A problem with fighting games is that they often fall short at explaining the mechanics. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 solves some of these complications with the new Fight Lab, a comical short story that puts the player in the role of Combot, a mechanical robot who is receiving fight training from Violet – the eccentric alter ego of Lee. The Fight Lab goes through the basics of attacking, defending, juggling and tagging, and is perfect for newcomers, but if you want to learn character specific combos then it falls short. The game is missing combo challenges; the move list does give example combos, and you can watch them demonstrated, but that does not feel as involving as doing challenges – a feature in most of Capcom's and Arc System Works' fighters. I feel that this handicaps new players, since they have no knowledge of some of the basic combos with their favourite characters. You can solve this by searching Google, but that is not the same as the game teaching you. At least the Fight Lab makes for an entertaining tutorial, thanks to ridiculous tasks like dodging a fat, yellow power ranger throwing pizza, or an Akuma copycat that gets bigger every time he is hit. Yeah, it is without a doubt the most humorous tutorial in any fighter.
The story in the Tekken Tag games is non-canon, allowing for the dead to be resurrected, giving a cast of 49 characters – with an additional four locked for preorder goodies and free DLC at a later date. It has also come to my attention that six more characters are planned (most likely free), giving Tekken Tag Tournament 2 a grand total of 59 fighters. That's the biggest roster ever for the series. Fans will find their favourites, since near enough everyone is here, from both Laws, Kunimitsu, Michelle, to Jun, True Ogre, and Alex, the boxing velociraptor.
When it comes to the gameplay, the fundamentals for the combat are still Tekken, heavily based around Tekken 6's system. Each attack button represents a character's limb, with a fifth button used for tagging in the partner. Like with every multi-teamed fighting game, randomly tagging in a partner is dangerous as it leaves the character at risk for a very short amount of time, giving a good player the opportunity to punish for big damage. To stop this, it is advised to use one of the implemented ways to safely bring in a character, such as during a launcher or when you tag throw an opponent.
Partners can also be used with the new tag assault, where if you bound an opponent (smack an airborne character to the ground), you can hold the tag button just as the hit lands and your partner comes rushing in to do an attack. This is automatic, but once you become accustomed to it you can override the programmed move and enter your own attack instead. This does not swap the character in; rather, it is used to extend a combo. Tagging is incorporated into red health and the Rage metre (introduced in Tekken 6). If you tag assault an opponent then their tag partner is given rage (attack increased); or if it is a one-man team, that character will get the buff instead. Your tag buddy, on the other hand, loses his stored red health, making this an ideal, flashy move to use to finish off a team.
If all this sounds too much, the Practice mode is great to refine your skills. This feature is full of options that include everything from setting up battles with the CPU, practicing combos, defensive training, and recording moves. You can also set up lag delay so that you can get the timing right for combos when you are playing against an online opponent on specific ping levels. As far as practice modes go in fighting games, this is fully featured and will help players get better if they are willing to put in the time.
Speaking about online, Tekken Tag Tournament 2's net play is so much better than Tekken 6. From what I hear, it is built upon the netcode that was included in SoulCalibur 5. What this means for me and you is that the online feels great. I was playing people in America and it still felt as if I was playing them from in the UK. I don't know what's going on under the hood with this, but it is fantastic for people who just want to play lots of online without being screwed by bad netcode. Features include ranked and player matches, and you can even train while waiting for the search to find someone. Built into the online is World Tekken Federation, a service that will record a wide range of stats, tracking all their moves and how often they are used. This data is stored on the official website for all to see, but during my time with the game, this feature was not live.
Offline is full of multiple ways to play. The standard Arcade mode is included, with every character having their own CG ending – a regular feature in the Tekken games. Ghost Battle, Team Battle, Survival and Time Attack make up the rest of the modes, but one final feature I do like is the return of Pair Play. This allows four people to play together in the comfort of their own home, turning Tekken Tag Tournament 2 into a perfect game for laughs when your friends are 'round. To top it off, every character has a massive wardrobe of customisable clothing that needs to be unlocked by playing the game and earning gold to spend. Running into bizarre versions of dressed-up Tekken characters is a hysterical part of playing online.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the best, deepest, and most exciting Tekken to be released to date. While it does not particularly move the series in a groundbreaking way, it does bring back the fast-paced tag mechanics that haven't been in for twelve years. It feels like the series has reached the point where a drastic change is needed to make it totally refreshing, but will that change make the series still feel like Tekken? That's for the team to figure out. Right now, this is the game Tekken fans will love, and if you have not played the series for a while or simply never tried to, then this is the best and most refined place to start.