The Tekken series was the first fighting game franchise that I fell in love with. I had played games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, etc. before but when I first played Tekken 2 I was instantly hooked on it and have since owned every subsequent game. Not every entry has been stellar but overall I’ve generally enjoyed each game in the series.
That being said, Namco Bandai’s latest entry into the series seems to be moving further toward leaving players like me behind. As much as I have loved the games, I have never been a master of the fighting system. I can memorize a 10-hit combo or 2 for a few characters and have a basic strategy but could never compete professionally, or with most of the players you see online. Since I started playing the series has added things like bounds or a rage mode when health is low that have made things more complicated.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is definitely aimed more toward hardcore competitive fighting game players. The AI can be incredibly unforgiving, even on the normal difficulty setting and the boss character of the game is one of the most frustrating end bosses I’ve dealt with in a fighting game in a long long time. She can basically get into a combo streak where it’s best just to put the controller down and wait for her to finish.
Also, the AI apparently seems to learn how to fight you the more you play, getting harder regardless of difficulty. Beyond that, the game does a lot to push players toward completely being engulfed in the game to unlock titles, customizable costume options and other stuff for hours and hours on end.
It takes a level of dedication I certainly never had to explore every corner of this game, not to say that’s necessarily a bad thing. Fighting games have become a much more niche market in the recent generations with only a few companies continuing to make arcade style fighters, so appealing to the most devoted players is definitely a wise decision. There is still plenty to enjoy for more casual players as well, despite some of the difficulty.
All the characters that come with the game are unlocked from the get go, others to be unlocked as free DLC later, not requiring players beat arcade mode over and over again to gain access to the full roster. That’s a definite plus for anybody who just wants to put in the game and play against a friend on a similar skill level as them. The fighting itself still feels satisfying even if you haven’t mastered the timing or precision of tag in combos, bounds, etc.
There is also a pretty goofy mode called Fight Lab which can be used as a teaching guide for new players to learn the ins and outs of the game. The mode is framed by a story of Violet (Lee’s alter ego introduced in Tekken 4) trying to create his perfect fighting robot, Combot.
At the beginning, he has succeeded in creating his invention, but through pure arrogance and stupidity deletes the AI and destroys the robot, having to start over. The mode goes in stages and teaches you everything from how to move and attack, to some of the more complicated aspects of the game. All of which it does in often entertaining minigame like set ups.
One of the first missions in fight lab has you moving around the 3D stage to avoid explosives while someone dressed as a poor man’s power ranger shoots or throws stuff at you. It gets progressively more bizarre from there and is a fun, unique way to introduce the game to new players or those who just want to get a handle on some of the new mechanics.
The actual lab part of the Fight Lab comes in the customization of Combot itself. As you move forward you can teach and equip it with new attacks or combos to fit its style more to your own personal liking. It’s a neat concept and adds something to keep players interested in what is essentially a tutorial mode.
The other modes of play are fairly standard. You have Arcade Mode, where you play through a series of fights until you get to the boss and unlock an ending for a character when you win. As is usual for the series, the endings range from the incredibly melodramatic to the more tongue-in-cheek nonsensical. As with the first Tekken Tag Tournament game, this one has no canonical story that relates to the series so most of the endings don’t make sense but are still fun to watch.
Outside of that, you also have Ghost Battle which is probably where most time will be spent in single player, which is essentially an endless series of battles to up the fighting rank of the characters you play and is also an alternative way to unlock certain secrets in the game if you beat the right enemies. Everything else is essentially a number of challenge-type modes like survival or time attack.
It has customizable outfits and looks you can personalize the fighters with. I’ve never been much of a fan of this in these kinds of fighting games since I first experienced it in Virtua Fighter 4 but I know there are plenty of people who like to have a signature look to their characters. Among these are items that they can carry that add attacks to their repertoire.
The game has a fairly massive roster of fighters to choose from, collecting the majority of characters from the entire series barring a few exceptions (such as Gon or Devil Kazuya). Each have been tweaked a bit and those who haven’t appeared in the series for awhile have had major overhauls to their fighting styles to update them. Overall, it’s a good bit of variety to choose from.
The graphics of the game are about as impressive as they’ve been for the past couple of titles, no major visual changes to the engine. The stages seem fairly intricate and interesting but very few are notable enough to leave a lasting impression. Probably the most notable stage being the most confusing, featuring Snoop Dogg overseeing the fight like a “gangsta” version of Caesar. I still don’t understand the decision from a marketing standpoint to feature a song and stage of the famous rapper, but it’s an amusing addition at the very least.
Musically I am not particularly fond of much of the music in this latest outing, but that may just be personal taste. I do find it interesting that they give the player control over what music plays on what stage if they want to change it. I will admit I’m somewhat tempted to buy the collection of DLC tracks from Tekken 1 through Tag Tournament to replace some of the actual tracks in the game.
While it sort of saddens me that Tekken seems to be no longer as accessible to me as it once was, that doesn’t keep me from seeing that this is still a pretty solid fighting game with a lot to offer and enjoy. This is especially true for the most devoted of 3D fighting game fanatics. If you are a Tekken fan, it is definitely a worthwhile purchase and can keep you fairly busy if you have the time. If you are less tolerant of fighting games that can be fairly punishing to the less skilled, you may want to avoid this one though.