Review: Tekken Tag Tournament 2
It's been twelve years since the original Tekken Tag Tournament entered the scene, and still today it's an iconic entry in the franchise. Now, its successor has arrived, but does it have what it takes?
- Worth The Time?Yes, definitely, it gives you lots to play with.
- Things LovedThe tag system is awesome, the gameplay is faster and more dangerous, the graphics are great, there are tons of characters, the stages are really cool and varied, the stage music is excellent, the new Fight Lab is a good introduction, the Rage system has been improved, the DLC will all be free.
- Things HatedA few of the characters feel similar, characters have hardly changed, customisation options are limited in comparison to previous games, the game can be a bit difficult to learn for beginners.
- RecommendationThis is fantastic value for your money. If you've been waiting for the opportune moment to return to this series, and especially if you didn't buy Tekken 6, then you really can't go wrong as a fan by getting this.
- Name: Tekken Tag Tournament 2
- Genre: Fighting
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Online Versus (2-4 players)
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Namco Bandai Games
- Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
- Price: R525
- Reviewed On: PS3
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is an exciting entry for the franchise, because it’s been twelve long years since we’ve seen anything like it. Yes, the original Tekken Tag Tournament came out in 1999, and still today it remains an iconic entry point in the series, being the only game to feature tag elements. So in many ways, for newcomers or those who have only played the later games in this franchise, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will be a breath of fresh air and an exciting prospect because, to state the obvious, twelve years is a very long time. But in actuality, and to long-time fans, this is a successor. Many eyes have been on this game, and not just from fans of the series, because it has seemingly spat in the face of Capcom and its locked-on-disc DLC practices by publicly relishing in the fact that all of its downloadable content will be completely free, and not a single character will be locked out. While that’s an awesome initiative, and it certainly did a lot of favours for this game’s reputation, all that matters right now is how it plays, so let’s take a deeper look into the latest entry in the Tekken franchise.
The obvious thing to love about the game, right off the bat, is the amount of characters on offer. The game features a staggering 49 characters (50 if you include Devil Kazuya), and there are another 10 DLC characters on the way entirely for free. There are also tons of returning characters to the roster, with the main ones being Jun, True Ogre and Jinpachi, but they feel like completely new characters and despite being boss characters they actually feel quite balanced and like they belong in the game. With so many characters and returning characters, it was almost inevitable that a few would be too similar, and sadly that’s the case with characters like Alex and Roger for example. It’s not the end of the world, especially with such a large roster, but it’s noticeable. The one criticism I can give though is that characters have hardly changed since Tekken 6, but it’s unlikely to be much of a downer when you have so much content, and pros might enjoy focusing on mastery of the tag system while easily slipping back into their favourite characters. Overall though, the roster is definitely one of the best things.
There are tons of modes in the game. You’ll get your standard Arcade battle, except this time it includes the bosses Heihachi, Jinpachi, True Ogre, Jun and Unknown. The other staple and recent Tekken modes are in, like VS Battle, Ghost Battle, Time Attack, Survival and Practice. Then there is Tekken Tunes, which lets you play music or alter the settings, and can import your own music via USB and customise the game’s soundtrack to your liking. There’s Team Battle, where you pick around eight fighters for your team and battle against the same amount. And finally there’s Fight Lab, the healthy new mode in this game designed to train both beginners and experienced players. In Fight Lab you’ll use Combot and run through a number of challenges in order to learn attacking, defending, air juggling, bound and stage combos and finally tag combos. It’s a decent introduction to the game, and it’s pretty helpful, but it’s a bit too short. Speaking of Combat, you’re able to customise him with tons of moves that you can either buy with in-game cash or unlock, allowing you to create your own fighter.
One thing that’s a bit unfortunate, content-wise, is that the customisation system has taken a bit of a hit. It’s less robust than it was in Tekken 6, and the overall customisation options are limited in comparison. However, on the upside you can unlock lots of cool stuff, like alternate costumes, special items and character panels, by playing Ghost Battle. You can also unlock character endings, so you don’t have to beat Arcade mode with every single character, and also a ton of joke items, such as exploding balloons, that give you access to funny moves. On the note of character endings, they don’t really tell you that much in this game, but then again I doubt you’re here for the story. There are some cool character Easter eggs because of the tag system though. For example, Jin will transform into Devil Jin if you pick them as a tag team, and Kazuya and Heihachi won’t get along all that well.
Naturally, the gameplay is the most important part, and there’s a lot to say about it. Firstly, I’ll admit that I didn’t like Tekken 6 at all. I was a massive fan of Tekken 5, but for many reasons the last entry in the series just didn’t do it for me, and put me off. I’m happy to say that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has rekindled my love for this series, and the improvements to the gameplay contributed a lot to that. The thing you’ll immediately notice is that damage output is very high, so fights are shorter now but at a much faster pace and a lot more action packed and intense. Mistakes are costly, and due to your punishment being quite severe there’s a strong element of risk as a result. The highlight of it all though is the return of the Tag system, which is simply awesome. You’ll get two characters, and you can swap out at will at the push of a button, either for defensive, survival or offensive purposes. Don’t worry, you can still play one on one matches if you’re not ready for tag. During a tag match, if one of your characters die you immediately lose the round, so you’ll need to be careful. However, characters will recover a certain amount of health while tagged out, which means you’ll need awareness.
