Tekken Tag Tournament 2 declares its intentions through its opening cinematic. Jinpachi, arguably the most insane member of Tekken’s diverse lineup, is sitting in the back of a taxicab on his way to the King of Iron Fist Tournament. An intimidating beast of a human being with a giant inverted moustache, yellow glowing eyes, and what appears to be purple magic misting off his skin, imagine his surprise when we (later) discover the driver decided to drop Jinpachi off not at the tournament, but rather a red light district chalk full of scantily clad women.
The driver’s disregard for personal safety in the interest of an elaborate practical joke mirrors Namco’s casual apathy in building a narrative to justify yet another assembly of fighters, no, strike that, an assembly of all of the fighters Tekken has ever had to offer. Give the people what they want, make sure they have a good time, and damn the consequences. Like the original Tekken Tag Tournament, the sequel is a decade’s worth of additions and compliments to Tekken’s progressive formula augmented with a pumped up tag option and requisite fan service. It’s also a creative license to for Namco to go nuts with the lineup and other extraneous modes all in the name of celebrating their prized fighting franchise.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s most impressive asset is its roster of combatants. With an estimated thirty two humans, five mammals, four demigods, three robots, two chimera, a couple of cyborgs, and a dinosaur, no one is ever going to say Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is lacking in resources. Rarities like Kunimitsu (who Katsuhio Harada actually told me would not make an appearance) and Angel are tied to pre-order DLC, but are promised to be available free of charge down the road. And, if a certain leak is to be believed, Dr. Boskonovich and Miharu aren’t too far behind. Outside of Tekken 3’s elusive (and licensed) Gon, that’s literally everyone to ever take part in the King of Iron Fist Tournament. Encompassing both quality and quantity, Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s roster an unparalleled accomplishment for a modern fighter.
With its vast collection of characters, one might ask, “Is Tekken Tag Tournament 2 balanced?”. Well, I have no idea. My days of reading Tekken Zaibatsu and skipping class to practice ten-hits are a decade behind me, however Tekken Tag Tournament 2 certainly seems to juggle its figurative balls with an appropriate amount of grace. With command lists easily spanning into triple digits, no character seems especially short sighted. As sort of a litmus test I tried playing ranked matches with cheap extraordinaires like Eddie and True Ogre and found myself getting my ass handed to me repeatedly. Tiers will obviously be developed over time but from the perspective of a lapsed Tekken fanatic, everyone seems to be in good form.
You’ll notice I casually mentioned playing online in the previous paragraph. This is remarkable because it functioned perfectly. Online play was a feature objectively offered in Tekken 6, but in practice was factually broken. Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s online play, through three hours of testing, didn’t suffer a single technical hiccup. Again I don’t have the chops to tell you if every single frame was accounted for, but it was completely lag free experience on launch day. Online play is also relatively friendly for newcomers. Filters can guarantee matches against players that are plus or minus four ranks of your current level. It’s not perfect, if you’re completely unprepared you’re not going to make it very far, but I won and lost an almost even amount of my matches, and generally felt that I was at the same intermediate skill level as the people I was battling. I didn’t, however, see any option for a rematch against randoms, which is slightly disappointing but far from a deal breaker.
Educating the masses toward its finer intricacies has long been an Achilles’ heel for fighting games. Command lists are in no short supply, but teaching theory and advanced tactics is usually skipped because, well, no one’s figured out how to do it yet. With its new Fight Lab mode, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 doesn’t get it completely right, but it is successful in going beyond the basics. Fight Lab’s premise revolves around Violet’s efforts to build a better Combot. This is accomplished through five distinct tutorial sessions were Violet forces Combot to repeated a series of maneuvers covering basic and intermediate tactics unique to Tekken Tag Tournament 2. While the attached narrative equal parts instructive and insane, it didn’t do the greatest job contextualizing its content. Sure, I know now how to perform a bound move and turn it into a Tag Assault, but I still don’t know exactly when it’s appropriate to do these things. In any case Fight Lab lasts about an hour and can be replayed over and over at harder difficulties, all in the name of unlocking more moves for Combot, whose amalgamated move set can then be customized. Combot is not quite a full blown create-a-character, but it serves its purpose in making a fighter that new players can comfortably operate.
The remainder of your education is expected to be completed through the newly announced and poorly abbreviated World Tekken Federation. By registering with WTF you’ll be able to look at stats regarding character usage, your win/loss record, and other ridiculously detailed trackers. It’s also console agnostic, and will collect your data from both Xbox and PlayStation version of the game. WTF wasn’t actually up and running at the time of this review, but it sounds nice in theory and I see no reason why it wouldn’t function as expected. Casual players likely won’t get much out of it, especially if they’re not interested in the nitty-gritty stat breakdown, but the hardest of the core will probably eat it up.
While you can’t outfit characters from scratch, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 certainly offers a wide swath of garments to dress them in. Purchased using currency earned through every facet of the game; you’re free to make Anna wear something scandalous to further enhance her assumed promiscuity, outfit Kazuya with a non-functional machine gun, or compliment Alex’s head with a rotating man swinging a golf club. There are a ton of options, and even though many of them are simple pallet swaps it’s going to be difficult to find someone else online with the exact same collection of crazy trinkets.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 introduces a few new mechanics into Tekken’s formula. The aforementioned Tag Assault is the most provocative, employing both of your characters to simultaneously pummel a foe. Practical applications of that option may vary, but it certainly looks awesome. A few new tag throws are expected, but under the surface lies an allegiance system that rewards or punishes select teams. If you don’t want to use a team Tekken Tag Tournament 2 offers a solo play option and balances it through the Rage mechanic, which returns from Tekken 6 and boosts the power of nearly-defeated solo fighters.
What’s missing, unfortunately, is that one crazy confectionary mode that’s always complimented the serious mainstays. Survival, Ghost Battle, Time Attack, and a decent Practice mode are included, but where’s my Tekken Ball or Tekken Bowl? Fight Lab covers some of that ground, the glut of CG character endings are great, and I’m actually relieved Namco finally killed off another iteration of Tekken Force, but a Tekken game just doesn’t feel the same without some inventive and admittedly shallow side show to compliment its zany circus.
Deserved of praise is Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s visual package. Fighting game stages have been getting increasingly detailed and psychopathic with time, and this collection does its part to up the ante. Highlights included Arctic Dream’s snowbound gathering of frolicking Santa Clauses (one of which appears to be feeding coffee to a reindeer) and Eternal Paradise’s tropical ode to Tekken 2. Oddly there’s also room for subtlety, as I’ve not seen arena in a fighting game more beautifully rendered than the water colored Heavenly Garden. Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s music leans toward the current dubstep fad, but keeps it in check with plenty of other high energy tunes.