Review: Tekken Tag Tournament 2: The King of the Iron Fist Tournament Just Got Even Better
As a fan of the Tekken series for a pretty longtime, it’s tough inviting friends to play with me who have never touched a Tekken game in their life. The usual responses follow any attempt I’ve ever made to get people on the Tekken bandwagon: “I hate Tekken,” or “Your lifebar goes down so low after 3 hits!” or “Tekken’s too hard to understand!” While anyone who’s played the series over the years could attest to how much the series has evolved over the years, no game proves its accessibility better than Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which succeeds as both an invitation to new players and just being an all-around fun game.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has a few typical Modes around, but the newest is the Fight Lab, a mode that’s half story and half-Tutorial Mode. The premise is a great blend of the Tekken series’ increasingly whacky humor: Lee, under his alternate identity of Violet, is trying to design his Combot to be the ultimate fighting machine. But, being the super-arrogant, egotistical airhead he is, Lee accidentally deletes the new Combot’s A.I. and causes it to overload. Stretched for time and resources, Lee decides to bring out the old Combot from Tekken 4 and retrain it to be the ultimate fighting machine.
Fight Lab takes you through five chapters that teach both the mechanics of the game and allow players to hone their skills in actual battle. The story is also so whacky and random that it’s simply to follow and easily enjoyable, with random cameos and a few good twists to challenges. If you play to the end, you even get treated to a battle against a few flagship characters from another popular fighting game franchise… But the coolest part about Fight Lab is that for everything you do correctly, your Combot gains XP, which can be spent on unlocking and equiping moves to your Combot.
Whereas in previous Tekken games Combot was simply another mimic character (like the wooden dummy Mokujin or metal dummy Tetsujin) whose moveset matched a randomly selected character, Fight Lab gives you the ability to–as Lee wanted–build your ultimate fighter. Essentially you have almost all of the moves of every character in the game at your disposal (with higher ranks obtained in Fight Lab providing access to better moves) to make what was a bland (or non-existent) character into something unique. Better yet, you can program up to 4 different “Datas” (movesets), which are selectable at the character select screen. Finally, Fight Lab also unlocks a ton of items to customize the look and moveset of your character.
Speaking of customization, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 offers a fairly decent Customization Mode. Like Tekken 6, TTT2 allows you to buy items that not only change your character’s appearance, but affects their moveset. Weapons can be purchased for use in battle, as well some effects and the entrance screens that play behind teams before battles start. It’s basically WWE meets Tekken.
And while there doesn’t seem to be as many items as, perhaps, a WWE game, they are diverse. Among the cool stuff were wings of all sorts, swords and staffs, Power Ranger-like costumes, and a ki/aura fields that emanate from your characters (eat your heart out, Goku). Along the awesome were a pair of odd-looking bicycle wheels that–when equipped to your Combot–allow you to ride into battle after a tag like one of the Arcee robots in Transformers 2. Among the more humorous were things like an alien that can be placed on your character’s head, mashing buttons and a joystick as if it were directing the character in battle instead of you. Among the bizarre was a small man doing a neverending hammer throw on your character’s head.
And there’s so much more.
Outside of Fight Lab and Customization, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 offers all of the typical fighting game stock: Arcade Mode allows you to play for money that can be used for buying items for your characters; Pair Play mode allows you to play with another person to tackle the game’s story as a team, or up to four players for human on human versus mode; and in all modes players can fight as a team or solo. To unlock each character’s ending (always the first fighter of the team), players have to do the “story,” and after 9 battles gain a ending that can be reviewed in the Theater.
Practice Mode is better than ever, allowing players to tailor their training experience however they like. Players can pull up a command list that shows your character’s moveset during gameplay, instantly play video tutorials that show how the move should be performed, etc. A nice little touch is the ability to program not just your dummy’s motions (like Stand, Jump, Crouch, etc) but up to 5 moves from their command list to be performed against you as you train, useful if you’re trying to learn how to dissect certain character’s playstyle. Players can also tweak how frequent dummies perform certain moves, blocks, and much more.
The gameplay itself feels like a step up from Tekken 6: it feels faster, more kinetic, and yes, your character will get hurt bad if caught in a good combo. This faster paced fighting encourages players to tag frequently, and with good reason.Like the original Tekken Tag Tournament and very unlike other “Tag” fighting games, if one fighter is K.O.ed, it equals a loss for the team, even if the other character has a full lifebar. While some Capcom fans may cry foul, this gives Tekken Tag Tournament 2 a unique feel, and adds a higher tension to the battles. Whereas in other games you know you can sacrifice a player, in this game you have to keep characters alive by switching them out and allowing them to recover, especially in tougher battles. To balance this, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 also incorporates the “Rage” mechanic (from Tekken 6 and Tag maneuvers. Rage kicks in when a player who losses a lot of health is switched for their partner, giving the partner added speed and strength for a short duration. The tag options are nice duo-damaging moves that include team attacks, team throws, and team juggles.
Visually, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ranges between great and stunning. Ending videos can occasionally include very beautiful, jaw-dropping visuals that push the system compared to its peers (the fur textures in one ending really floored me). The stages are a little more bland and unappealing, but many have at least one of three destructible elements (breakable walls, floors, or guard rails that lead to “new” areas). Another cool customizable option is Tekken Tunes, which allows players to choose particular Tekken theme songs or the player’s harddrive music content for particular stages (for fun, I put the Mortal Kombat movie theme on the character select screen for a while).
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is many things: fast, fun, and occasionally frustrating. But most importantly, it tries hardest to be accessible. Mostly, it succeeds and without sacrificing any of what makes it a pure Tekken game. If anything, it succeeds so well because of how much it embraces its core, its roots, and where the series has gone over the years.
For true Tekken fans, this is a no-brainer: get this game. You’ll love it. For newcomers looking for a new challenge, and willing to try something that isn’t a Capcom game, buy Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Do the Fight Lab, get playing, let me know what you think, then challenge me (but you’re not allowed to win).
I give Tekken Tag Tournament 2:
Out of 5
- Review: Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (putthatback.org)
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2 review: Bear punching at its very finest (joystiq.com)
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Review (godisageek.com)
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2 free DLC plans revealed (vg247.com)