While Namco has always been a big name in videogames, Namco Bandai Games has become a key player on current-generation systems. Leading with innovative intellectual properties such as Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and Dark Souls, and supporting their established audiences with new editions of popular franchises, Namco Bandai Games has proven that it’s possible to cover all of your bases when you plan your approach wisely. This winter’s releases are showing that balance perfectly, with the highly anticipated Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch being accompanied by the old guard, Tekken Tag Tournament 2.
While this is an entirely new outing for the franchise – a revised edition of the arcade release – Tekken Tag Tournament 2 feels incredibly familiar. Nearly twenty years after its debut release, Tekken is still a videogame based on memorising combos. Strikes combine into lengthy assaults with a timing not commonly found in one-on-one beat-‘em-up videogames, and so Tekken Tag Tournament 2 demands considerable investment from players, which is a factor that the development team has obviously recognised; in an effort to appeal to a wider demographic Tekken Tag Tournament 2 hasn’t been dumbed down, but instead the fighting system’s entry point has received a significant amount of attention.
The Tekken series is famous for including all manner of alternative gameplay modes in its home console outings, and here in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 it’s the turn of the all-new Fight Lab. Essentially a revision of the traditionally clunky tutorial, Fight Lab sees you play with an ever-evolving robot. Beginning with a small selection of moves, you can unlock moves of any character with credits earned through defeating opponents and performing certain combos. The demo build of Fight Lab was very limited, but at this point it appears to be little more than the familiar training mode with a story and unlockables system tacked-on. Hopefully the version set to be available in the final build will live up to the promises made.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will include more than forty playable characters in both solo and tag-team modes. Two of the new characters set to be made available as pre-order downloadable content (DLC), and later made available to all, were available in the build presented to Electronic Theatre. Kunimitsu is a very fast close combat fighter. Her repertoire includes lots of dashing moves that allow players to get in and under their opponent, opening them up for a barrage of quick, light hits before knocking them away again to avoid any possible counter attack. Angel is a more straightforward fighter, essentially a female Jin. She promotes lots of three hits combos, straight blows and aerial juggles that are easy to learn, as well as the usual string assaults.
Of course, in that huge line-up Tekken Tag Tournament 2 features many familiar faces. Some characters have received significant adjustments, some of which feel much the same as ever. Jun and Yoshimitsu fall largely into the later category, with the former still offering long range blows in exchange for simple inputs while the latter is as open to interpretation as ever, making it easy to chain combos out of nothing. Ogre however, the huge, screen-filling beast, presents just one opportunity: aggressive is the only way to play. And of course, no matter whom you play as or how well you know their inventory, you still feel bad for punching a kangaroo on the nose.
Despite its well presented characters and established fighting system, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 features a few disappointing technical aspects; arena damage disappears very quickly and Kuma’s character model shows some low resolution textures. The Snoop Dogg stage fits into the franchise surprisingly well, both thematically and visually, and actually provides some glitz that is normally startlingly absent from the franchise. It’s this mixture of old and new that gives the visual quality its welcoming quality, but still promotes backdrops ahead of interactive arenas, avoiding the depth of Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive. However, it’s refusal to adopt such modern techniques could allow some gamers to label Tekken as becoming stagnant: Tekken Tag Tournament 2 undoubtedly remains a good videogame, but with it being just more of the same one has to wonder just how well it’ll stand up to the revolution Dead or Alive 5 is looking set to deliver.