Game: Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
The Tekken-verse has been represented in something of a haphazard way as of late. On the plus side, Capcom did a terrific job of bringing the King of Iron Fist characters into their celebrated 2D crossover fighter Street Fighter X Tekken. But when left to their own devices, the Artist Formerly Known As Namco had a bit of a shocker at times. Tekken 3D: Prime Edition was a technically adept stab at Tekken on the go, but arrived seemingly in a half-finished state, with bugger all single player mode to speak of. Tekken Hybrid was another odd release – it featured the same awful, misogynistic Blood Vengeance movie that shared cart space with the 3DS game, a serviceable HD made-over version of 1999’s Tekken Tag Tournament and, best of all, a stunning demo of the forthcoming Tag sequel, which hinted at a bright future for fans of the original dream match tag brawler.
Namco proved with Soul Calibur V that they still have the ability to produce a world-class fighting game, it really was completely ace and brought their decade-and-a-bit old game right into the current gen. With an unprecedented cast of characters, stunning 3D graphics and dynamic tag-team fighting, Tag Tournament 2 promises much. The original was a wildly popular arcade title and PS2 launch stand-out which brought together nearly all of the characters from the previous three Tekken titles. It wasn’t perfect, and many felt that it was inferior to the game that preceded it. The sequel has now had a year in Asian arcades, and plenty of time for Namco to listen to the fans and get things spot-on for the home console release. Could this be the ultimate version of Tekken?
STORY: Tag Tournament 2 is more of a “dream match” scenario than a canonical sequel featuring a dense, satisfying plot. Let’s face it; nobody has really ever picked up a Tekken game for the story, have they? There is a loose tale of Mishima Zaibatsu goings-on to underpin the absorbing fight scenes. For starters, an explanation is required for how Heihachi has ended up with a thick head of Just For Men-eque black hair. As it turns out, the gruff series mainstay has discovered a serum that gives him the rejuvenation he craves, and a new-found sense of power to go with it. All you need to know is that this coincides with the opening of the second Tag Tournament, another mysterious yet ass-kicking Iron Fist fracas that involves all of your Tekken faves.
In addition to the main game, the Fight Lab training mode is anchored by amusing Lee alter-ego Violet, who continues his robot research in his luxury bolthole in the Bahamas. The mode really fleshes out the likeable Lee/Violet character, and provides the game with some genuine comedy at times.
GRAPHICS: Arcade patrons have been party to the graphical beauty of TT2 for some time now, and it has to be said that the transition from Namco’s System 369 board (which is based upon the PS3) sees the addition of some incredible flourishes that make this perhaps the nicest looking 3D fighter I have had the pleasure of playing. Comparing it to Tekken 6, you can immediately see what a leap has been made in the visuals department. The character models are huge and detailed, with some realistic looking facial expressions and familiar animations and move sets. The game was specifically designed with four fighters sharing the screen at any one time in mind, and incredibly, even when a quartet of brawlers are in the frame during a particularly hectic sequence, everything still moves along at the full sixty frames, complete with gorgeous motion blur and – if it floats your boat – stereoscopic 3D.
With the slider turned right up in-game, and using a passive 3D telly, TTT2 looked superb, particularly on the stages where there is plenty going on in the foreground and in the multi-layered backgrounds, such as the German market arena, where stallholders, flapping geese and other animal denizens swarm around the action to great effect. And what backgrounds! The amount of detail is off the chain, and there is an unprecedented amount of interactivity with your environments; roll around on the deck in the dusty desert stage, and your clobber will pick up dirt. Get wet and your clothing stays wet for a time, visibly changing colour to reflect this.
SOUND: With a huge array of Tekken tunes, new and old, including some new remixed versions of old school tunes, there are plenty of ditties on offer to provide musical accompaniment as you beat your opponent like a ginger stepchild. In a first for the series, Namco have provided Tekken Tunes, a jiggy new tool that allows you to customise your game soundtrack using not only the existing tunes on the disc but any music on your game console HDD too. I decided to give this a whirl, and ended up with the surreal aural treat of little known Seattle psychedelic grunge Truly soundtracking my quest to defeat Arcade Battle.
Elsewhere on the soundtrack side of things are all of the familiar shouts, screams and vocal performances you would expect, only this time it is nice to hear some of the veritable United Nations of combatants speak in their native tongue, so fans of Latin badass Miguel will finally get to hear him dole out some smack talk in his native Spanish, por ejemplo.
GAMEPLAY: The basic way you control your game of Tekken hasn’t changed a great deal, in terms of the basics, anyway. You can play the game however you wish, 2-on-2, 1-on-1, or even 2-on-1 if you fancy acting the bully.
The fighting engine is smooth, everything flows nicely and the way that hits connect is logical and in keeping with the time honoured tradition of high and low attacks, with left and right limbs assigned to their own button. The aim, as with most fighting games, and indeed real life post-pub scenarios, is to repeatedly strike your opponent until they don’t get up any more. Tekken works for all comers. Crafty veterans will know that the best way to play is to use expertly timed counter-attacks, moving in for the kill to juggle your opponent to death, but newcomers can enjoy Tekken probably more so than they would if entering into a game of Street Fighter or King of Fighters at a rookie entry level; there are so many characters and moves, and inputting chain combos is a lot easier to learn than the intricate half and quarter circle motions of the Capcoms and SNKs of this world.
Namco have made some big strides here though, this is a far more sophisticated game than the original Tag Tournament, and delivers some crucial new gameplay tweaks that make a world of difference to how you approach the two-on-two combat.
