Chances are, you’ve likely been turned off by a fighting game in the past what with the thousands of combos to memorize, strategies to learn, and teams to experiment with. And most of them don’t particularly care if you are into their particular brand of brawling. Tekken Tag Tournament 2, however, attempts to be different. It wants you to learn how to play it. It wants you to spend countless hours mastering its timing, tooling around with its dozen of characters, and making it your own. There’s a slight problem, though: It doesn’t make any of that terribly easy.
Players new to the Tekken universe will want to make their way directly to the Fight Lab to learn the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 basics. Acting as a tutorial of sorts (and a replacement to the traditional Story Mode), Fight Lab drops you into the role of the Combot, a creation of Violet Industries that can learn any Tekken fighter’s techniques and use them in training exercises. Each level of the Fight Lab mini-campaign is designed to teach the player how to pull off some of the Tag 2-specific fighting maneuvers like Binds or Tag Assaults. What’s more, it does it in a charming and often absurd manner, with levels filled with Power Ranger-looking combatants that toss pizzas and turn your head into a pig. Hell, one of the chapter bosses is a fat Ryu from Street Fighter. Silliness abounds.
Theoretically, a tutorial to teach newcomers how to get their martial arts on is a great idea. Fighting games are constantly struggling to bring new players into the fold, and a step-by-step set of interactive instructions could be a great way to do that. Problem is, Fight Lab teaches via the “trial by fire” method. Can’t regularly figure out the timing of the Bind into Team Assault? Too bad, you’re going to keep attempting it until you do. For those who already have experience with fighters, it’s a solid way to learn a few of Tekken’s intricacies. However, it is too demanding to serve as a proper newbie-friendly experience.
Of course, once you get into the fighting itself, you’ll realize that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is still Tekken. It’s still got all the perfectly solid fighting mechanics that you’ve come to know and love since the series’ inception in 1994. You’ll still be working on your air juggles, your one-two(-three-four-five-six) punches, your precision blocking, and throw breaks. If you’re a seasoned Tekken fan, you certainly will not be disappointed.
The biggest change to the Tekken series is the advent of the Tag Assault system. By bringing in your tagged out teammate while your opponent is in the air, you can lay down ridiculous air juggling combos that seemingly go on for minutes at a time. With dozens of characters playable, the Tag Assault combinations are damn near endless. I’ve got my apprehensions about how well Tag 2 is balanced, but all that will only shake out once it’s being played on a truly competitive level.
Options are plentiful for those who decide to dedicate their fighting time to Tag 2. You’ve got your standard versus modes, your practice mode that allows for recording and uploading videos, and your Survival Mode. The netcode isn’t perfect, as I experienced a few slowdowns here and there, but they were few and far between. Those looking for a lengthy online experience will definitely run into hiccups, but hopefully the more egregious moments will be culled out by future patches.
But perhaps the most fun I had with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was with the Pair Play mode. Designed for four players, it allows each person to take the role of one character each, to be tagged in and out at their leisure. The end result is a group of folks screaming and shouting and laughing all at once while the party chaos ensues on screen. It’s a mode decidedly not designed for competitive play, but man is it a good time.
Even with an absolutely bonkers-huge roster, fights tend to get a little same-looking. Run into King enough and his weird leopard head becomes rote and slightly boring. That’s where the character customization options come in. Want Marshall Law to sport some hipster glasses? You got it. How about a Samurai haircut for the Russian fighter Dragunov? Done. The cosmetic items largely don’t change the way that fighters do their thing, but the options are great for dedicated players that want to make their favorite characters their own.
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