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Retroactive Posts: Tekken Tag Tournament 2

May 8, 2013

(Originally posted on March 1st, 2013)

TTT2_x360PKG-US_mb03.inddTekken Tag Tournament 2

What’s good:
-Smooth and stunning visuals.
-Excellent soundtrack.
-The tag mechanics allow for interesting new ways to juggle, and provide an extra layer of strategy.
-A modern assortment of gameplay modes give you several different ways to fight, especially in offline play.
-Fight Lab mode does a good job at walking you through the fighting system’s mechanics, and has a good sense of humor throughout.
-Ludicrous amounts of customization, not only in how your characters look, but also in what music plays in each menu/fighting environment.
-Tekken arcade endings. Nuff said.
-The netcode is great. I have low-grade broadband and don’t encounter any noticeable input lag during 4-5 bar connections.

What’s bad:
-Rare occurrences of frame-rate hitching.
-The online ranked match system is a double-edged sword.

If I were to give it a rating: 4 out of 5

Other thoughts:
 I should preface this with the fact that I’m no Tekken master. I haven’t sunk the hundreds of hours into the series necessary to become an indomitable beast at it, but while it seems the majority of fighting game attention is set on the various 2D fighting games out there nowadays, if I had to choose a series just out of mechanical and tonal preference, Tekken would be the series for me. I enjoyed Tekken 6 quite a bit, although I literally never played it against another human being even once, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is easily a superior game to that which came before it.

That’s a bizarre way to play a fighting game, without human opponents, but the Tekken series has almost always provided an admirable number of gameplay modes for players who seek a solo experience. Tag 2 is no different. You get the standard Arcade mode, with all of the wacky Tekken endings the console versions have always had, but the game also includes a continuous Ghost Battle mode, a go-til-you-can-no-longer Survival ladder, Time Attack (where you’re tasked with finishing the Arcade ladder as quickly as possible), Team Battle, cooperative Pair Play, and the above mentioned Fight Lab mode.
In Fight Lab, Violet seeks to produce the ultimate killing robot, and various wacky hijinks take place as you, playing as Combot, are taught how to fight using the games various systems. As you complete missions, you receive research points which can be spent to give your Combot specific moves from the other fighters in the roster, allowing you to, in a sense, make your own custom Tekken fighter.
Fight Lab, as well as the open-ended and well thought out Practice mode do an excellent job at informing you of what exactly is taking place that allows these fighters to juggle one another from one side of the environment to the other.
There’s plenty to do solo, and since the roster is so massive and diverse, there’s plenty of man-hours to be whittled away in learning how each of them function, and the tools provided make the learning experience far more approachable and much quicker than the vast majority of fighting games out there offer.

The fighting system itself exists in more-or-less the same form as seen in Tekken 6, with the typically heavy emphasis on streaming together juggle combos. The big difference here is that you’re allowed to have two characters per team, and several systems have been implemented to provide reasons for you to tag to your other fighter. One such system is the Tag Assault, where during any bound move (in which your character slams his/her opponent into the ground, bouncing them back up), you can press the tag button to bring in your reserved fighter to throw in a few hits before swapping back once more to continue the combo. These are pretty easy to pull off, effective at prolonging juggle combos or just doing more damage, and look incredibly slick.
A portion of your fighters health will regenerate if you tag them out for a small period of time, and if you’re taking a beating, your teammates health bar will flash red meaning that when they’re called upon they’ll be in a rage state (as found in Tekken 6), where they do dramatically increased damage for a set amount of time. If your partner is in rage state and you’re lying on the ground or able to perform an ukemi, you can choose to have your partner dive into the fight to replace your current character, but doing so will consume their rage state, stuffing their ability to benefit from the increased damage in exchange for potentially saving you from a losing round. The match ends when just one fighter is defeated, not both, so choosing when to swap characters out to regenerate adds an additional degree of strategy to the fights.
If you want to focus on just one character, you’re capable of choosing to go it solo. Your character will no longer be able to perform any of the Tag specific actions, but he/she will benefit from rage state without having to be swapped in, their health bar will be beefier to make up for the missing characters’, and they will regenerate red health automatically as well.
Mechanically, TTT2 is as good as the series has ever been.

Any mode you play (save for practice, naturally) earns you credits and/or equippable items for character customization.
While it’s slightly less granular than what was seen in Tekken 6 (no changeable shoes or dyeable default hair for example), there are still tons of options here for making your chosen fighter look as slick or obnoxious as you see fit. Creativity allows for some interesting looks as well. I’ve outfitted my Alisa/Lili team to resemble adult versions of Henrietta and Triela respectively from Gunslinger Girl for example, and to reasonably acceptable degrees of success. You’re also able to alter smaller things such as which character art is displayed during loading screens, and you’re able to equip your  fighter with special items which can be used in battle. These items usually come with enormous wind-up times, so they’re more on the goofy side than the practical one, but I think it’s best that way.
Customization doesn’t end there. If you for some reason don’t care for the game’s soundtrack (which.. who are you?), you’re able to go in and change which song plays during which menu or fighting environment; choosing from not only Tekken music, but saved songs on your console as well. Persona battle themes. Need I say more?

If you’re the online-versus-strangers type, Tag 2 offers the modern assortment of Online options, with a typical Ranked Match search, and two types of lobbies; one being the typical “I got next.” mode with spectating, and the other being what I would best describe as a chat room, but one in which you can choose to participate in random battles with the other occupants if you want. From what I could see, the latter of these two options was pretty underpopulated.
Ranked Matches are kind of interesting, and it’s unfortunate that the manner in which they’re implemented isn’t as spot-on as I’m sure it was intended.
You’re given a rank for each individual character in the roster, and while the game displays how many fights you’ve participated in overall, the matchmaking will never pit you against someone of a vastly different rank range as you for your chosen character(s). Instead of a points system where you’re placed in matches based on how high on the leaderboard you reside (fights giving you more points for tougher foes, less points for weaker ones), TTT2 uses a system where if you win fights with a character, that characters rank increases. Lose too many and it will decrease. Regardless of how many matches you’ve played overall or how many you’ve won/lost, the matchmaking will never pit you against someone whose chosen characters outrank those which you have picked.
It’s a smart idea, as you may be great with one character but either want to change things up a bit or just learn someone new but don’t want to go into a fight and get creamed by someone’s main team, but the problem with this system sort of stems from Tekken in general: You’re only really new to Tekken once. As soon as you begin to wrap your head around how the juggles are performed and when to do what, you can pretty much pick up any character and do reasonably well with them. Because of this, it isn’t uncommon to come across people who clearly have no business occupying lower ranks of the system, but are able to fight there due to having chosen a character they’ve just started ranking up.
The matchmaking has pit me against people on equal footing as myself, and those fights were a ton of fun, even when losing, since I felt the two of us were both on the same page; but the matchmaking has also placed me in matches against people who had a larger “Matches Played” tally than I’ve played Tekken matches in my entire life. Those were always tremendously frustrating, and seemed more like that person was gaming the system to improve their win percentile than they were trying to learn a new character without getting worked over.
You can’t have one without the other, I suppose. I do enjoy the idea of being ranked on a per-character basis, but it’s unfortunately a system which is more easily exploited than most.

Small issues aside, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 could have easily been a perfectly serviceable direct port of the arcade version with no bells or whistles added, but Namco went with the kitchen-sink approach instead, offering a huge variety of ways to fight, not only with the 50+ character roster, but with various game modes, and ways to personalize how you experience those modes as well. While the series may not be as big of a deal here in the States as it once was, it’ll always be the fighting game series for me, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the best Tekken game yet in my opinion.

From → Games

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