Tekken Tag Tournament 2|
Namco seems to be a firm believer in the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but when that policy actually starts to interfere with innovation and new features, it really starts to make enduring franchises like Tekken start to feel a bit stagnant. Admittedly, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a fantastic fighter, highly polished where it counts, but one could also argue that at its very core this is the same game we've been playing since 1994 when the franchise was born. If you dig consistency in your fighters then you’re going to love this.
Out of the box Tekken Tag Tournament 2 does several things right. It gives you an incredibly large and eclectic cast of fighters and doesn’t waste your time by locking them down and forcing you to play as other “not so enticing” characters in order to unlock the "cool ones" for play. This means you can dive right in and start to master your favorite fighters, old and new, male, and female, bear, raptor, tree, or any other oddity in a roster of more than 50 fighters.
Newcomers to the series will want to check out the Fight Lab, a new mode that tries to combine the tutorial with the story mode and doesn’t really succeed at either. In the past the fun in choosing a character was to progress through the required fights and see their cool CG ending movie. Now you are fighting as Combot, who basically mimics any of the other “real” fighters, allowing you to learn their moves and combos without actually playing them. The levels in Fight Lab are organized to test your various fighting techniques but it never really teaches you how to do them, which can often lead to you getting stuck and repeating the same lesson over and over until you manage to get through it, or move on and play another fight mode.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a 4-button fighter which means your 6-button tournament stick will work, you just don’t use two of the buttons, and a fight stick is highly recommended if you want to do well. The Xbox 360 D-pad (unless you have one of the fancy new pro controllers) has always had issues and it’s games like these that make them even more obvious. Fight move input is fairly seamless with the animation, but there did seem to be a slight delay when moving in and out of the 3D space, making it hard to dodge some moves.
The big new feature in this game is the Tag Assault. You can play a solo fighter and go up against a slightly rebalanced pair of opponents or you can team up with another fighter of your choice then execute elaborate tag combos where one fighter starts the combo, usually knocking them into the air, and then swap in your partner for one of a seemingly infinite number of Tag Assault combination, juggles, or finishing moves. You can master all of these moves and techniques in a slick Practice Mode that even allows you to record and upload your replays, or jump into the standard Versus mode, Survival mode or head online where the real competition is waiting.
The online modes are surprisingly good with solid netcode that offered generally lag-free gameplay. Actually, I had more visual hiccups in my local solo games with stuttering or momentary pauses in the middle of combo animations than I did playing online. Admittedly, I’m not the best fighter nor am I really that good at all, which made be fodder for just about everyone I played online – glad I could help you guys improve your rankings. The game does require an online pass, which means those playing used or rented copies of the game will need to pay a bit extra to play online. I had infinitely more fun with the Pair Play mode – the party mode for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that allows for four people to pick their favorite fighter then wait to get tagged in so they can fight. You really have to stay on your toes and be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
The presentation is pretty impressive with the aforementioned massive roster that can be tweaked and customized to near infinite possibilities. You can spend hours and hours dressing and accessorizing your favorite character, and while these modifications do absolutely nothing to make you a better fighter, it’s a great way to personalize your side of the online experience. The background visuals range from boring to mind-blowing with cool lighting and shadows and lots of ambient background animation to distract you, yet none of them are as interactive as I would have liked them to be. The character art and animation is pretty smooth for the most part. It's all about the detail and this game excels in showing those off, especially in the flowing robes and cloth accessories.
The soundtrack is an assorted mix of J-Pop, rock, techno, and…sigh…dubstep. The various speech and quirky one-liners are exactly what we’ve gotten in the past but the environmental sounds of the arenas and the real-time fight noises are what ultimately sell the experience. There is a mix of English and sub-titled Japanese dialogue, and it all sounds really good on a kick-ass home theater or a good pair of surround headphones.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is an impressively massive fighting game that will take you weeks to master just a few characters and a lifetime to master them all. It is definitely designed for existing fans and veterans of the previous games. The learning curve is steep and the game just isn’t that inviting to newcomers, despite their attempt at a story-driven tutorial. If you love the previous Tekken games and the characters from that universe and have either a pro gamepad or a fight stick then you’ll definitely want to add Tekken Tag Tournament 2 to your fight club library.