'Tag 2,' and you're it
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 00:09
I don’t know very much about “Tekken.” I fondly remember a few select arcade matches I played back when every mall in America had an arcade, but those memories go ten, fifteen years back. Also, I’m realizing I’m actually old enough to have nostalgia about things from more than a decade ago. Holy crap.
I do remember playing “Tekken Tag Tournament” at those arcades sometime after Y2K but before 2002, and those are the best memories I have of the franchise. I would always use King and Armor King together, and I’d always lose, but it was always really enjoyable, smooth fighting. “Tag” held up after it was ported to the PS2 as a launch title, too, but twelve years later it’s pretty much an afterthought.
But the “Tekken” series has powered on, always pulling surprisingly great sales figures worldwide (“Tekken 5” did 6 million copies, “Tekken 6” did 3.5 million… wait, there have been SIX “Tekken” games?!), and on a whim I decided to grab the brand-new “Tekken Tag Tournament 2” for the 360. I figured it would be nostalgic and it would be a lot of fun in a house where my roommates are always willing to try new games.
Both of those expectations were well-founded. Some trade-in trickery got me “Tag” for around $30, so I’d express a little more hesitation if someone were to pay the full $60. Don’t get me wrong though; it’s still an incredibly solid, well-made fighter, with a large load of modes that work great together. I value my sanity, so I don’t play fighters online, but I do play a lot of split-screen multiplayer.
I was a bit stunned by the graphics in my first “Tag 2” match. The visuals are a huge focus of the game. It makes sense here, as “Tag 2” was first released in Japanese arcades and needed great looks to lure players in. Backgrounds are stunning and environments are destructible during the fully 3D movement of matches, and light glistens off the various fighters, be they human, vampire, man-with-jaguar-head or actual panda bear. The wacky cast holds almost every character to ever appear in any “Tekken,” ensuring anyone with PS1 or PS2 memories will have a nostalgia-bomb.
Gameplay is satisfying. “Tekken” is slightly rewarding to button mashers. I may be a bit guilty of this, but I swear I know what the buttons are and how timing works. But the fighting isn’t THAT rewarding to button mashing. There’s a lot of detail in it; it’s one of the more intricate fighting systems in today’s gaming. With a roster of 50 or so characters, each one with a separate fighting style, the key gimmick of two-character-tag-teams flourishes; every match is noticeably different. Strategy with teaming characters gets really intricate, and with hundreds of moves per character, the casual player can learn basic strengths and weaknesses while the experienced can learn every character by heart.
I haven’t even touched onto the other modes; you can buy items for characters like in Namco’s other fighting series, “Soul Calibur,” fight randomly-generated ghost teams, and upgrade a robot into a champion. It’s all pretty fun, though it’s not essential.
Unfortunately, I can’t afford two fighters at once right now. No knock against “Tag 2,” but it’s a bit slower than the break-neck speed “Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3,” my favorite fighting game. And “Tag 2” isn’t far enough ahead of the fighting game pack that it’s amazing; you might actually want to compare it to “DoA 5” on the 25th. But for fighting fans, circle around for a bit and check it out. It’s flashy fun.