Clearly not satisfied with rustling feathers amongst their Street Fighter counterparts, the Tekken cast are back again, sticking to tag mechanics but this time doing so to settle some internal disputes. Since the last Tag Tournament we’ve seen Tekkens 4, 5 and 6 come and go, meaning along with numerous new faces to pound, this new iteration brings a gracious offering of new ways to go about issuing those poundings – but as fighting fans continue to be showered in new releases, the big question hangs overhead as fans have to decide on which one is the best investment for your precious time and money. Facing off competition from all angles, join us ringside at NGB, as the King of Iron Fist gets ready for the next battle.
Game: Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Tekken’s story-telling is fairly synonymous with generous smatterings of luscious CG cinematics, and this latest entry in the series is no different at all. The game opens with a brand new port-exclusive opening movie, and there’s no denying it looks nice – your enjoyment past this point may depend on how bought into Tekken lore you are, though. If the idea of Jinpachi sat in the back of a taxi is one that brings a wry smile to your face then you’re more than likely in the fan-service sweet spot, whereas newcomers might be slightly taken aback by a giant, semi-naked man with a demonic voice and a markedly purple glow going about his business.
Seeing your way through the arcade mode will take you through the usual series of battles, with a quite surprisingly well thought-out and impressive series of final encounters to wrap things up. Doing so unlocks character-specific endings, and whilst it’s back to a similarly silly tone about any number of these, provided you can take things with a pinch of salt there’s still a good bit of fun to be had. There’s a fair offering of daft plot antics within the game’s ‘Fight Lab’ mode too, including some rather humourous (and warranted) jabs at some other fighters out there on the market. With the ‘Tag’ series not even considered part of the main Tekken storyline, it really all boils down to a rogue’s gallery of various folk who enjoy punching each other a lot – but you’ve gotta hand it to the team for at least having the sense to balance out the stony-faced brawlers with a light hint of self-mockery.
There’s no denying that the game looks wonderful, and though whilst in-flight there may be some hairs to be split between what we have here and its arcade counterpart, it’s a remarkably close-run race. Managing to look noticably slicker than Tekken 6 previously did on consoles – despite the obvious challenge of twice the number of characters being thrown about – is certainly something that deserves recognition. There’s a solid variety of new and fun stages too, often with customary walls and floors to break through into an even greater variety of arenas. Between all of this, the undeniably gorgeous CG cinematics, and the generally quite slick interfaces, there’s very little to fault from a visual perspective. Whilst there’s plenty of ground to argue about which fighters look the best and which have the best designs, there’s no doubting from a technical perspective that this is sitting right at the top of the tree.
If the idea of Jinpachi sat in the back of a taxi is one that brings a wry smile to your face then you’re more than likely in the fan-service sweet spot…
Whilst it’s all contemporary and upbeat, there’s still a decent variety to the music you’ll find in TTT2. Those adversed to “wubs” may find their ears burned by the odd hint of dubstep, the gaming industry’s current sonic fascination, but even then it’s all fairly inoffensive and listenable. One remarkably simple innovation that just seems so obvious now is “Tekken Tunes” – in simple terms, the ability to pick out stages one by one and link them to a specific music track, be it from the game’s own library or from any tracks you’ve stored on the console. Whilst there’s plenty of comedy potential opened up by this (every stage could – nay should – be set to Guile’s theme), there’s also filler slots in the menu for Namco to sell you some tracks from previous Tekken games. Given the freedom the mode allows in general, it’s hard to be cynical about such optional buy-ins, and instead it’s one that we hope is picked up by other developers in future. Sound effect-wise, the usual array of crunches, shatters, grunts and groans are just as you’d expect really – convincing, and often quite satisfying, but rarely anything out of the blue.
As with any fighting game, one of the biggest draws of a new update are in the new mechanics introduced. Those versed in the more recent Tekkens may be pleased to find the like of bound hits, walls, and rage mode introduced to the Tag series for the first time, but there’s also some new mechanics brought in that make effective use of both characters. Perhaps one of the smartest things Namco have done with the game is to actually take the time to explain these to players too, through the tutorial-come-story ‘Fight Lab’ mode. In this, Violet (Lee’s rather creepy alter-ago) sets about turning his ‘Combot’ research project into a master warrior, by running through a series of trials that teach and test you on your fighting fundamentals. Whilst an experienced played will likely breeze through most of these without much thought, it’s still quite an enjoyable endeavour thanks to some thought (gasp!) being put into the scenario and dialogue; there’s also even more fun to be had by buying upgrades (read: other character’s moves) for Combot and then trying to shape him into your own custom-built character.
If you’re new to the series then there really is no better point to jump in and learn…
Whilst tag throws, crashes, assaults and so on are there for you to explore as a duo, so too is the new option of wading in with just the one, powered-up character for some 2 vs 1 or 1 vs 1 action – with the loss of just one character signalling the loss of a round, this can make some matches quite interesting. Throw in the ability for up to 4 players being able to play at once too, and you’re generally pretty well catered for modes of playing with others. Every mode grants you copious amounts of ‘fight money’, which is then pumped back into the game by buying daft clothing and accessories to customise your characters with. Given the roster already stands at the plumpest Tekken is yet to see (with the promise of even more via free DLC in the future), you can expect to see a fair range of visual styles, even if not fighting styles.
With a sadness in our hearts, we feel it our duty to report to fans of the original TTT that Tekken Bowl is regretfully no more. Stepping away from the side-shows though, there’s enough here to keep you occupied if you’re willing to persist with it – with concerns of content in hand, your enjoyment of the game really is down to just how much you enjoy Tekken and the way that it plays. The game is still very heavily combo-orientated, and being caught in a loop of juggle combos and floor pick-ups is certainly not for all. A roster this huge also has the disadvantage of being quite alienating to new players given the huge scope of character knowledge that goes into top-level play. If you’re new to the series then there really is no better point to jump in and learn, but those with an existing disposition against the series are unlikely to find anything revolutionary enough in here to provoke a change of heart.
With regular competition for offline play being somewhat of a rare luxury to most gamers, online play features as the real meat of the package. It’s tough to say from a game’s launch just how long we can expect to see people battling it out, but it is pretty clear that a lot of time has been spent trying to make online play appealing – as well as some quite solid netcode, the rather amusingly named ‘WTF’ (World Tekken Federation) sits as home of a variety of online ranking and stat tracking data. It’s easy enough to get online, register, fight, and even set up teams with your buddies, but the clear cost of this interactivity comes in the form of an online pass. Those buying new copies need not worry, but with it being the first fighting game to feature such a system, there does lie the potential danger of the community drying out as time moves on and second-hand buyers refuse to pay out for their access to online features.
There’s a couple of clever new features, and a decent offering of new stages and characters to try out, but underneath all of this it’s undoubtably still Tekken at heart. Whilst not a bad thing by any stretch, there’s no changes fundamental enough to recommend non-fans to try it out – instead mainly just the addition of some smarter entry-level content, and enough new to learn for the existing fans to soak up until the inevitable next ‘main’ Tekken release. The addition of online stat tracking is a nice one, but with the whole system undoubtably still in infancy, it’s unlikely to be enough of a deterrant to stop the online paywall slowly diminishing the number of players online. Whilst it’s no revolutionary leap forwards in any sense, it’s still the best Tekken game you can buy right now.