Does Tekken still pack a punch?
The fighting genre is rather exclusive. It requires patience and discipline to master a fighting game, and the big franchises boast decades of history between them, meaning it’s not the most welcoming of genres. With the rise of the smartphone, and the introduction of download-based platforms such as Steam, the games industry is increasing its focus on short, disposable titles day by day. So trying to entice a new audience in, as well as keeping the dedicated fan base happy, is no easy task. However it’s one that Tekken pulls off. To an extent, anyway.
The purists will no doubt be pleased to hear that Tag Tournament 2 boasts the largest roster Tekken has ever seen. There are over 50 characters to choose from, including fan favourites such as Jin and Anna Williams, so there’s plenty of choice when it comes to who’s feet you’ll be introducing to the various faces of those that you’ll come up against. TTT2 lives up to the traditional Tekken legacy by keeping it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek. Joey, the boxing-glove-clad kangaroo facing up against Alex (the dinosaur) is still great fun to see; as is Kuma (the bear), quite literally bearhugging a woman with breasts the size of small moons. Tekken rarely forgets to be fun, which is obviously a winning factor when discussing a videogame.
That said, as expected from a Tekken title, there is considerable depth to the fighting mechanics. Building, as you might have guessed, on the formula that Tekken Tag Tournament introduced way back in ’99, fights are a 2 on 2 affair, and you can tag each character in and out as you fight. You win as soon as you KO one member of your opponents team – and vice versa. Tagging a fighter out just as they’re about to go down and replacing them with a pumped up and ready to go partner is always satisfying, and never gets old. You can also pull off special Tag moves by tagging out when your opponent is in the air. This results in a huge super-combo that barely allows your opponent to touch the ground during the beating they recieve. Combo building is still a mix of throws, dashes, punches and kicks and each character has a wealth of moves to master for those willing to invest the time. The 50+ character roster doesn’t all go in Tekken’s favour though. Some characters inevitably miss out, and you’ll find a few that you’ll play as once or twice before you invariably get bored with their uninspiring move set. However, on the whole, Tekken posesses a decent throng of badasses.
So that’s the purists kept busy, what about the newcomers? Well, if you’ve never played a Tekken title before, Tag Tournament 2 provides a solution. The “Fight Lab” serves as a tutorial/story mode and, to a degree, it does manage to help you take your first steps to becoming an Iron Fist champion. It sees you playing as the Combot, a robot designed by Violet Industries, that can replicate any fighter’s move. It’s illustrated by beautiful cutscenes which take on a quasi-anime/comic book style, and the story also does a good job of introducing players to Tekken’s sense of humour. It really does teach you from the ground up, starting off with moving your character left and right, and slowly introducing more difficult combos as you progress through the stages. Challenges are inventive, and you come up against a wealth of colourful opponents with wacky and imaginitive attacks which I won’t spoil here.
While it’s a valiant effort to help newcomers find their feet, it’s also Tag Tournament 2′s biggest downfall. While it teaches you the controls and which buttons do what, it doesn’t give you enough guidance on how to time your moves, and even the biggest pacifist out there will tell you timing is a massive deal in the fighting genre. It leads to a series of frustraiting trial and error moments where you are punished by way of a broken combo when you miss a hit by just a split-second. The fight lab is a great implementation but it merely teaches you how to play Tekken, and not to love it. Even after learning the basics, you’re still left with a daunting amount of characters and moves to master, and while trying, the game still doesn’t make iteself accomadating enough to allow a newcomer the same levels of enjoyment as a hardcore fan. Unless that is, they invest a lot of time and effort, which as I highlighted earlier, is something people are less willing to do.
Tag Tournament 2 can be a very pretty game at times. A wonderfully colourful array of characters and environments really bring the fisticuffs to life. Characters’ costumes pick up dirt and wear & tear the more you beat them into the mud, and immaculate character models can dominate the screen with a sense of intimidation that’s hard to pull off. Unfortunately background characters and objects can occasionally look a bit last-gen, and it can be quite jarring when you look beyond your expertly rendered fighter and notice a blocky, poorly animated crowd member in the background. On the sound front, a largely techno score keeps things as arcadey as ever, and cheesey one liners before a bout kicks off will send beloved Tekken memories flooding back. Other modes include a fun 4 player, 2 on 2 set up called Pair Play which is great fun with friends and would be a good addition to a party, and character customisation options, which lead to some very fun personalisation. King wearing shades is the epitomy of cool.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is certainly a worthy addition to the franchise. While it has it’s flaws, and just misses the mark when it comes to accessibility, it’s still an accomplished fighter, and a game that fans of the genre shouldn’t hesitate to pick up. Those that are new to the genre and are looking for an entry point should know that this is a game that wants to hold your hand and break you in gently, but unfortunately doesn’t always hit the mark. If you invest time and effort, the rewards are worth it, but it’s a knockout investment to make.
- Huge roster of characters.
- Lots of depth and moves to master.
- Tongue-in-cheek humour.
- Despite its efforts, it remains somewhat inaccessible.
- Occasionally blocky and lifeless backgrounds.
- Not enough to hold the attention of newcomers.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is out today on PS3 (reviewed) & Xbox 360.
Review copy kindly provided by Premier PR.