Tekken Tag Tournament II Wii U Edition
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 11/18/2012
Wow, is this really my eighth review of a Wii U title in less than a month? So much for not reviewing games this year. Anyway, I’ve never been a big fan of the Tekken series. I’ve always founded it to be one of the weaker series, more akin to Fighting Vipers or Virtua Fighter than something like King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Mortal Kombat, Darkstalkers, Street Fighter and the like. It was always too slow and far too easy for me. In fact the last Tekken game I even bothered with was Tekken Tag Tournament over a decade ago, which I remember more as Tekken Jag Tournament by a lot of snide internet commentators back in the day. Now this isn’t to say that I hated Tekken; just that I didn’t find it on par with a lot of other fighting games. Of course it’s been more than a decade so when someone had to review the copy of Tekken Tag Tournament II Wii U Edition that Namco Bandai sent us, I happily agreed to. Besides, Tekken is my wife’s favorite fighting game franchise, so even if I didn’t like it, she could have fun with it after the review. What I found is the sequel to 2000’s last Tag Tournament is vastly improved in all ways over the original, the game still is too slow, simplistic and way, WAY too easy for my tastes, I still had a lot of fun with the game. Let’s see why.
First up, let’s talk modes. I loved the options here. Capcom’s fighters, while still fun to play have really been left in the 90s in terms of modes and options. They tend to still over only one mode, bare bones options and weak (if any) story pieces and endings. Meanwhile games like Mortal Kombat and even King of Fighters XiII have really stepped things up in terms of offering gamers more than just multiplayer and an arcade ladder. They’ve had multiple modes, the ability to play games as a single character or in tag mode and the stories have been robust and immersive. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition follows this tradition meaning Capcom really has to get its butt in gear to stay in competition with these other companies. TTT2 gives you the ability to play through the usual arcade ladder as a single character or a tag team. There are a ton of characters and the game plays out the same on the ladder whether you are one or two characters. It’s a pretty straight-forward experience of nine battles. The first six are random while the last three (Heihachi and Jinpachi, Ogre and Jun Kazama and Unknown) are set in stone. Beating the arcade ladder nets you a very long and often times hilarious ending. I loved all the endings I unlocked and really enjoyed this nice tongue in cheek storyline instead of the usual gloom and doom endings one finds in fighting games.
In addition to this core mode, the game offers a lot of other modes I find superfluous and not of interest to me, but it’s great that they are there. Ghost Mode is a never ending series of battles and the only time I lost a single match in the entire game. Time Attack has you trying to clear a set number of opponents as quickly as you can. Survival lets you fight until your character is finally KO’d and practice lets you well…practice a character. As I said it’s great these are all here but with so many wacky endings to unlock and cash for characters to be had in arcade that you can’t get in most of these other modes, I stuck to the one that netted me the most rewards. Fight Lab is weird as hell but extremely enjoyable. It’s basically a “learn to play Tekken Tag Tournament II tutorial with a story about Lee trying to program a new Combot after he accidentally made the original…explode. Here you’ll learn the basics of the game and get new moves for Combot. However the game doesn’t explain Tekken shorthand to beginners or people that haven’t played since the shorthand was developed so you’ll sit there wondering what the hell the game means by a command symbolized by a star shape until you go through trial and error. It’s fun, but it commits a huge faux pas by being a mode meant to explain how Tekken works but then assumes you already know all there is about the game and that you’ve played every Tekken title ever. Whoops.
There are three new modes exclusive to the Wii U, but none are especially interesting. Tekken Ball is the same mode longtime Tekken fans know. You whap a ball at each other. If it hits the ground, the one who was supposed to hit it takes damage. If the ball hits you instead of vice versa, you take damage. These are the only two ways opponents can be hurt. It’s cute, but there’s no long term value in it. Mushroom Battle lets players collect four kinds of mushrooms ala Super Mario Bros. Some make you bigger, some make you lose health, and some have other effects. There are six different playing fields, each with their own rendition of the game. The third isn’t really a mode per say, but you can equip Nintendo first party costumes on your Tekken characters. So for example Bob has a Mario costume, Panda has a Princess Peach costume, and so on. It’s pretty hilarious and it’s great to see some new content instead of being a straight port to the Wii U, but mileage may vary on these additions.
There’s still more content though! Customize lets you change the appearance of your character and set their four touch screen combos. Gallery lets you look at all the characters along with any movies and/or endings you have unlocked. Tekken Tunes lets you listen to all the amazing music in the game and set what song plays on what stage. Basically you can have “High School Love” playing from beginning to end if you really want to. Online allows you to play with or against other players in a variety of ways. I was really impressed by the quality of online play here. I’m so used to choppy or lag filled experiences when it comes to fighting games, even on the PS3 or 360, and so I was blown away by how smooth and nearly flawless playing Tekken Tag Tournament II is online via the Wii. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had with online fighting games, not just because of how solid the build of the game is, but because you don’t have trolls and immature losers shouting racial and sexual epitaphs the whole time.
Whew. That’s a lot of content, eh? So let’s move on to something else, say the visuals? Holy crap was I blown away here. Tekken Tag Tournament II Wii U Edition is easily the best looking game released for the Wii, but it’s also one of the best looking games that I’ve played all year. Character models are lifelike and exceptionally well done, even when the compute has loaded them up with a crapload of strange equippable items. It’s just gorgeous. The backgrounds are equally jaw dropping as each one is well rendered, containing a staggering amount of detail (and breakable objects) that you just don’t see in other fighters. Factor in that you have dozens of stages and over fifty fighters and the fact that the quality of the graphics matches the quantity without any slowdown, frame rate hiccups or other visual issues and you can’t deny that Tekken Tag Tournament Wii U Edition is the definitive measuring stick for not only fighting game graphics, but for the Wii U across the board as well.
