January 19, 2013

Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Nostalgia city.

It has been a long time since I've picked up a fighting game and had the urge to really delve into it, and build up some skill that isn't, "Look how fast I can mash these buttons." I would say the most recent is SSB Brawl, which in itself isn't really a traditional fighting game. But Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is really pushing for a fighting game I really want to delve into. The last Tekken I played hardcore was Tekken 3 (on an upright cabinet, no less). I loved it. The ridiculousness of characters, the cool grabs and combos available, the homages to icons (e.g. Bruce Lee), the additional modes (PlayStation version), just the whole package. I dabbled in the later installments, mostly to check out new characters, backstories, endings, etc., but none of them really had that hook for me that 3 did.

That was over fifteen years ago(!). Then I picked up TTT2. It pretty much solved the problem of, "Man, I wish I could play as so-and-so, but I'd have to find Tekken 3/4/5/6." Most everybody is in this one, and the controls and response feel as crisp as they did all those years ago. The music is excellent, and tiny features like being able to select what music plays in what stage is a nice touch. Visually, the game is very appealing. The character roster is as bright and colorful as ever, and the stages don't leave much to be desired, especially with the breakable floors, walls, balconies, no walls, and variety of sizes.

I have the Wii U version, which means I get Tekken Ball! A strangely addictive fighting/pseudo-volleyball mini-game that my brother and I have a blast playing. I also get all the DLC right off the bat, which I appreciate very much.

The amount of customization that can be made on characters is pretty cool (clothing, accessories, etc.), and there are a lot of items that go hand in hand with the humor that permeates the Tekken franchise. I also enjoy the Fight Lab mode, which is a way to learn the mechanics of the game while at the same time customizing your character (Combot, a super fighting robot). It forces you to actually learn aspects of the game instead of just mashing buttons. For example, one of the stages has opponents that only take damage by Tag Assaults, so you must learn to use them effectively in order to advance.

There are some downsides though, naturally. The menu system is extremely labyrinthine and tedious at times. For example, at the character selection screen, I select "Tag", which means I want to use two characters for the next battle, I choose Lei for my first. But oh! I see Kuma, I want Kuma as my first character instead. So I hit the back button, and the game informs me that I will return to the main menu. Not the character menu, the main menu of the entire game. There's a lot of, "Why would they do that?" menu paths throughout the game. It's just poor planning. And as fun as the game is, there are certain balance issues between characters, with some having moves that don't take long at all to execute, but take out an extreme amount of damage. This is especially frustrating while playing online, where you have built up legitimate skill with a character, but someone plays as a single character (making them stronger than normal since they don't have a tag partner) and manages to repeatedly use that one cheap move to wipe you out in no time.

All in all though, I am enjoying the game very much. It is hard to believe that Namco has developed both the Tekken and Soul Calibur franchises, since both are so successful, and so incredibly different. And the fact that each one has over five main games in the series that have all done quite well is an achievement in itself. It also bodes well for the next game in the Smash Bros. series, since Namco Bandai is co-developing the game with Sora Ltd.

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