I won’t lie to you. I used to despise the Tekken games. I felt that they were slow, clunky, and boring. I felt that a game centered on “dial-a-combos”, born during the ugly polygon days of the Sony Playstation, was hardly worth my time. I was a Street Fighter guy all the way. When Tekken 4 came out and switched up the formula, I was slightly intrigued, and when a chick that I wanted to have sex with played Tekken 5, I got a little more serious with it. It wasn’t until Tekken 6, however, that my mind truly changed. I was stoned (of course) and watching two friends play. I remember it like it was yesterday. Marshall Law Vs. Bryan Fury. Seeing what actual competitive level play looked like woke me up. For the first time, I saw a level of complexity and depth that I haven’t seen in a fighting game since Street Fighter III: Third Strike. This wasn’t just some dumb game with odd stages, strange music, grizzly bears, and boxing kangaroos. In the right hands, Tekken was a form of art.
I began playing the game quite a bit between Marvel 3 death matches (we play for souls), and was very much anticipating the next game in the series: Tekken Tag Tournament 2. For the uninitiated, the first Tekken Tag Tournament game came out between Tekken 3 and 4. The game was built on the engine of the third game, and was the only PS2 game that anyone owned at the system’s launch that wasn’t Madden. The name of the game was fan service, cramming every character from the previous three games onto one disc and offering two-on-two battles for the first time. It was a Tekken fan’s dream.
Remember, however, that I was not a Tekken fan at the time. I pretty much only played the game because it was the only thing around that wasn’t football or Silent Scope: a game so unimpressive that it earned a home in my friend’s freezer, nestled beneath a box of hot pockets. In fact, it’s probably still in there. With the release of the sequel a decade later, I was excited but wary at the same time. Let’s blame that on Street Fighter x Tekken and sweep it under the rug though. Don’t worry, this isn’t a negative review. In my opinion, Tekken Tag 2 is the perfect example of how to release a fighting game.
Much like it’s predecessor, Tekken Tag 2 features almost every character in the series. This is a substantial amount more than the previous game, since there were three numbered additions to the series since the original. being a celebration of the entire Tekken series, even characters that were replaced by newer guys with similar fighting styles and alternates make their way onto the character select screen with a few new tricks to help them keep up. Going by memory, I think the only exclusion is Gun-Jack, but he was lame anyway.
Confused? Let me explain with a few examples. Tekken 2 had an unlockable character named Roger, who was a kangaroo with boxing gloves. If player 2 chose him they would play as Alex, a velociraptor with the same move list and matching gloves. In later Tekken games a character named Roger Jr. Became playable. Tekken Tag 2 has Roger Jr. And the home versions also include Alex as a bonus. Complete with a more old fashioned move set. One of the mainstays of the series, a Bruce Lee rip off named Marshall Law, was replaced in Tekken 3 by his son, Forest. This time around they’re both back, with slight differences. The home port of the game comes with these characters as free downloadable content, in the spirit of the long forgotten “time release” method of the old arcade cabinets. Even the Combot, a “mimic” character who replaced a similar character for a single game, makes his way back, this time with a customizable move list. You unlock moves for him by playing Fight Lab, which is the game’s tutorial.
If this is your first Tekken game, the Fight Lab is a tutorial like no other. It’s a strange mix of mini games and comedic dialogue which not only teaches you how to play the game, but also rewards you for doing so. You play as a lowly Combot that needs to be programmed by an eccentric character from Tekken’s past, and completing levels unlocks new moves and customization parts to essentially create your very own personalized character.
Tekken Tag 2 even goes so far as to include characters that don’t really fit into the roster, like a skinny version of Bob, just for the hell of it. All for free. They even went as crazy as to include a special Snoop Dogg stage to fight on, compete with it’s own song. This is just as silly as it sounds. All for free. You may be thinking that Maybe Namco was hoping to make some DLC money on the four extra stages, but you would be wrong. Those are free as well. In fact, the only real downloadable content for the game is things like music or movies from the older games, which you would be almost feel guilty about not buying, considering you just got four stages and twelve characters for free.
Many of the stages in the game are remakes of older ones, such as the canyon from Tekken 2, or the schoolyard from the first Tekken Tag Tournament. There are also remixes of many of the classic songs, such as Jin’s theme from Tekken 3 and the arena from Tekken 4 (the UFC inspired octagon, where you fought Heihachi in a diaper for some reason). Some if the new songs can be boring or annoying, however, with an over indulgence on repetitive dubstep. Don’t like these tunes? Why not try out those classic tracks that you bought in the Tekken Tunes mode, which lets you swap out almost any song in the game? It even let’s you use your own music!
Perhaps my only gripe comes from the online mode, and even that is a minuscule complaint. Sometimes the matches will lag, or you may have trouble finding a match. Considering that the ranking system is smart enough to be on a per character basis, you’re given a practice area to play with while you wait, and connecting your gamertag to the Tekken website allows you to track your stats in real time, I can overlook this.
To summarize, longtime fans of the Tekken series will probably orgasm from the sheer amount of fan service offered in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (much like I did with Marvel Vs. Capcom 3), and newcomers to the series will find that the robust set of features and easy to pick up gameplay make this title a great starting point. Should they decide to stick with it and dig deeper they will find a deep and rewarding game that will offer tons of fun. More fighting games should try to emulate Tekken Tag 2. Hell, my Roommate Jacob dropped Diablo III AND World of Warcraft to play this game, and it’s his first fighting game ever. He’s even about to pick up a Fightstick.