The stream of fighting games continues, and while Tekken may have seen a recent entry in this generation with Tekken 6, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 serves as not only a huge upgrade to Tekken 6 but brings back the much revered Tag system that was last seen with the original Tekken Tag Tournament. New tag mechanics bring more strategy and mayhem into the arena, but this sequel-spinoff still lacks the vital tools to property teach a new player how to play Tekken.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is filled with a full roster of characters from Tekken’s history with over 50+ characters to choose from. Most of the roster are carried over from Tekken 6 and is padded by additional characters from past Tekken games. Kunimitsu, Jun, Forest Law, P-Jack and a few others return. While some of these revival characters were blatant clones, the subtle differences that separate their clones are significant enough to allow them to stand on their own. Forest Law and Marshall Law, for example, have different move sets that will require ample practice time to understand the two.
Though as far as I know and tried, Tiger Jackson and Eddy Gordo seem to be exactly the same except Tiger has… you know, swag.
With more than 50 playable characters, it can be a bit overwhelming to pick two characters. While the game does offer you the choice of going solo and having your damage/health increased to compensate, you lose out on the added benefits of having a second buddy to tag along with you. But take note that a solo character can demolish a tag-team piloted by a player who isn’t careful, maybe to the point where it can be considered a little cheap. Considering the rage/netsu system from Tekken 6 and original Tag has returned and is retooled so that it occurs more often, a solo enraged character can quickly dispatch a tag-team. Your game plan will change against a solo opponent, and it tends to not be a game plan that’s fun or lends itself to tag mechanics.
The previously established bound combo system found in Tekken 6 returns, but with the tag mechanics added in, we are now introduced to tag combos that come in the form of tag assaults. Just start your normal juggle combo into a bound and right as the bound hits, tag and your partner will temporarily jump in, to which you can borrow their assistance and keep the combo going for a string of attacks before control is returned to your point character. This leads into many fun combos that can be found by experimenting and testing. However, abusing this new system can easily favor the opponent since doing a tag assault will give the opponent’s partner instant rage. If they opt to play solo, they themselves will get rage and now you got a little problem in your hands. You are able to perform a Tag Crash where your tag partner will immediately jump in with a flying attack. Useful to get your dying character out, but it comes with harsh punishments that would only benefit you if you are going to lose the round if you opt not to. Even then, safety with the Tag Crash is not guaranteed as your point character still needs to scurry out of the ring as the tag occurs.
What if you’re not that well verse in Tekken and cannot land a combo, or even an attack to save your life? Tekken Tag Tournament 2 introduces the Fight Lab, where Lee… erm, “Violet” rebuilds Combot into a full-fledged fighting machine yet again. Unlike Combot’s original appearance in Tekken 4, he begins with a blank slate and no moves. Violet guides you through some training exercises to teach you how to play Tekken, and this covers a whole spectrum of topics from basic movements and attacks to knowing when to punish attacks and how to do full combos solo and with your partner. You will also be able to customize Combot and fit him with various different moves taken from other characters and use him in the other modes except for online. Even if you’re well-verse in Tekken, a run through Fight Lab is not only a nice introduction to the new mechanics, the hilariousness of some of the situations and references will bring a chuckle or two.
While the Fight Lab does do a good job of explaining the bare basics — better than most of the fighting games out there — Tekken in itself is a game that has a lot of mechanics and concepts, and most are not explained without having to go through third-party information. Effective movement techniques, “Chickening” (yes, that’s a thing), low parries, the “Electric Wind God Fist” and many others are just simply not explained within the game. Things will hit you, things will happen to you, and there’s nothing in the game to really say what it was. Those that have been playing Tekken for awhile will know of some of these obscure aspects, but for the spectators and the new players, be prepared to do some research or risk going in blind and probably frustrated.
