The last time I played a Tekken game was quite a while ago. While I enjoy fighting games, I'm not a fighting connoisseur. I dabble here and there. So when I got a copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I was mildly enthused. Here I am four days later, and I can happily say that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 delivers one heck of a punch… and kick… and throw.
First off, the game is visually impressive. In all fighting games, framerate is very important, and I only sparingly experienced a slight hiccup. The animations are all smooth and shifting from one combo into another is visually satisfying. Character models are beautiful for the entire roster of over 50 characters. Stages, which span the world — from the enchanted North Pole with tons of Santas to a creepy swamp of purple goo that covers your fighter — each brings a different atmosphere.
Now that you know the game looks pretty, what are your options for play? Of course there's online and offline, and I spent all of my time offline. As 'Tag' is in the title, the fighting revolves around 2v2 matches that have you swapping between two fighters. Let me tell you, you can pull of some really cool combos and juggle your opponents once you become well-versed in the game. You can also do 2v1, 1v2, and 1v1. These variations are available for play against both human and computer opponents. Four players are also able to play 2v2, which is a welcome bonus when all of your friends are over. There's also the timed attack, survival and practice mode, all of which add some variety.
If you've never played a Tekken game, there are two punch buttons, two kick button, multiple combos and grapples. That's the basic gist of it, but you can unleash so much more than what you think. I'm still discovering new, cool combos and moves with characters, and with 50 characters, there's a lot to learn. For each of the 50 characters, there is an ending movie that you unlock at the end of arcade mode. They're not long, but they're often humorous and each character has their own.
The main problem I find with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is that it's one of the most exhilarating and fun fighting games when playing with other people, but it gets frustrating when playing solo. I'm basing this off of Arcade mode. I feel like the whole game teaches you to play a certain way. But then you get to the bosses and the game changes drastically. The difficulty ramps up significantly, to the point where I couldn't tell the difference between playing on easy, medium or ultra hard. Bosses start using special moves that feel out of place, with abilities that brings one of your fighters down to no health in one hit. Pro fighters probably fair a lot better, for for gamers like me that hold their own in fighting games, I feel the game just gets out of hand.
I mean, I played against a friend that regularly wins fighting game tournaments, and I won half the games. Yet it took me quite a while to beat the final boss… to the point where I felt like breaking things in the room. I couldn't imagine having to go through this 50 times. This is why I feel Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is an entirely different game when played against humans. I don't know — maybe it's just me.
Lastly, a huge addition to the game is the Fight Lab. Acting as part story mode, part training, it's a great mode for newbies and veterans alike. While teaching you the ins and outs of Tekken's combat, you play as Combot and experience the story around him. There's some sexism and back and forth jokes made between the inventor of Combot and his assistant, which are pretty funny. It adds a nice element to the standard training mode that some fighting games have. And it's all definitely goofy. You also earn money the more you play, which lets you customize Combot with fighting moves from the entire Tekken Tag Tournament 2 roster. You also earn these coins playing other modes, like as you play through Arcade mode. With this, you can also customize the appearance of fighters by buying different hair and articles of clothing. It's just a way to customize the characters to look the way you like. I have a funny feeling that most of the female characters are going to end up barely clothed in a lot of male's games.
After my time with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I feel that it's a strong fighting game that has the basics down pat and does a ton right. When playing against other people, the fighting is both calculated and ferocious, sure to illicit cheers from people watching. I definitely see how the game will fair in pro play. And while the Fight Lab is great for both story and getting players used to the game, I feel that Arcade mode ends up unbalanced towards the end — which is a bit of a turn off. Even with those problems, this is one of the prime fighting games you can pick up, and I recommend that you do so.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]
You can follow Movies and Culture Editor Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