It was beginning to look like the appeal of the Tekken franchise was on the wane. No sooner had Street Fighter IV resurrected the competitive fighter genre back in 2009 that Tekken 6 arrived – a gallingly safe sequel too reliant on the series’ classic formula. The years since have seen its competitors reinvent themselves to varying degrees of success, and all the while fans have waited patiently for a proper Tekken solo outing to turn up.
So Tekken Tag Tournament 2 enters the arena with a tardiness mark against it, and while it’s still resolutely stuck in its ways, just a few hours spent honing your techniques and it’s enduring appeal shines through. It’s not a direct sequel to Tekken 6 but rather a follow-up to the original Tag Tournament way back on the PlayStation 2, and acts fundamentally as a more robust iteration of its predecessor. Players unsurprisingly pick a team of two characters from the heaving roster of franchise favourites to fight, mixing team attacks and tag combos that keep strategy buzzing along during the high-impact close-quarter fighting. With plenty of character juggling and switching in and out, there’s a depth and nuance that elevates it above just a glorified button-mash.
Most surprising is that Namco Bandai has broadened the entry level. It’s never been a technical series in the same way as Virtua Fighter, but new mode Fight Lab offers slew of enlivening challenges which forms a serviceable training ground for newcomers. It’s more engaging than your run-of-the-mill training mode, with players controlling automaton Combot to complete challenges that range from basic complexity to teeth-grindingly difficult. It’s greatest success is that it feels rewarding regardless of your competence.
Complaints could be levied at the lack of innovation and a pedestrian single-player entity, but with vast improvements to the fundamental tag mechanics and neophyte accessibility, TTT2 brings the franchise back to the pinnacle of the genre.