Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Review (Xbox360)

As we rapidly approach the hind end of the generation it’s probably fair to say that it’s been a tumultuous time for the fighting game genre and the community that follows it. A tiny, hardcore-driven subset at the start of the generation was exploded into the mainstream once more with the release of Capcom’s retro-styled Street Fighter IV - but Tekken has always been a little bit different.

Tekken may well be considered the iron man of the fighting game world - while Street Fighter is 25 this year, Tekken’s 18-year lifetime is uninterrupted, where its rivals often took a long break - downtime with which fan nostalgia can build and fully kick in.

The release of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 seems a perfect way for the series to celebrate as massive a milestone as 18 - it’s a game that brings together classic members of the cast from previous games and brings back the tag mechanic that debuted in the PS2 title that shares the same name.

On boot, TTT2 feels a lot like a full arcade experience - and it is. It’s been available in Japanese arcades for quite some time, and this console port doesn’t even do away with the ‘Insert Coin’ text that’d flash in that version of the game - it’s just been set to ‘Free Play’ on console.

The arcade experience available as a base here is bloody good. It’s Tekken at its best, full of long, seemingly endless juggling combos that keep characters in the air for an age. Each member of the massive cast is painstakingly animated, the game designed as much for tournament play as it is for casual users.

One button is earmarked just for tags, switching between the two characters you’ve picked. Tagging can be done midway through juggling combos, building them to become even more unending and ridiculous. That’s the beauty of the tag system here over its predecessor - it’s used to build combos together, not just to switch characters.

The ‘Rage’ system works with tags to make whichever character is out of the ring more powerful. When you take a certain number of hits, the other character gets angry - giving them more powerful hits and better potential when they finally are tagged in.

The addition of the new ‘Tag Assault’ system is particularly genius; by landing a heavy, fierce attack that stuns the opponent - not dissimilar in concept to Street Fighter IV’s Focus Attack - which in turn lets you push in with powerful combos that do massive damage. In order to execute this you need to sacrifice red health, though - health that is potentially recoverable when you tag out, like in most tag-based fighters.

The Tag Assault system is the mechanical star of the show, implemented in such a way that it’s easy for amateurs to pull off but in-depth enough that far-reaching tournament implications for hardcore players can be easily seen.

In general TTT2 is very newbie-friendly, with a great suite of training modes that far outstrip those in other fighter offerings. If you find the complex mechanics of fighting games hard to get into, TTT2 is far easier to work than most thanks to its in-depth Fight Lab mode. This mode is as deep as to include an option to emulate the lag conditions online, an impressive feature.

What’s most impressive about TTT2 is the depth of the content. Calling it an arcade port earlier in this review may seem unfair; it suggests that the game would be comprised of nothing more than an arcade and versus modes on a disc- but in truth the game is loaded with an impressive amount of content that really makes most other recently released fighters blush.

This is Tekken, so there’s of course pretty-looking CGI cinematic sequences to tell the over-the-top, ridiculous story, over 50 characters as well as tons of costumes, stages and an awesome area where you can build out your own fighting style by mixing and matching various moves - and then use that style in all the offline modes, which are plentiful and extend far beyond simply fighting through an arcade mode. Tekken Bowl is in, for the record.

The sheer number of customization available for characters through costumes is impressive, allowing the look of characters to be changed significantly. While new characters are planned for DLC, they’ll be free - Namco plan to only charge for more optional add-ons such as costumes and music.

If the included music isn’t to your tastes, TTT2 features a system where MP3s can be pulled from the hard drive and played in game, while the addition of the World Tekken Federation service - WTF for short - shows that Namco is forward-thinking about the future of the franchise and the genre. A similar service to Call of Duty Elite or Battlefield’s BattleLog, WTF lets players see their stats in great detail online via a browser as well as join guilds of a sort and compete in competitions and so on.

Actually playing the game online is a smooth experience, supported by netcode far improved over the often-patchy Tekken 6. This netcode is built off the code offered in Soul Calibur V, which also worked great - and it’s actually improved here. Solid online play is vital to a fighter having a long shelf-life, and TTT2 thankfully comes packing that.

TTT2 offers a lot in terms of features, but its single player offerings in terms of actual gameplay are still largely owed to its arcade roots. It’s simple, and while features like customization and in-depth training offer more for console users, that’s probably the game’s greatest flaw.

In mechanics though, the game soars, offering awesome new takes on systems that made the original TTT title a must-have PS2 classic whilst also adding a modern flair and polish that makes it a stellar example that fighting games don’t have to all be about gaining extended revenue through costume and character DLC - it can be about packing in a great suite of impressive features from the word go.

Best Game Moment: Landing the first full Team Assault alone - there’s nothing like mastering a new mechanic.