It’s strange to think that just a few short years ago, there wasn’t a single beat-em-up of note to be found on any of the major platforms. Sure, there were a few mid-tier titles knocking about here and there, but for the most part, the beat-em-up genre had become something of a barren wasteland in which fans were forced to return to their dusty old Dreamcasts to get their gaming kicks. That all obviously changed when Capcom released the seminal Street Fighter IV and subsequently proved that the long dormant genre was once again financially viable; but while this somewhat amazing U-turn has led to an array of first rate beat-em-ups of both the 2D and 3D persuasion, it is arguably getting to the point in which over saturation is a very real problem.
Potentially proved by the relatively disappointing sales of Street Fighter X Tekken earlier in the year, it seems that the beat-em-up bubble might be about to burst, or at the very least, loose a bit of air. While this is unsurprising given the sheer number of top quality fighters currently competing for sales in a less than stellar market, I genuinely hope that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 finds the success and audience that it so clearly deserves. While perhaps not as universally appealing as Street Fighter or technically polished or balanced as Virtua Fighter, Tekken has always been an extremely technical fighter, one that embraces the ludicrousness of it premise and characters (dancing bears in tutus anyone?) while delivering one of the deepest and most enjoyable fighters on the market.
Tekken Tag 2 does nothing particularly new with the Tekken template and certainly doesn’t feel as strangely revolutionary as Street Fighter IV did (even though the mechanics were still largely the same as they had ever been), but for fans of the genre, and more specifically, fans of the franchise, I find it hard to imagine a more comprehensive package than the one Namco have delivered here.
With its smartly implemented but unforgiving tag mechanics and array of new moves to learn (on top of the thousands already available), Tekken Tag 2 delivers an almost dizzying level of depth. In fairness to Namco though, they are obviously aware of the learning curve and, in an attempt to lower the level of entry, have included an extremely enjoyable and very useful training mode in the form of the ‘Fight Lab’ to sit alongside the extensive single player and online options already available. Not only will this surprisingly entertaining training mode get you up to scratch on the basics of Tekken Tag fighting, but it will also teach you how to know your Bound moves and Tag Assaults from your Tag Crash’s. This is still a game that demands practice, but with the enjoyable training mode in tow, complete with its own kooky story and an array of easy Achievements, the bar for entry has certainly been lowered…..well, a little bit anyway.
Ghost Battles, Survival, Team Battles, Time Attack, Arcade and Pair Play Mode (allowing for 4 players locally at once) all combine to make Tekken Tag’s offline offering pleasingly deep, but as always for a game of this ilk, it’s the all but endless, if extremely unforgiving, challenge provided by the mostly smooth online code that will inevitably keep fight fans coming back for months on end. Defeats can be brutal to say the least, but pulling off your own successful Tag Assault in the always kinetic online arena is rarely anything less than hugely satisfying. With random gifts delivered after many fights and a huge array of customization options available, Namco have done a great job of keeping that proverbial carrot dangling just in front of you (even if you are getting your ass handed to you), but even without that, Tekken Tag 2 is the kind of fighter that yearns to be mastered. It’ll take you a while to get anywhere near the top, but believe me; it’s a trip worth taking.
With 50+ characters to choose from, an array of brilliantly implemented local and online game modes and some of the finest, and incidentally, most utterly bonkers art design found in this consistently rather bonkers franchise, Tekken Tag 2 stands as one of the most spectacular examples of unabashed fan service seen in quite some time. Newcomers might find the learning curve a little steep and the juggle-centric combat can be extremely brutal in the online arena (there are few things in this world more infuriating than seeing your health disappear as you take hit after hit while lying face down in the dirt), but persevere, and Tekken Tag 2 will almost certainly dig its claws in. For fans of the series, this is the ultimate no-brainer, for everyone else; I implore you to give this game a go. Flashy enough to be immediately gratifying and deep enough to keep you playing for years on end, Tekken Tag 2 might be the most complete beat-em-up package this generation.
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