Many, many roundhouse kicks ago in the days of button-mashing yore, fighting games were a much simpler lot. You jabbed your thumbs into a controller to throw punches and kicks, and if the game mechanics were slick enough, you could even block when the need arose. It was all a matter of timing and good hand-eye coordination. But those old old-school battlers are laughably simple now. They couldn't even get near the ring with today's games. Nowadays the fighting game is all about complexity and options. And there are none more robust in those areas than the Tekken games.
To make the moves and combos ever more challenging, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 essentially doubles the number of characters you can use in any one fighting mix. And there are over 40 different Tekken characters you can fight with, each with his or her own set of attacks and defenses—some with over 100 possible moves to learn. There are fleet-footed flip-kickers, a heavy-pawed panda, a colossus-like metal man, a giant fire-breathing ogre, a winged angel girl, a bouncing kangaroo and a battling robot. Just about every look and martial arts style you can imagine is part of the lineup.
Tag, You're In (Or Is It Out?)
To make it all simple enough to actually fit into a review, let me boil down the game action a bit. You choose two fighters you can switch in and out of any given match. As one basher's life bar starts taking a few too many hits, he can tag out and let his fresh partner charge in. The fighter outside the ring then regains a little strength while his tag-mate battles. The goal is to either knock out one of your opponents or have the most cumulative life left when the match timer runs down.
There are a variety of gaming modes on hand—including Arcade, Versus, Team Battle, Time Attack and Survival—that can strengthen your abilities just through repetition. The mode that really helps gamers flip up on their feet, though, is a new training area called Fight Lab. This section also happens to hold the only bit of story in the game: You follow one of the characters as he trains his "Combot" to be an ultimate fighter.
As far as the moves go, they can be lumped into three basic groups: launches, bounds and tags. The launcher attacks smash your opponent up into the air where she hangs helplessly for a fraction of a second. And if you're ready with another split-second fist or foot strike you can keep her suspended there for more mid-air punishment. If that kind of move is blocked or dodged though … oops, you're left open to receive a little pain of your own.
Bounds are sort of the opposite kind of move. These slam a foe to the ground where he bounces back up for another potential assault. And, of course, it's important to learn which moves and combos incorporate these kinds of attack types and how your characters deliver them.
That leads us to the tags. You don't necessarily tag between players just because one is feeling a little peckish. You can also tag fighter No. 2 in at just the right point in No. 1's attack so that he can come leaping in with a kick to a staggered foe's face or as part of a two-person tag throw. The choices are myriad, and the lightning-fast moves are dizzying … but never quite deadly.
Practice Makes Painful … and Impure?
There's no blood flying around the ring. So in that sense, this game isn't even as gory as a real-life MMA match. But merely getting up to speed can play out as hours and hours on the receiving end of iron-fisted beat downs, grueling groin smashes, laser-eyed burns and air-clouding gas expulsions. And the fact that some of the combatants are women throws a few more painful punches into gamers faces.
All other content concerns in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 revolve around either the way the female fighters dress or the inclusion of angel- and demon-like characters. The spiritual-centric fighters inject "magical" looking moves while sometimes doing things like breathing fire. Most of the women's digital costumes are intentionally provocative, baring parts of their breasts, backsides, stomachs and thighs.