The legendary brawler is back and this time it’s all about the tag action.
As ever with the series the story takes a backseat to the fighting action. In fact Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (TTT2) doesn’t build on the series’ existing storyline but as with TTT1, it is a kind of wish fulfillment for the player as it brings together nearly every character (there’s over 50 available) from the series to duke it out for glory. Most of the characters personality is put across in the pre-fight animations and their end movies. Some are serious (hello Jin) while others favour laughs (I’m looking at you Law).
And so Tekken Tag Tournament 2 stands or falls on its fighting system. In time honored tradition the four buttons on the right of the pad are each assigned to a limb. Pressing each on its own will attack with the fist or foot of your choice. Combinations of these buttons lead to more complex attacks, and even 10 hit combos. Attacks are graded high, mid or low. It is vital to mix up your style as experienced players will block or counter attacks that are all at one height.
Ducking will evade high attacks and mid hits will catch crouching players. Sidestepping and throws also add spice to a fundamentally sound fighting system, that rewards experienced players and avoids overwhelming newcomers.
As ever in Tekken juggling your opponent in mid-air is the key to victory. Even more so in TTT2, as once you’ve sent someone airborne you can call in your partner to continue the onslaught. Combine this with scenery damage from knocking your opponent into walls and it’s possible to rack up the damage very quickly.
With a wide array of moves on offer I’d recommend the practice mode as a starting point for learning a new character. Thankfully it’s a clear and concise joy, with not only the button inputs for each move displayed but also the option to view a demo of what the move should look like if you pull it off correctly. The option to permanently display a move’s button input at the top of the screen is a godsend, particularly if your learning a 10 hit combo.
New to this installment is the combot mode. This is step-by-step training mode taking you through everything from basic movement to combo attacks. It’s linked by some quirky humour and the antics of Violet, the series’ pretty boy poser. The various minigames involved force the player to think about how they approach a fight and what techniques they must use to gain victory.
After participating in enough of these minigames you will actually be able to customise your combot with the moves of other fighters and try him out online against other players or in the single player mode; a nice touch.
Whether storming through arcade mode, fighting online or battling random CPU teams in Ghost mode, you earn gold. This can be spent on customising your character’s outfit, or creating a new one. It gives an extra incentive to finish matches swiftly and by taking less damage, as this rewards you with more gold. For example, I found myself making Bryan Fury look like he was auditioning to join the Legion of Doom (appropriate since they are a tag team). I’m sure people will be able to come up with all sorts of unusual and much more creative looks with the stock items on offer.
The other thing that happens every time you fight in these modes is that you rank up. The progression system will be familiar to anyone who has played Virtua Fighter and in certain modes it gives you the option to play it safe against lower ranking opponents, or go for that big promotion chance against a master ranked opponent. Defeating vastly higher ranked opponents may also unlock new customisation items.
I found the online mode clear and easy to use, with matchmaking made simple and the ‘World Tekken Federation’ offering an easy way to keep track of the global leader boards and view my personal fight data. It shouldn’t be too long before you find someone whose style blends with your own. Add to that the tag throws and possible tag combos and you’ve got yourself one frantic online experience!
Looks and sound
Opening with a gorgeous CGI intro (always a high point graphically for the series) the presentation stays strong throughout. Backgrounds have wonderful incidental detail (doves flying around, a spectator you can knock into a pool) and characters clothing now altering in real time, particularly in water based environments like the fountain in Rome. The stages themselves are as diverse and graphically pleasing as ever. A certain circus house returns among new levels like a field of well rendered flowers or the aforementioned Italian fountain.
The character models are crisp and detailed with facial expressions clearly visible throughout the fights. You can almost feel the pain sometimes as the punches connect. The moves all land with the weight and heft of real fighting techniques, albeit with the added fantastical element of screen flares for particularly heavy hits. In short – it looks great.
The music is an eclectic mix of the dramatic and the propulsive. Sweeping orchestral scores segue into electronica that perfectly underscore the fights. The addition of dubstep tracks to the game actually works really well and they do an equally good job of involving the player in the drama of the fights.
To sum up
You probably tell I like this game a lot. Having grown up with Tekken I’m delighted to see this game stay true to the series whilst also adding in new elements (the collapsible stages are a treat for the eyes). If I was forced to find fault I would say that being an arcade conversion some of the music and menu screen presentation might be a little garish and OTT for some. But that really is a minor, minor flaw. In the breadth of characters available, the graphical polish involved and the solid execution of the online mode, Tekken delivers. I’m diving in to this game and enjoying characters old and new. I’d advise you to do the same.
[Version reviews: Xbox 360]
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is released on 14 September 2012 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.