Though I’m generally quick to throw Tekken under the bus, I feel like that disdain primarily stems from a lack of understanding. I actively avoided the series during its heyday, and my few encounters with it haven’t been overly positive. I bought Tekken 6 a few years ago, but quickly got rid of it when it became apparent that it wasn’t going to work out.
At one point, I thought I just had it in for 3D fighters in general, but then I fell in love with Dead or Alive 5. Maybe Tekken is the problem after all? After finding Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on the cheap, I gave the series another shot.
As someone who is virtually a complete newbie, I started out by going to the game’s new Fight Lab mode. This is meant to act a tutorial mode, though there’s a lot of story payoff if you’re into the Tekken lore. In it, Violet is creating the perfect fighting robot, which you assume the role of. As he’s teaching the robot how to fight, he’s also teaching you the game’s core mechanics. The challenges within Fight Lab I actually found to be quite difficult, but to their credit, helped open my eyes when it comes to playing the game properly. In particular, it gave me an understanding of how punishing attacks works.
Having said that, learning how to punish attacks is a very deep rabbit hole, as each character has roughly 100 moves apiece. You can start learning all of this in training mode, as it features full move lists, on-screen display of those moves that are easy to toggle between, and even demos for how every single move appears when you do them properly. I like how it goes to this level of depth, but there’s still a bit more it could do to really wrap up the package. One, tell players which moves are ‘the best’ and explain why they should commit them to memory. SoulCalibur V had this feature in there, and I think it goes a long way towards developing a solid foundation for playing each character. The other thing the game could use is a challenge mode that shows off a handful of great combos as a base.
If you’ve been playing Tekken for years, my criticisms will not hold much weight. Odds are, you’ll be able to pick this up without a hitch. If you’re a fan of the tag format from the original, you should be glad to see the mechanic expanded to allow for more offensive creativity. In the hands of veterans, this can lead to rounds that are very short, as the damage output from these extended tag combos can be quite high. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, though it’s something to consider. If not, you can fight as one solo character with a few buffs to balance out the action. As a newbie, this is not as instantly gratifying as say, Dead or Alive 5, there’s definitely more meat to this experience if that’s what you’re looking for. I know that if I were to invest the time into the game, I’d get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
As far as modes go, this has the usual assortment, from a standard-issue arcade mode, to online play. Getting into the online mode can be slow if you wait for the ghost data to load, so I simply cancel it every time. From there, matchmaking is great. I like how the game quickly puts you into training mode while matchmaking does its thing. In matches, I found the netcode to be mostly solid, with only a few minor hitches. One neat feature the game has to help build the community is the World Tekken Federation, or WTF. You can form clans and gain points as a team through individual actions, which sounds like an interesting draw to me.
This isn’t the Tekken game that will turn me into a franchise fanatic, but Tag Tournament 2 has helped me understand why the series is where it is today. It feels like a very refined fighter that has a ton of depth for those who want to start/continue their adventure with the series. I enjoyed my time with it and wouldn’t be surprised if I go back from time-to-time.