The King of the Iron Fist Tournament is back. The Tekken series is one that holds special place with gamers, being the fighting game of choice for Playstation owners. While the Street Fighter series struggled to adapt to the 3rd dimension, the Tekken series made the most of the graphical boost consoles offered and released 3 games for the original Playstation with Tekken 3 being regarded at the time as perhaps the best 3D brawler ever. Then came the Playstation 2 in 2000 and the release of Tekken Tag Tournament which saw a tag battle element being introduced to the Tekken formula – now you had the option of picking two fighters to a brawl, but if one of your combatants got KO’d it’d be all over. I remember Tekken Tag being the first game released on the Playstation 2 that made my jaw drop – the graphical jump from it compared to Tekken 3 was unheard of at the time.
I remember watching a Tekken Tag round robin session being played in my old secondary school one day and then going home to beg my Dad to buy me a Playstation 2. Now, just over a decade on, Namco Bandai has released a sequel to the much loved fighter and last week I was lucky enough to go to the Tekken Instagram Exhibition at Protein Bar for the games launch to try the game out and talk to other Tekken fans about the game.
Games press and journos alike talked of their love of the early iterations of the Tekken series as well as the original Tekken Tag but Tekken entries past that were rarely mentioned. After the original Tekken Tag, the series became bloated, adding bizarre sidegames and weird scrolling story beat em ups to what was already a complicated fighter (the character King has a larger moveset that most of the Street Fighter cast combined). After a while it just became hard to keep up with the Tekken series.
Thankfully I can say that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a return to form for the Tekken series.
As I firmly set up camp on one of the arcade machines on show at the exhibition I was overjoyed when I opened the character select screen. Over 50 characters to choose from, no messing about with unlocking my favourite players by slogging through arcade mode. Tekken Tag 2 is all about fun and trash talking your defeated opponents. Everything gamers loved about Tekken is here, the gorgeous graphics and deep gameplay with seemingly endless combo command chains, but all of the puppy fat is gone. Playing Tekken Tag 2 harks back to the classic arcade era of gaming, where you'd see a crowd huddled around a machine where a champion was making short work of challenger after challenger before you tentatively stepped up, put down your 50p next to the machine and declared yourself next.
I remember Tekken Tag being the first game released on the Playstation 2 that made my jaw drop – the graphical jump from it compared to Tekken 3 was unheard of at the time.
But of course this feeling is fairly easily to get playing on the is the arcade machine version, what you really want to know is how does the console version, the one you're most likely to buy (unless you have a grand stored somewhere) stack up?
The console version takes the lead from the arcade machine in making sure everything is geared towards multiplayer. No more "Devil Within" storyline - while you have the main fighting game staples such as arcade, survival and practice mode the main meat of console Tekken Tag 2 is getting you playing someone else, be it in the same room or online. The big single-player mode this time around is the "Fight Lab", which takes you through the basic mechanics of the game as a programmable "Com Bot" - it's a good breakdown of all of the subtle Tekken nuances such as juggling chain sequences, parrying and more. I really enjoy Fight Lab, and I like to see implemented more in other beat 'em up games to help newcomers adjust to steep learning curve some of these games have (looking at you Baz Blue)
Taking the fight online and Namco Bandai have paid close attention to fans who were disgruntled with Tekken 6’s stuttering online play and have ported the brilliant netcode system from its Soul Calibur series. Online matches now flow smoothly and even if things start to stutter, the game will attempt to find its footing by slowing things to an even crawl, rather than abruptly disconnecting you.
Playing Tekken Tag 2 harks back to the classic arcade era of gaming, where you'd see a crowd huddled around a machine where a champion was making short work of challenger after challenger before you tentatively stepped up, put down your 50p next to the machine and declared yourself next.
TTT2 console also offers stat-tracking web service dubbed World Tekken Federation which records your every match and action, collating hours and hours of gameplay into a report file for everyone to see. While this does now mean that everyone can see that I got completely pummelled by a young Korean fellow, it does allow me to join up with my Tekken mates through the guild-like teams and take the fight back to him with a 7 man strong army. World Tekken Federation is a great feature and really helps to replicate that crowd huddled around an arcade machine feel.
All in all, TTT2 both arcade and console is the closest 3D beat 'em up I've played that relives the classic arcade feel of the 90s. I've found out they've got Tekken Tag machines in Stratford Westfields. If I defeat you, expect to have me scream "Big Poppa" by Notorious B.I.G in your face. Failing that, find me online and I'll scream "Don't step to the wave unless you can swim!" down the headset.
And before I forget, Eddie Gordo doesn't count.
You can follow Carl Anka on Twitter @Bubblegum616 and you fancy taking him on for a game of Tekken on Xbox360, his gamertag is also Bubblegum616
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