The fighter that started the tag-teaming trend in today’s games is back, and boasting a bigger roster, more modes, and Snoop Dogg. That last part you probably don’t care about. It’s the deep, combo-driven, timing-based, technical fighting that Tekken has been lauded for since the dawn of PlayStation that you care about, and rightfully so.
At its core, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a very worthy successor to the original, and stays entirely true to the Tekken formula. Almost to its detriment. Even though there are some new bells and whistles added, the new WTF (World Tekken Federation), and the customizable Com-bot, Tekken hasn’t changed much over the years. And with many other fan-favorite fighting franchises (say that ten times fast) working hard to reinvent themselves over the years, I can’t help but feel like it’s time to reinvent Tekken, too. Or go back to the drawing board completely.
Harsh words, I know. It’s not so much the combat I have a problem with. It’s still as good as it always has been—even deeper, in fact. My main issues stems from the roster; which for Tekken Tag Tournament 2, packs in over 50 characters. But really, it’s more like 35, with two different flavors of some of them. While their actions, all the way down to the base moves are different, too many characters are too similar. There’s a Forest Law, and a Marshall Law; there’s Jin Kazama, and there’s Devil Jin; There’s King, and an Armor King. That’s one too many Jaguar-masked wrestlers in the ring. Even having played as some of these characters for well over nearly two decades, I don’t really feel any preference toward any of them. Certainly not like I would with Ryu or Chun Li, or Johnny Cage and Scorpion.
And what have they done to Christie Monteiro? She looks saggy compared to Tekken 6!
Outside of that one admittedly odd and creepy character design preference, the character models really shine and are detailed and well-animated. You can see the separation of every muscle, veins in arms, or striations across the chest of Marshall Law. That is if you haven’t dressed him up in Ancient Warrior Armor or given him Fairy Wings using the game’s many customizations.
Winning a match—any match across the many, many modes packed into TTT2—earns you gold to spend dressing up your favorite, or least favorite characters.
Now that my nitpicking is out of the way, there’s plenty that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 does very right. Tag Assaults and Binds help freshen up the time-tested combat. The combat itself is Tekken‘s best selling point. Each character and their techniques and timing are very difficult to master, lending itself well to the hardest of hardcore fighting fans (whom I’ve likely angered a bit up until this point). Even veterans may struggle at perfectly executing a bone-breaking 10-hit combo. Putting the time in to learn and hone your skills pays off in spades. Few fighters continue to be rewarding with the more time you invest.
Plus, even though I complained about the roster, it is admittedly one of the largest in any game, period. While the individual characters may not be my cup of tea, they are bound to be someone’s. It’s not just the roster, either; the amount of customizations available, and the sheer amount of modes both online and off, will keep you busy long after your first punch is thrown. Pair Play lets up to four players at once get in on the tag team action.
I also think the Fight Lab is a very clever addition. Not only does it show you the ropes slowly and surely, but the more you play, the more moves you pick up to completely customize the Combot to your sinister heart’s desire. The entire game’s moveset, across any and all characters, can be learned and added to Combot’s repertoire. And playing through it is both fun and chuckle worthy. Too bad it can also be frustrating at times, and unclear on what it wants you to do. Stuck on the timing of a certain move? Keep trying again and again and again and again until you get it. But it does teach you eventually, despite falling many times.
World Tekken Federation is a great initiative, and hope that other fighting franchises take not. Players can log into worldtekkenfederation.com (although you have to sign up for a separate Namco-Bandai ID) and track their statistics and in-fight metrics, see how they fared against particular opponents, and should you choose, study your opponent’s character preferences and play types.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a hell of a fighter with some interesting additions that frankly, no one else is doing. That’s great and all, but I do think it’s time to Tekken to follow other’s lead and do something drastic to reinvigorate and reinvent the series. While it’s not a terrible thing, it really is just more of the same. But that “same” just so happens to be a solid, deep, rewarding fighter, with a huge, but somewhat bland roster.