Ghost mode isn’t much different from playing the Arcade mode, but it’s like playing an endless number of A.I. Opponents. They aren’t putting quarters up on the machine since they don’t actually really exist. The Team Battle and Pair Play are great for couch play. The Team Battle can take up to 16 players and create teams for a tournament, while Pair Play requires at least two players that play together on one team and fight against either CPU opponents or friends. In these modes, your partner can tag themselves in, so it pays for them to pay attention.
The Fight Lab is the most unique mode included in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Here you not only have your tutorial on how to play the game, but it shows you which buttons to press an gives the timing for those button presses. It’s something that is truly missing from other training modes in fighters. Also, by completing missions you can gain experience and money. These can be used to upgrade the Combot by purchasing moves from other player’s arsenal. Then the Combot can be used during the regular game. It’s your own customizable character that will be different with each individual copy of the game.
Playing online is smooth, but the modes provided leave something to be desired. First there are ranked matches, where your rank is determined by your skill and the skill of your opponents. Then there is the Player Match, which doesn’t effect your online ranking. You can either search for any opponent, an opponent within specific options you set, or create a session that invites others to play against you. It feels like these modes could have been expanded a bit more.
The most unique offering is the World Tekken Federation. This online service is included with the purchase of the game and it includes tools to help you become a better fighter. It not only profiles your Tekken fighter preferences, but takes a look at your character usage, combos, and move sets. Your opponents’ info is available as well. Leaderboards are available as well to see how well you rank against fighters around the world. It’s almost like Call of Duty Elite, but without the price tag.
Almost everything in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 just clicks. The roster has plenty of characters, its accessible to newcomers while retains enough depth for fighting game experts, and you can get plenty of information on how to improve through the World Tekken Federation. Being able to switch characters within a round adds an extra layer of strategy. If you don’t want your fighter to take itself too seriously, but still have a great time where skill is emphasized, then Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a great fighter to add to your collection.