Mr Tekken on learning, evolution, and social media.
The Tekken Tag Tournament 2 "Prologue" that was packaged up as a part of Tekken Hybrid didn't go down too well, did it? Many fans felt the whole package left a little to be desired at the end but, if that includes you, fear not; the full version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is set to continue the legacy of the Iron Fist, and the man himself, Katsuhiro Harada (Mr Tekken), recently sat down with us to tell us all about it.
Not satisfied with leading the series for the last 17 years, Harada-san has taken the lead on everything in this title from the marketing, to the sales, the PR and, incidentally, the development. As such, we're grateful that he's had the time to stop by for a chat and give us a preview of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (courtesy of the lovely translator, Mike).
Harada-san started off by giving us a little background to Tekken Tag Tournament, explaining that shortly after Tekken 3, the Namco sales team approached him and asked for another Tekken title, because they "needed another one really quick."
Given the relatively quick turnaround in development, it was a surprise to him to see how successful and well-received it was. Otherwise, he described the Tag Tournament series as "unique" and non-canonical, where despite having two characters to fight with, you're playing with "pro-wrestling rules" where you lose the round if one character is knocked out.
Harada-san then proceeded to explain the evolution behind Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (TTT2), proudly stating that, as well as tag matches, you can also play one-on-one and two-on-one matches. However, the big difference was that you could implement all three of these options in the one match, if you chose to. Furthermore, he claimed that this was "more the Ultimate Tekken, rather than just Tag 2", as one of the goals for the title was to try and implement as many elements from past Tekken titles as possible.
To add credence to the Ultimate Tekken tag (pun intended), he talked about how "a whole variety of content was added from all the titles, to make sure we catered for a wide variety of fans." So whether you started at Tekken 6, or have taken a break since Tekken 3, there should be new and nostalgic content for all. This content includes a stunning roster of over 50 characters from the entire series, a large variety of backdrops, and many new and remastered soundtracks.
The new mode that is meant to epitomise how the game is catering for the wide audience is the Fight Lab. Through a mixture of story, mini games, and core play, as well as unlockable customising options, the mode is meant to provide an option for all players - whether they want to learn the game or try creating something of their own. The customising options will be a mix of miscellany and familiarity, with a wide variety of random accessories and existing character movesets.
Upon explaining to Harada-san that this interviewer's Tekken skills are, err... developing, he very happily remarked that Fight Lab was specifically designed for players who may not be among the world's best at Tekken. Harada-san used an interesting analogy, "it's like study, you don't want a tutorial... you want something that you enjoy playing" to explain that the Fight Lab mode attempted to get away from text based explanations, and that it was better to teach the player through a more interactive method.
Overall, his hope was that it would give newer players the mechanical understanding, skills, and confidence to advance and think about what their opponent is doing, while being equipped to take it on. He went on to say how gratifying it was to see the non-Tekken players advance so far, and that this was one of the goals of implementing this mode in the first place.
Things got interesting when Harada-san was asked about the character additions. Upon explaining that Jun was the first character added when the arcade version was first being developed, while Kunimitsu was the first to be added to the console version, Harada-san claimed to be surprised in the level of interest in these characters. Despite the original arcade data suggesting that these characters weren't as popular as social media and forums had suggested (in the lower 50th percentile), he was curious to see whether players were willing to live up to their claims of pre-ordering and/or buying the game due to their presence.
So, having now included these characters, Harada-san had the following message for players: "So, these two characters are back in the game, now you've pre-ordered, right? Once the game we has been released, we'll have the stats to show just how popular they are." Having done his part to bring them back, Harada-san is fascinated to see how their usage turns out.
Obviously, the issue of his lengthy Twitter explanation over the use of voice actors had to come up after this, and - despite conceding that it can be irritating when some of the comments seem to be made without thought - he wasn't angry with them. "Whenever I make a long post, people assume that I'm angry," he remarked. No, his primary issue was that he was unhappy that some of his colleagues and followers were being spammed and harassed to "tell Harada to do this", so he hoped that this explanation would help put the 'issue' to rest.
When asked about whether he thought that developers could potentially listen too much to the fans, he reckoned that "the smart developers will listen to the fans, but not take everything at face value." He added "this wouldn't achieve the desired result; instead, it was the challenge for the developer to analyse and look between the lines to figure out exactly what the players want."
He also told of another group that "took what the players wanted and spun it into what they wanted to do the whole time and telling the players that this is what they wanted," before quickly reaffirming that he feels he belongs in the former group.
Also, he claimed that maintaining a balance between the fan's desires and the developer's vision was particularly challenging for the fighting genre. Specifically, the need to make sure that the game is competitively balanced (from a mechanical perspective), while still respecting the tradition of the series and genre made this balance all the more difficult.
Finally, upon being asked whether Tekken has been a beneficiary of the fighting genre renaissance, he rather discerningly replied that he felt that whenever someone asked this, that this was selling the Tekken franchise short. After all, this is a series that has constantly sold 3 to 4 million copies per title, regardless of the gaming climate.
To finish up, there was a chance to get some hands on time with the game, and it didn't disappoint. Sure, the move list was locked so that there was no way to see what new moves were on offer, but the prospect of playing with four characters at once on screen or playing around with the Tekken Net were enough to satiate for the time being.
After the prologue experiment, the full Tekken Tag Tournament 2 experience is set for release on September 13th, when it will be on for young and old, veteran and newbie alike.