Double the fighters, double the fun. That’s the most basic premise to Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the flashy follow-up to the 1999 arcade classic fighter. With a colossal roster, gleaming graphics, and plenty of supplementary modes, it seems like there’s never been a better time to be a Tekken fanatic.
We already liked what we saw during our last hands-on Tekken Tag Tournament 2 preview, but for those that want a refresher, this is tag-team fighting structured around the engine and mechanics of Tekken 6. Having a partner to tag in or out of the fight at any time gives bouts an electrifying tempo, where tagging out a near-KO-ed teammate can easily turn the tides in your favor. Though the gameplay will feel instantly familiar to those who’ve dabbled in Tekken and its 3D fighting ilk, there are still plenty of fresh mechanics to tackle.
Check out our Tekken Tag Tournament 2 QuickPlay with none other than tournament-level pro Filthierich!
Tag combos let you gang up on the opponent for some sickeningly damaging juggles; tag throws up the ante on grapples by doling out extra helpings of hurt with some slick animations. There are also destructible walls in some (but not all) of the stages, where slamming an opponent through a balcony or weakened wall will catapult them into a new chunk of stage, where the battle resumes immediately.
Outside of the fights themselves, the new Fight Lab lets you train up the robotic dummy Combot with the guidance of Lee “Violet” Chaolan, through some hilariously absurd cutscenes and boss battles. There’s also plenty of character customization (perhaps on the same level as Virtua Fighter 5) for those who want it, while the new Tekken Tunes feature lets you swap out or switch stage songs at will, including the importation of your own tracks. We’re not sure who would want to, though--simply because TTT2’s pulse-pounding beats are awesome enough already.
Our recent hands-on time let us delve into the online side of things, and we undoubtedly liked what we saw. After a bit of a rough patch with Tekken 6’s online play, Namco’s ported over the superior netcode of Soulcalibur V, which promises smoother fights with wired or Wi-Fi play. But chief among the online improvements is the introduction of the World Tekken Federation, a premium-grade, HTML5 web service that Namco Bandai is commendably endowing to players for free. Much like the impressive Halo Waypoint seen packaged with Microsoft’s flagship shooter, the World Tekken Federation (or WTF, if you will) tracks players’ every last statistic straight from matches as they happen, then syncs them to the online database for the whole world to see.
It’s a system that opens up tons of opportunities for the community, through things like social collaboration, improved livestream commentary, a general bragging rights. With no subscription fee to worry about, players can sync both a PSN and XBLA account’s records to their profile and watch their personal statistics unfold. It seems dang near everything gets tracked: Character usage, win/loss ratios down to the character-specific level, counter attacks, mid-air damage done, juggle-versus-non-juggle damage done, even something called “Chicken Points”--it’s all logged and available for the world to see in WTF, which instantly updates after every online match.
Namco Bandai hopes that, much like baseball commentators, Tekken commentators will use the WTF as a stats encyclopedia, so they can predict and parse out what the next contender’s style and specialties are. Instead of dull lulls between matches while the players do button checks and test their sticks, commentators can be delving into the character choices, match-up strengths, and potential mind games for each competitor. This will also let players study their own habits, with saved replays after every match, and they can do research on upcoming opponents in the hopes of better preparing themselves to take the tournament.
Other bonuses in the WTF are Teams, emblems, and the return of Dan rankings. Teams are groups of up to 100 players, all acting as a unified clan much like an MMO guild. Teams get their own leaderboards and emblem designs, emblems being customizable insignia that are proudly displayed on your WTF profile. We’d like to think our panda-on-pink-heart emblem struck grave fear into the hearts of our online opponents. Dan rankings offer character-specific progression to show off your skills at a glance, with ranks that range from “Beginner” to “True Tekken God.”
With the WTF available for free at launch in all regions, TTT2 might set the precedent for future fighters when it comes to online modes. We’d certainly like to see it spread to Namco Bandai’s other fighting franchises, even given our short time with the feature, and we wouldn’t be surprised if others in the industry took to crafting their own online, stat-tracking facsimiles. Look for us to sign up on the WTF (and perhaps start our very own Team) when TTT2 launches for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on September 11th.