When it comes to martial arts madness, few games can claim the pedigree of the Tekken series. First arriving on the original PlayStation in the mid 90s, Tekken was seen as a genuine threat to Sega's then groundbreaking Virtua Fighter game. Several iterations later and Tekken has emerged as one of the most successful and long lasting beat 'em ups. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has been released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and we review the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is s ripper of a game that will do Tekken's long term reputation no harm at all. The game brings together a cavalcade of characters with plenty of fresh moves, slick animations and some awesome “combination” attacks. There are over fifty characters in all with old school names like Law brushing up against newer fighters like Miguel.
Each looks superb and plenty have been given an updated treatment with new animations and a few fresh moves. If you were to only buy one fighting game this year, you'd be far from disappointed if you made it this one.
As you'd expect, the game pits a gaggle of combatants against one another in a massive tournament. Each fighter has their own vaguely plausible narrative and there is a core story that helps lay out why the tournament is being held too, but really the narrative side of things is irrelevant. This game is all about getting into the arena, dishing out a belting and moving on to the next bout.
In this regard Tag 2 excels. At first you might not think much has changed since we saw the last Tekken game, but there is a lot to appreciate. The game is more smoothly animated and each fighter has a variety of further refined moves. The “tag” element has also been given a welcome revamp.
Not only do you get to stage fights in pairs, but there are some brilliant tag team combination attacks that are jaw dropping to behold. Why beat an opponent up one on one when you can use both your your fighters to do it by performing a double team attack? These can finish a fight in one fell swoop.
However, you had better make sure you do polish off an opposing team with such an attack, as Namco have added a nifty "rage gauge" and it can really resurrect the fortunes of a team that is on the wrong end of a beating.
While one character is on screen being belted seven shades of purple, the rage gauge builds and the other fighter waiting in the wings gets a huge boost in their combat effectiveness. Sometimes this can be enough to tip the balance. A freshly tagged in "enraged" fighter can go berserk and stage a massive come from behind victory with some huge counter attacks.
There are a few other decent distractions too. There is an imaginative new training system called the “fight lab” that is a great way to sharpen your skills. You are given a number of increasingly difficult and admittedly bizarre challenges by your tutor, Lee Chaolinn. There are exploding balls to kick and even zero gravity kickboxing challenges. All of these help you develop your targeted attack skills and reflexes. These strange challenges are also a lot of fun too.
The game also lets you customize your characters for online play, so others can recognize your unique avatar. This is a nice bit of garnishing, even if it doesn't have any real impact on gameplay.
Like most martial arts games, Tekken Tag 2 is all about balance. The game has to deliver the right combination of intense and accessible button mashing action to keep novices happy, while also having the kind of depth, move roster and subtlety that a hard core fight fan craves.
Tekken Tag 2 achieves this balance, even if the design is more skewed towards the tastes of serious fight game fans. This is probably a good thing though, as you'll be encouraged to experiment beyond your initial button mashing rage, as you try and flesh out cleverer combination attacks and counters. Add into this the enormous number of fighter pairings you can choose and there is always something new to try.
Tekken Tag 2 is everything you'd want from a brawler. There is depth, accessibility, brutal action and plenty of variety.
Images supplied courtesy of Namco Bandai
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