We are currently in the midst of a fighting game renaissance. From the arcade cabinets in the days of yore, to the couches of the 1990s, and finally to the heated tournaments today, the genre has evolved from a casual experience to an almost chess-like battle of the intellects. Dedicated fighters spend months perfecting their move sets and combos, and study their opponents’ battles to look for any hints of weaknesses. Tournaments such as EVO are held every year, where the best players take home thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. It’s become a full-blown extravaganza.
Learning a fighting game nowadays take time and persistence. Sure, you can button-mash and win a few fights here and there; but in order to be the best, you need to learn the intricacies. One must have a detailed knowledge of hit boxes, cancels, and the like in order to get the most out of your character. This is where Tekken Tag Tournament 2 excels: not just as a fighting game, but as a game worthy of your time and commitment. Because the first time you successfully pull off a combo into a bound into a tag assault into another combo, you’ll earn yourself a well-deserved feeling of satisfaction.
And that’s just a fraction of what this game offers.
Platforms: PS3 (Version Played), Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: September 11, 2012
ESRB Rating: Teen
Gameplay in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is typical fighting fare. You select your two fighters (or just one if you are particularly skilled), and start the round. Each fighter has his or her own life bar; however, if just one of these life bars is fully depleted, you are knocked out, and the round is over. You can tag your partner in, and your first fighter slowly recovers health while tagged out. It’s pertinent that you keep an eye on both health bars, so you can swap out when the time is right.
Your partner isn’t just used to give you a break, though – and this is where Tekken Tag Tournament 2 shines. Like all Tekken games, the four face buttons control left/right punch and left/right kick. However, in Tag 2, a fifth button is used as your tag button. Press that one and your partner jumps in. When combining the tag button with bounds and launchers, you can perform Tag Assaults and Tag Assists, which extend your combo and deals more damage. Your partner isn’t just used for offense, though. If you are getting absolutely pummeled by your opponent, you can sacrifice your character’s rechargeable health with a Tag Crash, and bring in your partner for some support. Learning to use the tag button to your advantage is the core of this tried-and-true fighting system.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s roster tops out at 59 characters – the largest in any of the series’ iterations. Each character has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, yet not one feels surprisingly overpowered. As you play through the game’s modes you earn money, which can be used to purchase outfits and accessories for your character. You can also get items from treasure chests obtained in Ghost Battles. Some of these items are not just for show; they actually give the user access to moves that utilize said items. From a guitar case that doubles as a machine gun to a cake that can be smashed in your opponent’s face, the wealth of content in this game is more than enough to keep any completionist happy for a long time.
Most of the modes are also familiar – Arcade, Ghost Battle, Survival, Versus, Time Attack, and Online. The new addition to Tag 2 is a tutorial mode called Fight Lab. In Fight Lab, you train a Combot in the ways of martial arts. What sets this apart from most fighting game tutorials is that, throughout your training, you earn money that can be used to purchase moves for Combot – which can then be used in-game. In addition, the tutorial has its own storyline complete with ending, so despite the fact that you’re in a tutorial, it doesn’t necessarily feel like one.
As I noted before, this game requires your full commitment. If you jump right into Arcade or Online without learning the ins and outs of the fighting mechanics, you will quickly find yourself quite frustrated. I strongly suggest starting off the game in the Fight Lab to learn how to play the game correctly, then testing your skills in the other modes. Pick two characters you feel most comfortable with, and work on mastering them. Each character has his or her specific bounds and launchers, and it is imperative to be as familiar with them as possible if you expect to win. Timing is also important; you not only need to memorize those 10-hit combos, but you must make sure to input the commands at precisely the right moment. Don’t let this turn you off to playing the game, as the hard work you put into it will pay off. Once you perfect your characters’ moves and combos, you will be able to go toe-to-toe against some of the more challenging online players.
The online matches themselves are also top-notch. In fighting games especially, having a seamless connection is very important when playing against someone online, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 does not disappoint. I’ve only noticed very minimal lag in a few matches here and there; but that’s to be expected with any online game. Luckily, you can filter your opponents by skill and connection speed. That way, you aren’t completely pummeled by someone who participates in the aforementioned fighting tournaments.
For the hardcore fighter, Namco Bandai created the World Tekken Federation service, a stat-checking program that you can access on your computer or mobile device. With WTF (yeah, I know), you can check your match history, win/loss ratio, and set up clans. It’s additions like this that really show that Namco Bandai is taking this game as seriously as the hardcore fighting fans are. To top it all off, World Tekken Federation is completely free!
And speaking of online freebies, I would like to take this opportunity to commend Namco Bandai on offering their downloadable characters free of charge. This generation saw a huge rise in DLC, and many believe that developers and publishers are purposefully holding back content so they can release it at a later date for a fee. This is not the case with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, however. Kudos to series producer Katsuhiro Harada for taking a stand and declaring that no downloadable characters will have to be paid for. Hopefully more publishers will take notice and follow suit. At the time of this review, six characters and four stages are available to download for free, so go get ‘em!
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is not without some small faults, however. First, the arcade mode is strictly that: an arcade mode. Once you beat the final boss, you are treated to your character’s ending, which varies from serious to silly depending on the character. The endings look nice, but really don’t have anything to do with any kind of plot, and therefore offer no real closure. I know this is commonplace with Tekken games, but if anything, Mortal Kombat taught us that you can fit a very engaging story in a fighter.
The difficulty of your AI opponents can also be a turnoff to some more inexperienced players. Even on the easiest difficulty, your adversary still puts up a very formidable fight, and constant losses may make some want to return the game out of sheer frustration. And don’t get me started on the game’s final boss. However, like anything, practice makes perfect, so if you keep at it, you’ll do better. The menus could also use some tweaking. When customizing my character, I’ve had to go through many different menus in order to get where I want to be. For something that is supposed to be a quick and painless process, navigating is anything but.
Again, these are minor problems, and luckily do not affect the overall enjoyment of the game.
Over the last eighteen years, the Tekken series has proven itself synonymous with the term “fighter.” Every game keeps the basic fighting system, yet improves in one way or another to make it stand on its on merits as a quality entry in the franchise. Now, with fighting games becoming much more of a technical battle, developers need to make sure that their fighting game is not only fun to play, but also worthy of inclusion as an event in the many tournaments around the world. In both aspects, this game without a doubt delivers. Whether you are a casual fighter or you are looking to take home the title, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has you covered.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was provided by Namco Bandai for the purposes of this review.