Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (TTT2) is a game well over a decade in the making, with the first title in the subseries being released alongside the PS2 back in 2000. Being a non-canonical entry to the Tekken storyline, the game acts as more of a greatest hits compilation than a series entry proper and takes itself a lot less seriously because of this. Because of its existence outside the main storyline, TTT2 also provides a perfect jumping on point for those who have never experienced the series or have left it long behind. Namco Bandai has pulled out all the stops in delivering what is one of the most comprehensive fighting game packages available.
As with the majority of games in the genre, without the ability to play online or with friends, there is very little to be found in the way of a single player experience. The Fight Lab sees players take on the role of fighting robot Combot, receiving instruction from his creator. This mode acts as a kind of Tekken Tutorial, allowing new players to come to grips with the many systems in play. It also permits Combot’s moves to be adjusted, which helps newcomers settle on a character based on move set rather than looks. Diving into the Fight Lab is something that comes highly recommended as the difficulty in the Arcade Mode alone ramps up quite quickly for players attempting to fumble their way through. Whilst there is the option to practice against the CPU in Arcade, Survival, and Practice modes, this isn’t really adequate preparation for competing against the more advanced and unpredictable opponents found online.
By playing through the various game modes, in-game currency is earned which can be used to purchase all manner of customisation options for the 50 plus character roster, including hairstyles, costumes and accessories, some of which must first be unlocked. Items don’t come cheap in the TTT2 store however, so expect to be playing for quite some time to buy everything. It’s also worth pointing out that unlike previous entries in the Tekken series, gamers won’t have to work hard to unlock their favourite fighters as 49 of them are available from the moment the game is started, a wise move on the developer’s part given the focus on multiplayer. The music customisation option is a great inclusion given the narrow range of music available in game which, although it might not be to everybody’s tastes, does work well with the on screen action.
Combat is as deep and exciting as ever. The Tag system brings even more strategy into the fray allowing players to balance the weaknesses and strengths of two fighters in order to handle a wider variety of situations and opponents effectively. For example, someone coming up against a foe that is particularly strong but also slow might switch to a partner who can defeat them with speed rather than brute force. If this tactic hasn’t worked very well and a character starts to take damage, their off-screen partner will go into a Rage state which increases the damage done if they are tagged in. Tagging in and out can also provide a measure of health regeneration for the inactive fighter, another strategic element which needs to be taken into consideration during a bout. Destructible multi-level environments also provide savvy players with opportunities to inflict even more punishment on their enemies.
The ample roster has something for everybody, although slight tweaks here and there to strength and speed ensure that players who take the time to work with their chosen characters will always do better than those who try mashing buttons with Eddy Gordo and Tiger to get through. Again, as the game is non-canonical, Namco Bandai has been free to ignore timelines and age gaps when choosing which version of a character to include, with some models looking much younger than they would in a main series title at this point. Fans of MMA and traditional martial arts should be pleased with many of the moves as a variety of styles are represented, from Tae Kwon Do and Karate to Capoeira and Kung Fu.
Whilst TTT2 exhibits many high points, there are a few rough edges which are more annoying than detrimental. Long load times plague every aspect of the game and any install options are recommended. These are exacerbated by the repetitive pre-match fighter intros which are unskippable. There are only so many times a player can hear Jackie Chan wannabe Lei declare “You have the right to remain silent!” before wanting to wipe the smirk off his face for good. Whilst the graphics are of an overall high standard, the character models are not all cut from the same cloth and the resulting textures can sometimes be disappointing, as is the case with series mainstay King. An interesting note is that every character now speaks in his or her native tongue, although much like the texture issues the acting is hit and miss. Perhaps TTT2’s biggest problem, however, is the inability to use the controller’s analog sticks, with the D-pad being the sole option. As many people can attest, stock standard console controllers don’t often come equipped with the highest quality D-pads and dedicated fighting controllers aren’t a practical purchase for everybody. In a game which relies so heavily on accurate and split second inputs, it’s frustrating to feel hampered by hardware.
The online mode is where many players will spend the bulk of their time and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The matchmaking is made to feel quicker by the inclusion of pre-bout practice whilst an opponent is being found. Each player is given a disconnection percentage which should serve to discourage such practices, or at least warn a player of the chance of it happening during a particular round. There are short bursts of slowdown during matches but nothing that is game-breaking. Like many skill-based online games, there is unfortunately a steep learning curve for latecomers. No amount of offline practice can prepare someone for the onslaught of high ranking players, many of whom have racked up hundreds if not thousands of matches already. The best bet is to dive in head first and learn by doing.
To summarise, TTT2 is a worthwhile purchase for anybody looking for a top tier 3D fighting game. Its wide array of characters, modes and unlockables provide a deep and engaging experience for Tekken veterans and the uninitiated. Whilst those looking for a more focused single player experience would be better served elsewhere, if they have online access or a couple of friends over, TTT2 is a sure fire winner.