Broadly speaking, the Tekken series warrants a comparison with Mortal Kombat. Fresh, attention-grabbing original. Superior, seminal sequel. Overstuffed, but still successful third installment. After that, and over the course of countless further sequels and spin offs, both franchises chose to adopt the kitchen sink approach, and diluted much of what made each of them so special. Tekken never lost its rag to the same degree that Mortal Kombat did (and none of Tekken’s follow-ups ever sank to the desperate depths of MK: Armageddon) but to put it politely, Tekken 6 didn’t compare favourably with its forebears. That game’s harshest critics demanded an outright reboot. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 most definitely isn’t it.
What Tekken Tag Tournament 2 most definitely is, is the best Tekken since the third one. There’s no grindy, scrolling campaign mode any more, and the online suite looks as if it’s going to be on a par with the utterly peerless one that featured in Soul Calibur V. It’s all about the brawling, and although there’s no question that it’s aimed primarily at the hardcore fans who’ve stuck by the series for the past decade, there’s a brilliant (and brilliantly extensive) new tutorial mode called Fight Lab that explains absolutely everything. It’s pretty brutal at times, and even the structure is unforgiving – fail a challenge at the end of a chapter, and you’ll have to complete the whole thing again – but once you’ve done it, no opponent will surprise you, and the prospect of doing battle online becomes a heck of a lot more inviting.
There’s a real sense of event about it too, and the presentation is absolutely first rate. It’s a bit of visual feast really (particularly for a fighting game) and the cutscenes look quite absurdly expensive. As always, there are numerous different gameplay modes available – including series mainstays like Survival and Time Attack – bolstered by a new XP-based currency system, which allows you to buy stuff to customise your characters with. The new Tag Assault mechanic, which allows you change characters mid-combo, is an unrestrictive joy: use any combo that involves a juggle, and if you tag them when your foe is in mid-air, your partner will rush in to finish it for you. There’s a great deal of fun to be had in experimenting with Tag Assault, and discovering which combos blend together most effectively.
It isn’t live yet, but the World Tekken Federation – which is an online stat tracker along the lines of CoD Elite or Battlefield 3’s Battlelog – promises much. A service like that is a natural fit for a brawler like Tekken; especially because Tekken tends to make obsessives out of people at the drop of a hat. The character roster is vast, and includes a few old faces who you probably never banked on seeing again, and the core gameplay remains as impeccable as ever. It was once the king of fighting games for several very good reasons, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is both a throwback and a comeback: this ain’t no reboot. If you’ve got time and patience to spare, it’s hard to fathom anybody who won’t succumb to the ample charms of it.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is currently due for release on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on Friday, September 14th 2012.
Watch the launch trailer for Tekken Tag Tournament 2 below: