Tekken 3 was the masterpiece. Not just “a” masterpiece – THE masterpiece of fighting games when it was released. Here was a perfectly executed fighter that balanced great graphics with a fluid frame rate, and backed it up with a deep fighting system. Was it anything fancy? Did it feature weapons, super meters, complex counters or giant robots? Nope – and yet, it was the premier fighting game of it’s generation. When the Playstation 2 came rolling around, it made sense to craft a Tekken game for it. Tekken Tag Tournament was the result, and while not a sequel in the truest sense, it signified the potential of the series. The potential to go on and do greater things. Suffice to say, Tekken 4 was not one of those things – it introduced a ton of new mechanics but just didn’t contain that typical Tekken magic. Personally, Tekken 5 and 6 never really did it for me. They were Tekken, yes, but the appeal that drew me in was missing.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 doesn’t return to the roots of the series or try to overtly evolve the formula. Put simply, it features a huge roster, tag-team action and the same Tekken gameplay of defense and combo juggling. And yet, it reinstates a sense of a simplicity into the unforgiving combat, making it easier to pick up while rewarding those who improve. The sheer amount of content and game modes – not including the Online fighting – is overwhelming.
No single fighter feels overpowered, not even the end-boss characters. Each individual retains a style that goes beyond simple “big hitting guy with power” or “quick lithe chick that helps me sleep better at night”. The 50+ roster characters, including returning favourites like Jin, Kazuya, Marshall Law and Nina and old characters from the series like Kunimitsu, Michelle Chang, Tiger Jacksonl, Angel and Alex, along with others like Julia Chang’s alter-ego (split personality?) Jaycee who feature enhanced movesets promises no lack of variety. Then again, with this many characters, it won’t take long before you eventually start slotting fighters together on the basis of how well they’d fit your play style. Players like Jun balance juggling combos with free-flowing fighting and counters, while Kazuya is a mean, first-to-the-punch brawler. If there could be any complaint lobbied against the fighters, it’s that too many of them feel like they’ve always felt. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Make no mistake – this is Tekken. Each of the face buttons represents a different limb of your character’s body. Holding down a direction plus a face button initiates different moves, such as strong attacks, homing attacks, launchers and more. Hit X and A, or B and Y together to execute throws, while side-stepping by using the analog pad plus the trigger buttons. Attacks are divided into lower, mid and high, and so are guards. Counters and throw defenses are also present, along with unblockable attacks and alternate styles. Learning the mechanics of play are very easy thanks to the new Fight Lab, that tacks on a funny – though altogether flat-falling – story. For beginners, it’s great and for veterans, it helps reacquaint them with the Tekken style while giving them the feeling of achievement.
Other game modes include the Story Mode – which, shock of shocks is entirely dispensable – and Ghost Battle, which is exactly like Virtua Fighter’s Kumite mode. You face off against computer opponents of varying skills, progress in rank, and buy new items and accessories to customise your fighter. It’s fun but the unpredictably is a bit tampered by the limited range of the AI. Sometimes, it feels like you’re just clearing a swathe of destruction through the roster. Oftentimes they lack the fluidity and changing balance of a real Tekken fight.
That’s where the Online play comes in. It offers you the chance to fight ranked or unranked battles, and really, it’s awesome to take on teams, experiment with tactics, adjust on the fly and more. That is, whenever the system decides to work. Maybe because it’s just started out but disconnects, communication errors and horrendous lag hurt the experience at times. Yes, you’re better off fighting opponents closer to you but wasn’t the point of the World Tekken Federation to provide a global platform for fighters? We’ll hold off further complaints until later, but this is not a good start to the fighting season.
At least the game looks good. I can’t say whether it’s the best looking fighting on the market, but it’s fast and fluid, the animations are spot-on and realistic, and there are no collision detection issues or screen-tearing. The voice acting is decent, along with the sound effects, but the music. Good lord, the music. Never before has there been a more potent combination of “too annoying to forget” and “too bland to care about”.
After six mainstream titles, several off-shoots, portable titles and whatnot, it feels dumb to say Tekken hasn’t done anything new since the changes we got in Tekken 4. But let’s review those changes: Full 3D movement, meaning you were no longer on a stagnant stages. Opponents could be backed into corners, walls could be broken through – this increased the number of strategies or so it was hoped. Either than that, aside from character balancing and move set changes, not much else. In fighting games, there’s a delicate balance you have to adhere to. You can’t change too much to dissuade the groove that veterans carved for themselves. Some people love being able to pick up the game and resume where they left off from (Street Fighter IV, anyone?). But if you forsake everything else for the sake of maintaining that balance till it becomes old and predictable, then what reason is there to pick up the newest game in the series in the first place?
There are arguments that could go on for new content versus new gameplay. But the best way to sum things up? If you like Tekken, you’ll like Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and the sheer wealth of content on offer. If you like serious strategic fighting that’s haunted by it’s own conventions, you’ll be able to get into Tekken. If you’re a grizzled veteran looking for something fresh you won’t find it here, but the gameplay is still fun enough for killing an hour or two online. This isn’t a reinvention of the franchise nor is it the best possible celebration but it’s good enough to engage some friends over and while away a weekend. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself coming back to it less as time goes by.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Looks and feels great. Large roster of characters. Plenty of in-depth fighting but still accessible to newbies.
Plays pretty much like every typical Tekken game in recent memory. Lack of any new revolutionary features. Laggy online mode. Repetitive and awful techno music.
It's Tekken. Neither a celebration nor a tragedy, but still good for a few rounds.
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