Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the follow up to PlayStation 2 launch title Tekken Tag Tournament - which may sound familiar since it was recently re-released in HD as part of Tekken Hybrid. The series is a side-story in the Tekken universe that features different endings and a non-canonical roster – allowing Namco’s developers to do whatever they want. In Tag Tournament 2 (TTT2)’s case, this means including most of the fighters from the previous core iterations.
While the original Tekken Tag Tournament was an expanded version of Tekken 3, Tag Tournament 2 has a few features, and flaws, from Tekken 6 – so anyone familiar with the previous instalment is at an instant advantage.
TTT2 features every singleplayer mode seen in Tekken 6 - arcade, ghost, team, time attack survival, and practice - except here you have the option to play with two fighters. If you choose to play with one fighter you are at a slight disadvantage as it’s one against two. However, the game balances it out by making your fighter go into rage mode sooner. When using a team, if one is hurt to the rage point, their partner goes into rage; so when you switch out, not only do you get a fresh character, but they also do twice the damage.
TTT2’s roster is huge - almost every fighter from the previous instalments is available - with the exception of Gon and a few bosses - making for the most complete roster to date. Returning fan favourites include: Ling Xiaoyu, Eddy Gordo, Jin Kazama, Paul Phoenix, Jun Kazama, and Heihachi Mishima – who looks about 30 years younger. That said, it’s a little disappointing that there aren’t any newly entrants. Although that isn’t to say this doesn’t have anything new – not by a long ‘shot’.
The biggest new addition to Tag Tournament 2 - and no doubt a controversial one - is the inclusion of weapons. Two weapons can be bought and equipped to each character: melee – such as knives and swords - and ranged - including various guns and ninja stars. Unfortunately, using them leaves you wide open to attacks, and the power of a weapon doesn’t always balance out against the time it takes to arm it.
When it comes to the arcade mode, TTT2’s is a challenge. You start off fighting similarly skilled AI opponents, and then it quickly ramps up the difficulty with higher-tier characters – it’s similar to going from beating up a kitten to fighting a tiger. Once you get to the final boss, well, she’s the highest tier - conqueror - and incredibly cheap, so unless you want to build up a huge collection of losses, you might want beat her once with a partner, and again as a solo fighter – just for the achievements or trophies; it’s not the only way to unlock every character’s ending.
The alternative way to get endings is ghost battle mode; specifically, the Lucky Box which shows up occasionally with cash, other unlockables, and a random character’s ending – who you are playing as has no bearing on the endings unlocked. Ghost mode is the same as it was in the previous couple of Tekkens. After an initial match, it offers three matches of varying difficulty to choose from or an exit.
Filling out the rest of the singleplayer modes is Fight Lab; it’s a story mode, of sorts, in which you develop a combot - equipping it with moves from other fighters. Unfortunately, it has some serious issues; namely the game not detecting movements required to proceed while it has a timer counting down, which can lead to a few headaches.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s customization mode is a vast improvement over Tekken 6’s. For instance, you only have to unlock a weapon once to make it available to everyone. In addition, there are plenty of costumes to equip, including maid, gothic lolita, and superhero costumes. This mode also allows you to create up to ten premade teams with any of your customizations so you can dive into battle quicker – or just pick your favourite teams. Mixing fighters and playing them both in-depth is crucial for winning both online and in TTT2’s brutally hard arcade mode.
Visually, TTT2 is a mixed bag. Characters and outfits look great, bar some aliasing; similar to the issues seen in Tekken 6. In addition, the darker stages such as Coastline Sunset can make it hard to see your characters; on the literal brighter side, other stages such as Heavenly Garden look stunning.
On the multiplayer front TTT2 features a few traditional modes - playable either on or offline - along with leaderboards and a new mode. Online modes include ranked matches, player matches, and team play. While Offline modes include VS Battle and the new addition: Pair Play, in which either four players can go two-on-two or two players can take on AI opponents.
As usual, you can also go one-on-one in the arcade mode. It would have been nice to see something new - say a beach volleyball game, but then who wants to see Ganryu in a V bikini?
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the biggest title in the series and a huge step forward from the original - as it should be, with over ten years between them. TTT2’s most notable feature - the inclusion of weapons – will split fans down the middle; it’s a big change to a traditionally melee series, but hopefully one they can improve upon in future instalments.