Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is actually an enhanced version of the original arcade game. On top of 2 vs. 2 tag battles, you also have 2 vs. 1 and 1 vs. 1 matches, which were part of the arcade re-release Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Unlimited. On paper, 2 vs. 1 sounds unfair, but the solo player gets an offense and defense booth. Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada explained to Siliconera he added 1 on 1 so arcade players who only know one Tekken character can get into Tekken Tag Tournament 2. I suppose Pair Play mode is the ultimate beginner’s mode since you can make a friend, perhaps an expert Tekken player, your tag partner and tag them in the middle of a fight.
With moves like juggles and bounds (moves that slam the other player into the ground), there is a lot to learn in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 if you haven’t touched the series since the PS2 launch title Tekken Tag Tournament. Fight Lab mode teaches players the basics while they rebuild Combot. You start out learning how to move left and right all the way to Tag Assaults. Tag Throws (triangle + tag) let you safely switch characters while tossing an opponent. This takes off a nice chunk of blue health, which means the damage from a Tag Throw isn’t recoverable. After launching the other player you can follow up with a Tag Combos by immediately tagging the other character. Tag Assaults let you call in a partner to simultaneously attack an opponent. You can pull this off after a bound. Finally, there’s the Tag Crash, a risky move that lets you call in your partner to attack while you tag out. This move drains your red (recoverable) life and can only be activated when you’re in rage mode, but it’s one way to switch characters while a weakened character is getting a beatdown.
Totally lost? Tekken Tag Tournament 2 also has rage mode, which activates after you lose half of your life. This gives you a temporary offensive boost kind of like the "X-Factor" mechanic from Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I think rage mode is kind of an equalizer for beginners since that boost, when using a solo character is enough to turn the tables. If you play through Fight Lab mode twice (it’s harder the second time around) you’ll graduate from Tekken school with at least one character you can use – Combot. Fight Lab rewards players with points they can use to purchase moves for Combot (he can master attacks from other fighters) and Gold used to buy character customization items.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has different tops, bottoms, sunglasses, and hats you can buy for each character. There’s also an assortment of wacky accessories like bear shields and battery backpacks to purchase too. Just like Tekken 6, some items can be used in battle like bombs and sledgehammers. Making wacky characters is part of Tekken’s charm, but I found tailoring Combot into a fighter built for me to be more interesting.
Either way, there’s a lot of grinding to do. You can punch through arcade mode where you’re rewarded with endings if you can defeat Unknown. Ghost Battle tends to yield more rewards since you can get a lucky box loaded with tons of gold or a customization item at the end of a match. Ghost Battle uses data captured by other players so it’s supposed to be more advanced than the current AI. It’s too early to tell though since Tekken Tag Tournament 2 just came out today. Siliconera received Tekken Tag Tournament 2 last week, but we weren’t able to try out the World Tekken Federation online profile system either. By the way, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 requires an online pass for multiplayer. So, if you’re planning on getting a used copy you’ll have to fork over a little extra to fight online. Characters, even the pre-order bonus fighters like Angel and Michelle Chang, will be available to everyone at a later date for free.
Some of the characters are clones like the Alex (the boxing dinosaur) who used to be a palette swap for Roger. He was promoted to a character in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 with his own slot. Even when you count out doubles, Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s roster is still massive, featuring more characters than the arcade game’s lineup. All of the possible combinations keep fights feeling fresh because you never know who you’re going to fight next. (Well, unless you’re playing with someone who insists Armor King and Alisa is their "a" team.) That’s a good thing because matches in Tekken tend to be faster than other fighting games. Why? Because a round ends if one character runs out of life and you can’t "turtle" as much.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 feels a little light offline without a story mode or mini-game. Fight Lab is the "core" solo experience. Yeah, this is a fighting game so you will spend most of your time playing with friends or challenging others online. However, Tekken 6 and other numbered titles have a beat ’em up style Tekken Force mode. Tekken Tag Tournament included Tekken Bowl, so in comparison Tekken Tag Tournament 2 doesn’t have as much as other fighting games when you’re offline. Online play has ranked & unranked matches and a replay mode so you can study your combos.
While Harada tried to make Tekken Tag Tournament 2 more accessible with a 1 on 1 mode, I think fans are going to appreciate more of what the game has to offer. Many of the endings in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are pure fan service and if you haven’t been playing Tekken you’re going to need to spend a lot of time in practice mode to master movesets for two characters.