Namco Bandai has a tendency of allowing three to four year gaps between Tekken titles and this lengthy development cycle certainly pays off in Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s case. Simply put, TTT2 is a massive improvement over the original Tekken Tag Tournament and is the best Tekken game yet in terms of presentation, depth, variety and gameplay.
Tekken fans will find plenty to love about this latest instalment, while newcomers may find the sheer number of characters, moves and techniques a bit overwhelming at first. The game is built with both of these groups in mind, however, as it features a story-based tutorial mode for beginners as well as a robust practice mode where Tekken pros can hone their skills before heading online to compete against other top players from around the world.
It’s very clear from the moment you start playing Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that this game was made by people who are incredibly passionate about the franchise. An extravagant opening cut-scene introduces you to some of the series’ most significant fighters as they face off in a crowded arena, and things soon get out of hand as a few supernatural Tekken characters enter the fray. The quality of the CG featured in this cut-scene is on par with last year’s computer-animated film Tekken: Blood Vengeance and sets the tone for the high production values present in the rest of the game.
TTT2 is a very open experience in that you have access to the full roster of fighters and modes from the very beginning. For example, you can jump straight into an online game if you wish or dive into Arcade Battle to unlock a certain character’s ending movie after completing nine stages.
It’s worth mentioning that certain fighters such as Angel and Kunimitsu are currently only available to people who pre-ordered the game, but will be unlocked for everyone at a later date. TTT2’s producer Katsuhiro Harada has stated that all character DLC will be free of charge so it will be great to see the game’s roster expand to almost sixty characters in the months ahead.
TTT2’s cast comprises all of the Tekken characters that’ve been featured in the past seven games in the franchise, including Julia Chang under the guise of Lucha Libre wrestler Jaycee. This time around the fighters speak in their native languages making for a more authentic experience. Some of the languages featured include French, German, Spanish and Japanese, with English subtitles appearing whenever foreign languages are used.
The cast doesn’t say much before and after each fight but the characters’ voice actors are more fully utilised during the wonderful ending movies for each fighter. These are usually between two to three minutes long and feature a wide variety of art styles including both realistic and impressionistic forms of CG. There are even some that are animated like a comic book or ones that employ pastel or pen drawing techniques. Similarly, the mood accompanying each of these ending movies ranges between humorous and poignant. If you’re keen to learn more about TTT2’s varied line-up of characters then unlocking their endings in Arcade Battle is your first step to accomplishing this!
Players who are new to the series should definitely begin by selecting Fighting Lab from the main menu. This story-based tutorial mode takes you through the basic moves and techniques found in TTT2 by putting you in the role of Combot – a robot belonging to Violet that can be programmed to use other fighters’ moves. It’s a relatively brief mode that uses a variety of entertaining challenges to teach you crucial aspects of the game such as launchers, bounds and tag combos.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to move on to the game’s other modes. Ghost Battle sees you fight AI opponents based on data collected from other players, with you being able to choose between fighters of different ranks (i.e. difficulties) after each round. TTT2’s online mode is also well suited to beginners because you can choose to only search for opponents with a similar rank to you. You can also watch other players’ replays or select spectator mode to learn what works and what doesn’t during matches.
Online play is remarkably smooth for a fighting game and you’re constantly informed of the connection quality on a scale of one to five (a value of over four is likely to result in lag-free matches). If you’re lucky enough to be in an area with lots of other TTT2 players then you can include connection quality as one of the search parameters. Judging by the number of players I encountered who had a disconnection rate of zero percent, TTT2 offers a satisfyingly smooth online experience overall.
The game’s practice mode is a great way to hone your Tekken skills and learn new moves for your favourite characters. Each fighter has over a hundred moves and this mode allows you to practice your button inputs and timing to ensure that you can pull off the most destructive moves or the longest combos in a real match.
Every option you could possibly wish for is present in practice mode, including defensive training that allows you to master some of the more tricky techniques in TTT2, such as throw escapes. Being able to choose which arena to practice at is also handy since certain stages have breakable floors, walls or balconies that add another layer of complexity to your fighting strategy.
TTT2 is certainly not short on customisation options. You can customise the music for each stage and even import your own tracks to use instead of the official playlist. There’s also a downloadable content section under this menu that suggests that the music from every one of the past Tekken games will be made available at some point in the future.
Character customisation is also a large part of TTT2, with all manner of clothing items and accessories to equip your favourite fighters with. These even extend to the LED screen behind your character at the start of each match and his or her portrait that’s displayed before battles. Furthermore, you can purchase and equip certain items that can be used during fights by entering a sequence of button inputs. For instance, you can fire a revolver at your opponent or even throw a pizza at them as if it were a Frisbee!
Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s fighting system builds upon the fundamentals of the series. The control scheme is just as simple and elegant as ever, with left punch, right punch, left kick, and right kick being mapped to the controller’s face buttons and players being able to assign a combination of these (along with the Tag move) to the remaining buttons. Fights take place in full 3D and you can sidestep your opponent at any time and keep on revolving around them until you get hit.
A big part of modern Tekken games is setting up and extending combos with launchers and bounds – moves that put your opponent in the air so you can juggle them with follow-up attacks for maximum damage. TTT2 introduces a number of new tag-based techniques and moves that see your two fighters teaming up for wonderfully destructive results. While most tag combo animations are shared between groups of characters, it never gets old seeing both your fighters on-screen dishing out the hurt to your outnumbered opponent.
TTT2 feels faster and more fluid than ever thanks to a solid 60fps frame rate, and is also very impressive from a graphical perspective. Character models and clothing are extremely detailed and the thousands of animations in the game all look fantastic. Better yet, animations transition seamlessly between different moves making for realistic-looking fights. The twenty or so stages on offer don’t always have the crispest textures but the amount of background detail in each one is astounding at times.
The developers clearly aimed for exotic stages set around the world as there’s a beautiful snowy level set in Finland and one featuring the Eiffel Tower based in Paris. Another impressive feature regarding the game’s graphics is that dirt, water, oil or snow sticks to characters’ clothing and hair if they come into contact with it.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 represents a new high-water mark for the series. There’s never been a Tekken game that has offered this much depth, variety and replayability let alone the sky-high production values that are evident in every constituent part of TTT2. The game has been crafted with genuine reverence for the Tekken franchise and its legion of fans. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or regularly take part in Tekken tournaments, this title offers endless hours of entertainment mastering its addictive and ultimately rewarding fighting system.