Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the latest 8-way-run fighting game from Namco-Bandai. The home version of the game has been a long time coming; it was originally released in Japanese arcades a year ago. Before the game came out I was really excited. I’ve had a lot of fun playing Tekken games with my friends and this one looked like it had a particularly crazy and awesome presentation. With a huge roster of characters, a tag system, and a history of fun gameplay, TTT 2 had a lot of promise. It’s unfortunate then that the final product can’t quite live up to expectations.
As mentioned above Tekken Tag Tournament 2, like all games in the Tekken series, is an 8-way-run or 3D fighting game. The main difference between this sort of game and a 2D fighter is the ability to move around your opponent and the stage in all directions. This obviously has a significant impact upon the way that the game plays. The game operates on five buttons: left punch, right punch, left kick, right kick, and the tag button. These buttons are used to create combos and combinations of buttons produce unique moves. Like most 3D fighters, TTT2 make little use of stick movements, limiting almost all of them to holding a direction. Rarely will the game ask you to make a quarter circle and most characters do not have such moves. The game puts a heavy emphasis on juggling combos, keeping your opponent in the air with a series of attacks. The juggling makes it fairly simple, in theory, to incorporate tag moves into your combos. These tag moves take the form of tag assaults and quick tags. In a tag assault, which is triggered by pressing the tag button after bouncing an opponent off the ground, you control both characters, switching off between them, as they unleash a series of attacks on the opponent. You can also quickly tag your character after they use a launcher attack, a move where the opponent is sent high up in the air. This allows you to perform the juggling combo with the other character rather than the one that performed the launcher. One of the other systems in the game is the rage system. When one character takes too much damage, their partner will do more damage for a short amount of time. Still, the tag system is obviously the major gameplay change between this and other 8-way-run games. You can choose either one or two characters. If you play a single character they are tougher, but don’t have access to tag combos. Playing with two characters gives you the ability to tag and perform tag combos, but the characters are weaker than the singles and if even one character is knocked out you lose the match.
TTT 2 has almost all the modes that you want out of a fighting game. Obviously there is local and online versus modes. The online play isn’t great. It can take a long time to find a match and lag can show up even on good connections. Furthermore, the online community is very good at this game. It’s going to take you a long time to break into the community, if you ever do. I could easily see someone becoming so frustrated that they don’t want to play anymore. This is exacerbated by the lack of a character specific challenge mode. There is a tutorial mode that does a decent job of teaching you how to play the game, but you play as Combot during this time. Combat has a collection of moves that are taken from different characters, which means that any combos or techniques you learn must be restructured for any other character. Unfortunately there is no story mode in the game. What story there is comes from the opening cinematic and the character specific arcade endings. I was really looking forward to some crazy, and largely nonsensical, Tekken story, but there is very little in the game.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 does look very good. The character models are highly detailed and well animated. The attacks are fun to watch and there is a real sense of damage and impact whenever a character is beaten up. The art in the game is generally pretty cool. Most of the fighters have solid designs that give a good sense of their character, though some just aren’t very interesting. Fortunately you can customize the looks of you characters making them look as awesome, or silly, as you want. The customization options aren’t as deep as the Create-a-Character mode in Soul Calibur, but you can still make a unique looking model.
Ultimately Tekken Tag Tournament 2 just isn’t as much fun to play as other fighting games. Most of the characters I tried felt stiff and awkward, and even the ones that I did like didn’t feel as good as I wanted. The massive movelists make it very hard to learn characters or combos, especially because many of the moves have little variation between them. Because of this, I would find myself performing moves I didn’t intend to. Often I would just get frustrated with myself and with my opponents, who beat me soundly most of the time. There were moments of fun in the game such as when I actually pulled off a series of moves I intended or when I was playing with friends. A solid story mode, like the one in Mortal Kombat, might have made the game more enjoyable, but there is nothing like that in the game. Tekken has always been about simple fun for me, and I just didn’t get that feeling with this one. That would be fine if I had enjoyed the more complicated system that it was replaced with, but I didn’t. Instead the game just isn’t that fun and I have little interest in playing more of it.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is not a bad fighting game, but I would rather play almost any other fighting game that came out this year before it. I didn’t find the fun that I was looking for, and considering that this is a $60 retail title, I find it hard to recommend over games like Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Persona 4: Arena, or even the older Tekken 6.