Weíve seen a glut of fantastic fighting games released for the current console generation, prompting renewed vigour within fighting game communities and kick-starting new interest among couch warriors everywhere - still, you could be forgiven for suffering fighting game fatigue.
With brand spanking new iterations of Mortal Kombat, Marvel Vs. Capcom and Street Fighter now available - and a new Dead or Alive due for release shortly - we are spoilt for choice. And let's face it, three Tekken games in as many years is a lot, no matter which way you slice it. The key difference here? Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the first time players have had a chance to experience a true sequel to Tekken Tag Tournament. The question is after a dozen years does the world need another tag-based Tekken game?
Arguably one of the most polished examples of a tag system in Vs. fighting games, TTT2 releases in an interesting time - in between Street Fighter X Tekken and the fabled Tekken X Street Fighter. Core Tekken fans have been clamouring for a sequel to Tekken Tag Tournament and T-to-the-power-of-four doesnít disappoint. Better still TTT2 leaves the door ajar and the light on for new fans who may have found a Tekken character they enjoyed in Street fighter X Tekken and are willing to give TTT2 a go. For that reason alone the timing for TTT2 couldnít be better.
Itís important to note that if you are coming to TTT2 for the storyline, you're gonna have a bad time. As with most non-canonical Vs. fighting games, TTT2 exists outside of the main series storyline. I found this a little disappointing as the bar has been raised following the fantastic attention to detail poured into story-modes of games like Mortal Kombat 9. Given the number of new players that could be drawn to TTT2 some semblance of a story mode would have provided context for the many different characters - without it I was left to construct my own fan fiction.
Tekken Tag 2 is no slouch in the warm bodies department, bursting at the seams with familiar faces from the world of Tekken. Players can choose from 50+ different characters and combine to create some wild tag teams. Great news if you like Bears, Pandas, Kangaroos and Dinosaurs wearing boxing gloves named Alex. The only disappointment is that Gon - the diminutive dinosaur from Tekken 3 - didnít make the cut.
You can also choose to play Tekken tag in solo mode where you select one playable character, but youíd be better off leaving this for Tekken 6 - TTT2ís gameplay is really at its best with players tagging in and out to combine and create some fantastic moves. When one of your characters takes too much damage the teammate enters a Rage state, providing you with a short term advantage to deal maximum damage to your opponent. In practice it makes for some dramatic contests as players hang on to one character, risking defeat for the reward of tagging in a teammate with full health and the upper hand. Itís a nice touch.
One of the most common complaints with the Tekken series is that the game system is impenetrable to new players. Sure, you can button mash to your heartís content but youíll be destroyed by another player with even a semblance of knowledge. Fortunately TTT2 has included a series of training tools within the game that service both tutelage of gameplay and to explain the bat-**** insanity that is the world of Tekken.
TTT2ís training mode is called Fight Lab, exposing players to cheesy cut scenes in exchange for a better understanding of gameplay mechanics. Each battle won in Fight Lab also rewards the player with in game currency that can be used to unlock content to customise characters. Fight Lab links a sequence of battles with a loose story (punch the octopus lady five times in the tentacles to progress) where the player have to pull off specific moves, leading up to short boss battles at the conclusion of each section.
Familiar faces will pop up during the missions and the difficulty of objectives ramps up quickly. TTT2 is keen to ensure the player is exposed to the systems and mechanics that separate Tekken from other fighting games on the market. Itís a bold move as Tekken is an entirely different species, making the training mode for new players more of a challenge than a chore with time limits that are quite unforgiving. Fortunately difficulty spikes in Fight Lab are rewarded in currency that can be spent on pretty clothes and weapons. Putting paper dolls in my fighting game may be a cheap way of extending my stay but Iím in.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 should be applauded for allowing players to customise character costumes, following the example set by Soulcalibur to provide players with the tools to produce wild and wonderful custom characters. As with Soulcalibur, the majority of content youíll produce in character customisation will err on the side of the ridiculous. TTT2 appreciates the humorous side of character customisation, with more than a few amusing costumes popping up in arcade mode to validate your decision to stick Kuma in a cat suit and a pinwheel hat. On one playthrough veteran hard-man Greg Marduk donned a red riding cap and clutched a mackerel in his left paw. Fearsome stuff indeed. Interestingly character customization isnít limited to aesthetic modification, with players able to purchase and equip weapons to provide characters with new moves. Mardukís fearsome mackerel is indeed a favourite - though sadly he is unable to hurl said fish.
Customised characters can be saved as an alternate selection option for you to use all game modes, meaning you can create your own unique loadout for your character. Unfortunately TTT2 doesn't however allow players to select two of the same character despite the fact that they are heavily customised. With 50+ character to choose from you probably shouldnít be picking two of the same character anyway.
At the time of this review the PlayStation 3 versionís net code for online play produced consistently steady games with minimal lag. TTT2 also handles searches for online games rather cleverly, instead of searching for games by region there is search function for online play based on connection strength 1 to 5+. Smart stuff indeed. While waiting for a new challenge in online mode players wait in a practice stage lobby. When a new challenger connects to the hosted game the player has the option to accept the challenge, receiving a series of statistics including the challengerís connection strength and disconnection rate, great for avoiding those filthy cheaters.
In many ways TTT2 is best defined by its music. It's cheerful, furiously paced and unforgiving. While most recent Vs. fighting games have sought to reinvent themselves, TTT2 is comfortable in its own skin. It's familiar, and comfortingly complete. This familiarity is great for current Tekken fans but you could argue the time for innovation was now. TTT2 is firmly wedged between Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken X Street Fighter and the eyes of other fighting game fans will fall on a new Tekken game if only for a moment. By choosing not to rock the boat Namco may have cost themselves some new fans in the process.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a well-made fighting game that is at its best in a room full of friends with a passing interest in Tekken in general. Itís a love letter to Tekken fans, and people who want to see a kangaroo beat the **** out of a dinosaur.