Thankfully, training mode also saw a huge overhaul, and those that are really looking forward to leveling up their game will have a field day with it. The training dummy can be programmed to repeat certain moves, do a chain of attacks that is randomized within a certain set of attacks, and the huge plethora of other options will help you train with any routine you have in mind. Despite all that, there is no character specific trial mode or any sort of character specific tips and advice, something that I liked from SoulCalibur V. For the more technical minded player that relies on frame data and punishing, training mode does give you a “Punish” indicator but lacks frame data information. While frame data is not the be-all, end-all for fighting data, there’s nothing in the training mode that tells you the move that you’re doing is unsafe, something that just imperative to know.
The offline warriors can enjoy the endless Ghost Mode, which throws you in battle after battle against AI opponents that emulate real players. Not exactly a good replacement for your normal human player, but it lets you grind out the cash you want for all the customizations that you want on your character. Yes, Tekken’s insane customization options returns with even more equipment, styles, and items that you can use to pimp out your character visually. Some of those items can be used in battle much like Tekken 6, but with more variety and sometimes even leaving a dent, physical and emotional. As fun as customization is, just the minor amount of loading and constant saving that pauses menu transitions is annoying. Loading up a custom character in-game does have a pretty long pause as well. Not a problem for rematches or default costumes, but definitely one that can irritate if you just want to quickly get back into the fight.
Tekken Tag 2′s online infrastructure has been given a huge overhaul compared Tekken 6 — and a better netcode to boot. Using the same ranking system found in previous Tekken entries, your offline and online Dan rankings are now separate. Ranked Matches lets you pick your team and puts you in a training room while you’re being matched up. There’s no clumsy menus to go through or lobbies for Ranked Matches. Player Matches offer traditional lobbies but also allows for an online practice room with one other person to trade blows and strategies. The back-end of the whole online system is with Namco Bandai’s World Tekken Federation, which provides real-time stat tracking and allows you to establish a team online to reach for the top.
As a non-canonical entry to the series, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 does do its best to reference character background as much as possible. Certain team combinations may have some advantages or disadvantages in their pairings such as being able to utilize special team attacks or perhaps their hatred will cause them to not generate rage as fast. Each character does have a CG ending that can be watched after clearing Arcade mode or becomes randomly unlocked as you grind through Ghost Battle, a great move considering that most offline players will spend their time there.
The soundtrack in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is also one of the best I’ve ever heard for a fighting game. Tekken has always been on a great track record of making great music and the strong electronic beats — with even a little hint of dubstep — never calls for a dull moment. Fans of previous Tekken games will recognize the many remixes in the soundtrack, including a remix of Moonlit Wilderness — a highly praised stage from the original Tekken 5 — and even the Mt. Fuji track from the first Tekken. If you’re not a fan of the music provided in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, you can make use of Tekken Tunes to replace any song in the game with a song imported to your hard drive. PlayStation 3 owners are able to simply export their music via USB. Xbox 360 owners, unfortunately, will have to rip music from an audio CD.
Would Tekken Tag Tournament 2 be the right place to start if you have yet to play a Tekken game? It can be a bit overwhelming. With over 50 characters with huge movesets that you will be fighting against, each with their own gimmicks and tricks, it can be frustrating to not only figure out what killed you in the first place but also figure out how it’s done in order to analyze it. It will be a steep progression and outside research will be needed. Thankfully, the Tekken community has taken many steps to provide instructional guides and resources. That said, the online infrastructure is strong enough to actually raise new Tekken warriors and will most likely house a good number of players for quite some time.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is Tekken at its strongest point yet, but it is still very much Tekken in its deep core, which is a good thing for those who have followed Tekken. The lack of resources in-game will mean that players will have to do some outside research to fully understand the game. Veterans will know exactly what they need to do as most of Tekken 6′s mechanics do transfer over, but there’s still plenty to learn with the new tag mechanics. Offline warriors may find themselves very limited in terms of content as there is no real single player campaign that we’ve seen in other Tekken titles — not that we missed that. The online removes the bad taste left by the previous iteration, and is a much welcome change to nurture the next set of online warriors.