Looking back at Namco Bandai’s Global Gamers Day, chatting with Tekken series director Katsuhiro Harada was my personal highlight. The minute he started speaking, you could practically feel his love for Tekken and see that behind his snappy sunglasses he’s excited about what he does. During the other discussion developer sessions I attended, everyone would sit calmly at a table. Harada was animated, sometimes leaping from his seat to point at the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 display.
Harada played through the game’s Fight Lab mode instead of using clips of predetermined footage. When displaying fight techniques with his translator, he jumped up after characters had been selected to point at a specific spot on the screen. "We kinda forgot to mention on the character select screen, but there was a panel like [the one] you see here and that’s where some of the new characters are going to be at," Harada said. "So you can see, there’s quite a space there."
Fight Lab begins with Violet developing the most advanced Combot ever called Super Combot DX. Harada got to use it for one round before the story advanced and Violet accidentally destroyed Super Combot DX and part of the lab. Harada (and later on players) had to to start over with a tabula rasa Combot. In one part of the session, designed to teach players the importance of high, normal and low attacks, the Combot faced generic robots all the way up to a a boss fight against Jack-6. In each case, an indicator appeared on the body of the enemy showing where to punch or kick. As Harada went through the exercise, bombs would occasionally appear in empty spots and would damage Combot if they were hit. Towards the end, Harada had to pay attention where to punch since the target would constantly change. You earn development points to make the Combot stronger with new techniques as you progress through Fight Lab. Certain customization points are only available in this mode and those can be combined with other characters’ techniques to make Combot a powerful character. The idea is players, like the Combot, will refine their skills, which makes Fight Lab act a bit like a tutorial mode. Harada seemed especially proud of this feature.
Seeing how the main menu in the demo didn’t reveal any mini-games, I asked Harada if we would see anything like Tekken Bowl or Tekken Force in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. It turns out Fight Lab is it. Harada clarified, "Actually, that’s kinda where we’re taking the essence of those different types of games and trying to work them into the structure of Fight Lab. So if you hear that it’s kinda like bowling or it’s kinda like Tekken Force, it sounds more entertaining than a tutorial, right?"
"Hearing a lot of beginner or novice skill level people, they don’t think that they themselves are novices," Harada observed. "So, a tutorial might not appeal to some of those people. But if you say, ‘Hey this is a really entertaining mode! Why don’t you try it?’ It’s a lot more appealing, I think. That’s why we’ve taken this approach."
I followed up and asked if Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will have console specific characters like Soulcalibur IV or more fighters available for sale as downloadable content. "We get that question a lot and we haven’t really thought about it until today," Harada answered. "The fact that so many people ask, is that something players want? Or is it something they don’t want to see?"
"As far as DLC, we don’t have concrete plans yet, but the way I’m thinking though is that the characters and such are like pieces that are necessary for a chess game," Harada continued. "So you wouldn’t want to sell them, because some people would have them and some wouldn’t. If we have DLC characters or stages, they would be free. We might use them for pre-order bonuses though, because the retailers really like it. That doesn’t mean they’d be exclusive forever though. That just means you’d get it earlier, for a certain period. So the players, they get to see a variety of different characters from the different pre-orders and such. The retailers get their pre-orders so they’re happy and if the retailers are happy, we’re happy. So that makes everyone happy."
Harada laughed a bit and brought something else up. "There are some, you know, very eccentric people out there on Twitter that are asking for bikini bottoms for Lee Chaolan or something like that. That’s a very specific request that’s not originally in our plan. We might charge money for that," Harada said. "Since that’s not in the original plan and it’s not something essential to the game we might charge $1 or $2 for something like that. It seems like fighting game players like swimsuits? Just recently I’m starting to understand a little bit why [Tomonobu] Itagaki kinda made his games more erotic."
Since it wasn’t at the press event, I had to ask Harada how Tekken X Street Fighter was going. "Well, you know, you guys haven’t heard much about it so everyone assumes it’s not going anywhere, but we are making it. It’s progressing," Harada announced. "Tag 2 is going to be coming out first and we want that in the spotlight at the moment because that has to be successful first. If we talk about Tekken x Street Fighter, you guys are going to be writing articles about that maybe some about Tag 2. It’d be kind of unfocused, so we want to have the spotlight on Tag 2. So you guys write your articles about Tag 2. Hype it. A lot of people will buy it, and then we take that money and put it into Tekken X Street Fighter to make it a good game. On the other hand, if Tag 2 doesn’t sell well, then there’ll probably only be about three playable characters in Tekken X Street Fighter."
So, if you want more than three characters in Tekken X Street Fighter, buy Tekken Tag Tournament 2 when it comes out this September for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360?