Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Review

Some of my best memories of gaming are of fighting games. Way back in the mid to late 90s, we used to gather around one of our NES knock-offs and take turns fighting each other in Street Fighter II. Later on, we graduated to playing the first Marvel vs Capcom on the original PlayStation. Not like we knew what we were doing in these games, we just liked to try and beat each other up. But as time went by, newer consoles came along with newer and better fighting games. What is widely regarded as one of the best fighting games of all time was a game called Tekken 3 on the PlayStation. This was the first fighting game I played that incorporated 3D in more than just a visual capacity. As time and consoles went on, I eventually lost my taste in fighting games after Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection on the PlayStation Portable – a game which I will still defend with my life as the best in the series  – until early last year when I got my hands on Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. This game rekindled my interest in fighting games and a year and a couple hundred of Street Fighter game binges later, here I am with my first 3D fighting game in almost five years with Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Round One! Fight!

The story of the Tekken series has never been the franchise’s strength, unless you’re really into batshit insane stuff like the ‘Devil Gene’, not to mention some of the wackiest playable characters in a fighting game, which include a kangaroo with boxing gloves, a bear who has a crush on a panda, the panda who is completely oblivious to the bear’s advances and a tree spirit that awakens every now and again when the world is in extreme peril. Despite all this, the games have managed to have a deep and compelling storyline about daddy issues on a cosmic scale if you follow the canonical endings of Jin Kazama – the closest thing the series has to a main character. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 itself has very little bearing on the main storyline of the franchise, though. Much like its predecessor, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is mostly a fanservice game that focusses on letting you battle it out with your favourite characters from the Tekken roster, including the ones who are supposed to have died in previous games. The excuse plot doesn’t really explain anything other than, “Here’s another King of Iron Fist Tournament. Beat those guys up.” But then again, very rarely has a fighting game needed a story to be compelling.
Yes, one of the playable characters in the game is a BEAR!

The game has a bunch of gameplay modes, all divided into two sections – Online Play and Offline Play. Both of the sections are pretty self-explanatory, with online play giving you the option of joining matchmaking to pit yourself against either random strangers, or people you know. Online play also has other options including the ability to watch and save replays of online matches and looking at your player record. The bulk of the section is in the matchmaking, and once you start a game and find an opponent who has more than one bar in terms of latency, you’ll want to keep playing against that person and improve your skills. The biggest issue here isn’t even the game’s fault. Finding a match takes forever, and when you do find one, there are extremely high chances that you’ll lose because of the insane lag. This is mainly due to lack of interest for fighting games in India.
Every character has their own unique fighting style

The Offline Play section is where I spent most of my time, honing my skills against the computer in Arcade and Time Attack modes. Arcade Mode is where the “story” of the game happens. When I say story, I mean an excuse to keep fighting until you get to the last boss and unlock some move for your character that’s supposed to explain... something. Regardless of the story, the game modes themselves are pretty fun, and this is compounded by the solid fighting mechanics of the game, as all the characters feel unique to play and this is helped by the fact that each of the characters incorporate many real-life martial arts into their moveset (Devil Jin and his laser beams notwithstanding). 

Multiplayer in offline play may be where you manage to spend most of your time if you can find enough friends who are jobless enough to learn the game. Not much can be said about the Versus Mode that hasn’t already been said though, as the game’s strength lies in its solid and well thought-out mechanics.
The game boasts well thought-out tag mechanics

The mechanics of the game are extremely different from the mechanics of the much more popular Street Fighter games. The only meaning high, mid and low attacks have in this game is the direction of your attack. The power of the attacks aren't in any way related to the direction of attacking. Rather than the high, mid and low attack system from Street Fighter, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 opts for a system that seems pretty simple and intuitive at first, but is deep enough to make you spend months mastering a single character. This is helped by the fact that each character has more than a hundred different combos, which are pulled off by chaining attacks from the right limbs together. Other than the standard D-Pad controls for movement, the game maps each of the four face buttons to a separate limb. For example, Square will make you attack with your left hand, whereas circle will make you attack with your right leg. The standout feature of the game, much like the first Tekken Tag Tournament, is the tagging mechanics. You can either switch characters in and out to keep them out of dangers, or if you're feeling especially ballsy, use tagging as a way to prolong combos and juggles to keep your opponent disabled until they're knocked out. The tagging works by simply pressing the Tag button, which would do different things depending on your combo or timing, ranging from simply switching characters, to setting up elaborate combos where you will constantly switch characters in between for prolonged beatings.
Fight Story acts as a very deep and funny tutorial

All in all, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a very entertaining game with a low entry bar but an extremely high skill ceiling. Veterans will obviously love this game – if for nothing other than the hilariously large 50-character roster – but newbies won’t have difficulty in getting into the game, as the game boasts an extremely comprehensive tutorial mode called Fight Story. Fight Story explains many things, including intricate combos and the difference between high, mid, and low attacks and the advantages and disadvantages of each, all wrapped up in a stupidly funny storyline that involves none other than Lee.
Though many people may still be put off by the complexity that exists in the game, including the severe need to master juggling on higher difficulties, veterans of the franchise or of fighting games in general might find a great new game to try and master. Personally, I’ve put in a lot more hours into this game than I’d like to admit and it sits firmly on my shelf alongside Street Fighter III: Third Strike and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition as one of my all-time favourite fighting games.

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