More fun than throwing your kid in a volcano.
The Iron Fist Tournament returns!
So look, I hate Tekken. If you're doing a double take at the score I gave the game after that opening line then that should indicate how big of a surprise this game was to me. I've spent roughly 30 hours tooling away in the game and its the first Tekken since Tekken 3 to capture my attention. Its also the first fighting game to capture my attention since Mortal Kombat. What is nice about Tekken Tag 2 is that it is full of content. No matter if you play online or play offline there is something for everyone here.
The best move made in this new iteration is droping the INSANELY stupid story mode that was in Tekken 6. It was an awful awful attempt at trying to adapt the Tekken fighting engine into a fully 3D brawler. In its place is whats known as the "Fight Lab" and if your a new player this is the first stop that you should take the first time you boot the game up. Fight Lab is in short a training mode but its a training mode that is fun and well masks the tedium of learning a lot of the fighting game mechanics. The whole mode is wrapped up in a loose story of Violet (a.k.a Lee Chaolan) trying to build the worlds most advanced combat robot. You're quickly introduced to combot who is the character you control for this mode. A series of 5 stages with multiple chapters and bosses covers everything from basic movement to linking bounding moves into tag combos. Its quite useful and whats more you unlock "development points" that you can spent in the "combot tuning" mode. In Combot tuning you can take various moves from all the other tekken fighters and essentially build your own combot. Fight Lab is a mode that still throws you into the fire a bit but for the most part it does its job well.
Beyond Fight Lab lies a lot other of what you would expect from a fighting game. An arcade ladder mode complete with the series unlock-able character endings that are pure insanity. Survival and Time Attack modes are there as well as Practice modes complete with at suite of options for you to tune your training experience. One of the most interesting offline modes however is "Ghost Battle" one that has appeared in other Tekken games allowing you to take a team or a solo more powerful character through a wave of endless CPU characters many of which are using ghost data from famous arcade players in japan. Its a fun diversion and ties pretty heavily into the returning customization mode.
The customization of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is only matched by the craziness of Namco's other fighting franchise Soul Calibur. While you can't outright create a character if your savvy enough you can get some really entertaining results. The customization also acts like a nice proverbial carrot always giving you something to look forward to after claiming your fight cash from online or ghost fights. While its not vital to the whole formula its a nice addition and adds a stroke of personality to the whole game that is much appreciated.
The real meat and potatoes for most however will be the online mode. Players can either dive into player matches with a party of friends or test the waters of the ranked matches. In a really nice addition you can outright demand the game match you with only people that have a 4-5 bar connection. This means you should almost never see any real lag during matches online. Honestly, its one of the smoothest online fighting games I've ever played period. In an attempt to further the online community Tekken Tag 2 launches alongside "World Tekken Federation" which is a feature much like Call of Duty's Elite service. Players can go online and register and create their federation with friends. Track stats etc... if you a real fighting game nerd this is a feature that you might want to go check out.
The core gameplay of Tekken Tag 2 straddles the line that Tekken does so well. If your a novice player you can get in there and find a character like Christie Montiero who is pretty newbie friendly. If you want to dive deep into the rabbit hole each character has sometimes hundreds of moves. It accomplishes what few games do straddling the line between appealing to the masses without sacrificing the depth that the core gamers crave. Its an impressive feat and with the added fight lab mode new players will have a easier transition into the world of Tekken. The tag moves add a extra layer of depth to the combo with crossover combos and tag throws rounding out your repitore.
If I had to levy any complaints against Tekken Tag 2 its that many of the characters start to feel very similar after a while. While Jun Kazama and Asuka Kazama have different moves at a certain point you wonder if the roster couldn't be cut down and isn't just there to be a bulletin point on the back of the box. Other minor gripes include weird and often downright clunky menu choices. When customising your character the game requires you to buy an item then back out and to to a separate menu to equip the purchased item. There is also a lot of very unclear information. Often messages pop up informing you that you "Unlocked cusomitazion parts" but no mention of specifics like what or for who which often leaves you wondering what you reward was. Overall the game really doesn't have that much bad to say bout it. Its a fun experience and if you've been looking to get into the series this might be a good entry point. I know personally this game was a shot in the dark for me. I haven't enjoyed a Tekken game since Tekken 3 and I was very glad I was proven wrong about this game. If you are already a Tekken fan this is a no brainer. Namco has created something worth everyones time here.