I've played Tekken for more than ten years and stood by my boys Hwoarang and Yoshimitsu throughout. As much as I love the series, I never did pick up the first Tekken Tag game because I thought it was just a gimmicky version of Tekken 4. Now that I have my hands on Tekken Tag 2 I've realised how wrong I was.
The tag feature doubles the amount of Tekken
on your plate and allows me to team up my two favourite fighters together! There is a gargantuan list of 48 characters available from the start of the game including boss giant Jinpachi and at least four more to unlock. (Dr. Bosconovich, anyone?). It looks like Namco has made sure to include at least two characters with each of the game's martial arts to allow pairs of any style you want.
The core gameplay mechanics haven't changed and work as smoothly as always. It's all about high, medium and low attacks and you can't block them all at the same time, so you have to stay on your toes. This has been the case throughout all of the Tekken
games and should never change. The four face buttons each control a limb, making it easy to remember or figure out those combos and for newcomers to dive into the action. The combos themselves have remained so you don't have to start all over again to master your favourite fighters.
There's a new little twist called Rage Mode that is activated under certain conditions, such as when you reach low health. In Rage mode all of your attacks do more damage than normal so this is a useful tool to watch out for. Most of the stages are still destructible too, so you can smash your foe through the ground or off a balcony where your tag partner will be waiting to follow up.
I did expect the tag feature to be a little bit clumsy or overcomplicated, but it works just as easily as the rest of the gameplay. Once you get used to this extra dimension of play there are more complicated and useful team methods to learn.
A tag throw works just like a normal throw but switches your characters in the process. Tag assault let's you bring in both of your fighters to create huge team combos and gives you access to to more creative ways to juggle your opponent. Tag smash launches a powerful punch and quickly switches your teammates while your victim is staggered. Using this same command while being juggled lets your idle team member jump in to the rescue, smashing your opponent's combo and taking over.
Another little quirk I like about the tag team aspect is that if you pick two characters who have some kind of history together, this will affect the rage mode. If your pair are close to each other in their back story, the idle one will enter rage mode much more quickly seeing their best mate get beaten up. This is a great technique to exploit.
If you pick the right team and keep the stronger one on the bench, when the active fighter takes enough damage the idle one will enter Rage mode and still have full health. A team of close characters will also give you extra stylish tag techniques, adding variety and making throws even more fun.
Fight Lab is a new mode that replaces Tekken Force mode and acts as a tutorial with a story and minigame elements. The story begins when Violet finally finishes building the prototype ultimate fighting robot, and then accidentally deletes it's entire AI while showing off. Smooth. So you play as Combot, the robot sparring partner who has to learn everything from the beginning to replace the prototype.
As you progress through the story and beat the challenges, you earn Combot points to spend on new moves and combos that you can equip your Combot with. The tutorial starts with simple input for movement and attacks and quickly escalates to tricky skills like escaping throws and counterattacking. While it seems like a useful tool, the learning curve just seemed too steep and may frustrate newcomers and amateurs, as it did me.
The character customisation is very extensive and lets you pick any colour you want for each section of clothing. I particularly love Yoshimitsu for this part because most of the accessories are just as barmy as he is. Stick a flat cap on him and he becomes 'Yorkshiremitsu'! Your choice of fighter/dress-up puppet can don wings, a purple top hat, even a wind-up key or a giant battery pack.
There's a decent range of outfits and accessories available, many of which you can use in combat including grenades, knives and even an assault rifle. These require a bit of skilled button input and a couple of seconds of a warning animation before they hit with an unblockable attack. Each outfit can have up to two of these equipped at a time, they can be quite stylish and don't otherwise affect combat at all.
Other than Fight Lab, the game is split into the Online and Offline modes. The character progress and rankings in these modes are kept completely separate from one another so that you know where you stand in each. The game plays well in 3D and is visually easy enough to follow until there's a lot of movement close to the camera, which happens in some throws and victory animations. For some reason the Online mode isn't playable in 3D though, which I found a bit disappointing.
This is my new favourite Tekken
game, although I do miss having a decent slow motion replay at the end of each round. The dominating tag team feature isn't something to be overlooked, it's integrated so cleanly that it just feels like a natural part of the game.
Even though it's such a simple game, Tekken Tag 2
is versatile and easy to pick up, whether you just want a quick five minutes of solo fighting or you have a bunch of mates round for a night of split-screen button-mashing. This could be the perfect party game.
Tag team gameplay brings lots of variety and fun
Massive number of playable characters from the start
Tag team and team battle game modes have big party potential
No proper slow motion replays
Fight Lab learning curve is too much for the average gamer
No Tekken Force mode
SPOnG Score: 8/10