Tag Assault is the most noteworthy new gimmick and, like Street Fighter X Tekken, it allows you to tag in your partner mid-combo to extend it. In theory this delivers a never-ending array of possible combinations and crossovers yet it needs to be used wisely, as Tag Assault will remove the red portion of your vitality bar, the section that your tag buddy can recover whilst they are waiting in the wings. Tag Crash is another new way to work together as a team, allowing you to tag your partner in to the fray to literally gatecrash the action, and prevent your enemy from continuing to whale on you. As with the Tag Assault, this too comes at a cost. The “main” character will lose any recoverable health bar they have in their possession.
Netsu/Rage mode returns from previous instalments in the series, but is activated differently when playing in tag team mode. When your in-play character is taking a hiding, your partner on the sidelines will enter Rage mode, meaning that once they are tagged in they can inflict increased amounts of damage for a short period. Solo players will enter a rage state when their health is low. But there is a twist! Namco have developed the game so that there are actual pre-determined relationships between the characters. So when you decide who you are going to team up, make sure you pay attention to the allegiances of your selections. Teaming up Paul Phoenix and Marshall Law, for example, is a safe combination as they are as close to BFFs as you will get in the Tekken world. Team Paul with Ogre, though, and the hatred the flat topped biker has for his scaly ass will be reflected in how riled up he will get when waiting to be tagged. It is a wonderfully quirky tactical addition to the series. The partnerships do not end there either, certain teams have specific tag combo moves and throws for you to discover, which come accompanied by swirling blue flames and a “GREAT!” announcement from Scary Voiceover Guy. There are also special win poses when you play as a renowned team and win using a tag manoeuvre. Pull off a crazy Tag Assault with Baek and Hwaorang and prepare to see something cool.
Speaking of cool, TTT2 also has a heightened level of destruction and danger. There are stages where you can crash through the floor into a new area below – whilst continuing a combo! There are walls to throw your opponent into, and balconies to throw them off of.
LONGEVITY: I remember how short changed I felt when I looked at Tekken 3D, and discovered the meagre amount of modes on offer. Although it may seem a perverse way to spend any length of time, I enjoy playing fighting games in single player mode, if there are enough fun ways to do it. Recent titles tend to have playable tutorial modes, training stages, missions, and unlockable characters which make solo play rewarding. Thank heavens then, that Namco have decided to follow the example set by their grand recent Soul Calibur sequel, by stacking Tag Tourney numero dos with an insane amount to see and do.
For starters, there are over fifty confirmed characters. Some of these are currently hidden on the disc, but Tekken big cheese Harada-san has always promised the fans that there would be no charge for DLC characters, so we can look forward to downloading the likes of Unknown, a slimline Bob and the Tekken 3 version of Ogre, amongst others, in the not-too-distant future. Palette swaps are now almost non-existent. Case in point? Panda and Kuma are now entirely different entities with different moves and hit-boxes. I tip my hat to Namco for this, although we could have done without the spamalicious trio of Eddy, Christie and Tiger, the hated disco-capoiera oddities beloved of the button bashers. Do I sound like a snob? Oh, and every single character has a full-length CGI end sequence to unlock, which harks back to the hours I put into Tekken 3 to unlock all of the impressive end movies it had to offer.
You can customise to your heart’s content, creating characters using the many body parts and objects that can be purchased with the gold you earn (generously) throughout all areas of the game. You can alter all manner of things, from your created bod’s appearance, to your gamer profile card, portrait, and title. Ghost Battle is a mode similar to the Global Colliseo from Soul Calibur, which features a series of battles against “Ghost” characters, which are in actual fact CPU controlled versions of characters that other Tekken Tag players around the globe have created.
Tekken World Federation is Namco Bandai’s new all-purpose player hub, which has been created in line with the sort of gamer profile card thingies you would get with a hardcore FPS, and which promises compatibility with a number of devices – such as your iOS and Android phones – and interactivity with social networks. It is an impressive way to keep track of your performance, giving you your win/loss records and leaderboards, but more interestingly it also tells you what kind of a fighter you really are. If you are a master of lengthy juggle combos, the amount of times you pull of these manoeuvres is recorded by TWF. Like throwing people about? It is all recorded. TWF also allows you to create clans and teams online; an excellent idea in a game genre that lends itself so well to tournament-style play.
The best new addition is the superb Fight Lab. It is a playable tutorial mode in all but name, in which you enter the slightly kooky world of the Violet Corporation (anyone else reckon their logo looks eerily like the Steam insignia? Just sayin’), where using one of the Lee/Violet-designed Combots you take part in a series of tutorial missions and tasks that, for beginners will effectively drip feed the gameplay system of Tekken very nicely, whilst providing plenty of humour and challenge for veterans. Each segment of Violet’s Fight Lab, which ends in a boss battle (usually consisting of defeating a succession of opponents, under specific conditions) is graded, with in-game currency and a rank awarded depending on how well you do. The upshot is, you can even customise your Combot using the moves and items that are unlocked the further you progress, and can use the mechanical wonder in offline matches or non-ranked online play.
VERDICT: I am pleased to tell you that this is hands-down the best Tekken since the third instalment wowed gamers back in 1997. There are a wide range of game modes that will suit everyone, from the casual fight fan to the hard-core expert looking to rack up online wins and top the world leaderboards. It is the first Tekken game to feature a satisfying tutorial mode that will help new players truly learn from scratch exactly how to pull off the juggles and combos that are a series mainstay.
The story doesn’t end here, either. There is a veritable bonanza of forthcoming DLC – which Namco seem to be approaching sensibly – particularly the additional characters, and the promised stage featuring Snoop Dogg (Lion?). Quite how the laid back rap superstar ended up involved with Tekken is anyone’s guess, but he has certainly aligned himself with one of the best home console fighting games of 2012. It has been a vintage year.