The tag system is a blast. You can tag juggle, quickly swap out to avoid hits, cancel launchers into a tag so your partner can aerial combo your opponent, and you can also tag throw, which is cool because lots of partnerships like King and Marduk have special tag throws. The tag system also forms the basis for Rage now, because if one character gets beaten up, the other will enter Rage mode. Speaking of, I’m very happy to see that Rage isn’t as strong or as long lasting as it was in the previous game, which is one of the things that put me off the last Tekken. However, it is strong enough to make a definite impact, encouraging offensive tactics, but the element of high damage and high risk also calls for caution, making matches very intense and interesting. You can also use the tag system for defensive purposes, such as by sacrificing recoverable health and Rage mode if it’s on to call in your tag partner to save your ass during a tight situation. The most anticipated feature though was Tag Assault, where you rebound your opponent into the ground, summon your tag partner to join in on the combo and then finish it off with your main character. It’s difficult to get right at first, but after a while becomes natural, and the combos really do look amazing and feel brutally satisfying to pull off.
The tag system helps to balance out team strengths and weaknesses. Granted, each character feels quite varied and balanced, but having the option to mix it up a bit helps to compensate for the flaws of a character and gives you a lot more diversity and strategy in your approach. It’s also quite accessible in the sense that all characters are reasonably good at juggling, and almost any two characters can do some decent damage together and combo. Even if you’re having trouble with this, damage is high across the board so you can adapt your playing style accordingly depending on who you have and what kind of player you are. I will note that the Mishima characters still feel very top tier. Kazuya, Heihachi, Devil Jin specifically are still insanely strong like before, but despite that matches play out quite fairly, and you don’t really need mastery of the game to have a good time and do some damage. It does take practice and learning though to get to grips with things like Secret Combos, which are for specific partnerships, and Tag Crashes which can be used while on the ground and if executed correctly they can let your partner stop an opponents attack by diving safely into the fight.
Furthermore, while you don’t need mastery of the mechanics to enjoy the game, it can be difficult to learn for beginners, and improving is a bit of a slow process. Among the list of things you’ll need to learn parries, juggles, the bound system, the crush system, the tag combo system, new stage gimmicks and essentially there are lots of different gameplay elements to get used to, which can be daunting for a newcomer. Speaking of stage gimmicks, you’ll get wall breaks, floor breaks and balcony breaks depending on where you’re fighting, and these make matches quite dynamic and stages quite interactive, as you can knock an opponent off a balcony for example and get your partner to finish off the combo. Fortunately, most characters either don’t have too difficult input commands or maybe have just one or two moves with difficult inputs. I personally feel though that fighting games are, and have always been, for the initiated, so I wouldn’t criticize the game too much for being challenging and requiring effort, time and patience to be good at. And if you’ve played the latest games in the series, especially Tekken 6, then at least your favourite character will still be mostly the same.
The online mode has been redesigned, and feels a lot better than before, as the developers have used fan feedback to help shape it. You’ll get online exhibition matches for players who want to get a feel of the game and aren’t yet up to scratch with their skills, and you’ll also then get ranked matches for the more experienced fighters. There is also a replay feature, where your fights are saved in the Tekken channel and you can pause and rewind at any time during them to analyse your fights more deeply. Lastly, there is the World Tekken Federation, which is a new premium service that allows you to track your personal statistics on your player card, and view your entire battle history right down to the moves you used and how often you used them. This feature also gives you access to the real-time online leaderboards, and team creation, which lets you team up with several other players to strategise, pool your resources and earn points together if you don’t like going alone. For a side note, I quite like the warm up feature which lets you hone your skills while you’re waiting for a new opponent to face.
The game is very impressive, graphically speaking. Character models look really great, and the game is awesome to watch in motion. The hit effects look a bit less polished though, but the arcadey effect has been a staple of the series since forever and you won’t really notice it much in the heat of battle. The stages look fantastic, and there have been lots of remixes and redesigns of classic stages from previous games to pay homage to the past. There are over twenty to play in right out of the box, with a few more still to be made available in the future. The game also deserves credit for its awesome stage music. There are some electronic tunes, techno and quite a bit of dubstep, since that’s the thing nowadays. Some tracks are amazing, and a few can be annoying, but there’s not much to complain about here when you can also fully customise the soundtrack with the Tekken Tunes feature.
In conclusion, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table, but after all is said and done it’s a really great game and a fantastic tribute to this series as a whole, with tons of polish and content to make it all feel totally worth it. If you’re a major fan or if you’re looking for an entry point into this series, then you’ll definitely find all the value you could want right here. This is a damn fine game, and it only sweetens the deal that a bunch of additions are waiting around the corner as completely free downloadable content, making your decision to purchase that much easier.