Then there’s the audio. I have to admit, even though Tekken is on the low end of the totem pole regarding challenge and gameplay, it is beyond reproach in regards to vocalization and music. If you’re a very old fighting game fan, you probably remember how the release of a new King of Fighterswas exciting not just for the game itself, but the amazing soundtrack that it came with. Even today, KoF titles are as much loved for their music as their gameplay and people can have long discussions about their favorite tracks. Well, TTT2 is of the same quality and then some. All of the tracks in the game are top notch and they range from techno beats to Snoop Dogg rapping. Hell, there’s even a song about weird high school students. It’s terrific. While the full soundtrack isn’t at the same level of some of the best KoF games, it’s still a game that is as much fun to listen to as it is to play. Of course, as good as the music is, the voice acting takes things to the next level. Not only are all the voice actors giving it their all, but each character speaks in their appropriate language. Are they German? They speak German. Are they French? Then ils parlent francais! Are they a bear? Then they growl and make bear-y noises. It’s not just English or Japanese and that’s it. I love this and this really should be how all fighting games are. This is an incredible attention to detail that makes me love Tekken Tag Tournament even when the gameplay should be having me yawn.
So let’s talk gameplay. As I’ve said, Tekken has always been one of the easiest and least complicated fighting games ever. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s never been any real strategy to it other than who can get off their massive juggle combo first. To me, that’s dull and boring. It’s why even in the early days of fighting games, when long double or dizzying combos were discovered, they were removed to fix game balance. Remember Guile’s double re-dizzy in the original Street Fighter II? Tekken however went the other way and gave EVERYONE long juggle combos and felt that was the best way to balance things. I strongly disagree as this really limits strategy and brings down the overall experience, be it against the CPU or another human being. It gets even worse thanks to the touch controls. Now these touch pad controls are exceptionally well done as you can program in four moves/combos to the pad and activate them with just a touch of the pad in the area designated for that move. However this means even the most difficult combo with tons of button pressing and returning to the neutral position to enter more button presses is as easy as a single tap. While this evens the playing field a bit between vets and newbies, it takes a game that was never really about skill, timing or challenge in the first place and turns it into a veritable cakewalk. Don’t get me wrong, I love the touch pad option because EVERY fighting game fan has had a time where they’ve entered a long move only to have the game not accept it. Well no longer. However now, if you’re smart, you can have all four of your touch pad moves be one long super combo if you time things right, ensuring little to no damage hitting your character. If the game was a little tougher in the A.I. or the system allowed for a little more strategy, the touch pad would make things amazing. Instead, you just have a game that pretty much anyone can and should be able to beat. I mean, I haven’t played a Tekken in over a DECADE and I still whipped through this game without knowing any combos or special moves. I’m undefeated online (like 30-something and 0) and I’ve lost a single battle to the computer in Ghost Mode. Jun/Unknown who Mark found somewhat absurdly hard to beat in the 360 version, was a pushover here. I don’t know if I’m a Tekken savant or if the touch screen combined with my time with other, harder fighters have just made this super easy, but I was perfecting Unknown with characters I’ve never used before. That’s a sign of something being broken. On the plus side, it means this is going to be a very easy fighter for newcomers, casual gamers and less skilled fighting game fans to net rewards like endings with, which is good in its own way.
So Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is one of the easiest fighting games I’ve ever played, but the controls are tight and the GamePad touch screen controls are out of this world in easiness to execute and same a gamer time and frustration. I will note though that for people who don’t play a lot of Tekken there are quirks about the game you’ll have to learn or spit nails over. For example DF plus Kick should be a medium height kick, but the game won’t always read it as that. Same with just K on its own which should be a high kick. This will get a bit frustrating to you when you’re playing as Combot as the game asks you to do a move at a specific height, which you do, but it refuses to accept. As well, you’ll have to remember that blocking is a bit different from most fighting games. You can press back but that what is considered input for a mid-height move in most fighting games is a blow to the head in Tekken. That’ll mess you up at first. As well, many strings requires a neutral command, which means pressing nothing. This is shown by a star icon if you’re trying to learn a move. Most fighting games are so much more frantic in terms of input that the need to not input ANYTHING may slip you up. Combine this with the fact Tekken has its own language compared to pretty much every other fighting game out there and if you’re new to the series you’ll feel like you’re trying to read code in ColdFusion 8 when all you know is regular HTML. Finally, moving is VERY different in Tekken, not just because of the speed, but because unlike most fighters, you can’t just backdash or jump into the air to get out of the way of things. Defensive options are even slower than offensive here. Back dashes have a really long recovery time, and the game really doesn’t let you just back up as someone come towards you with commands or button mashes. The biggest thing you’ll get out of Practice Mode is how to MOVE your character, something you don’t need to think about in most other fighting games.
Now even though I think the core gameplay of Tekken is pretty flawed and I find this game exceptionally easy, there’s no denying that I had fun with this. The roster is huge and all of the characters are worth playing just for their crazy ass endings. The game looks and sounds better than anything else on the Wii U and/or any fighting game I’ve played in some time. The ability to purchase new outfits, moves and doo-dads for characters is a wonderful touch guaranteed to keep people playing for a long time. The sheer number of modes doesn’t hurt any the replay value of the game either. So yes, the game’s pretty easy and doesn’t require the level of anal retentive planning we had to do (and still do for some games) like KoF ’98 or Night Warriors, but that’s not a bad thing. The key is whether or not you have fun PLAYING a game and I really had fun with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition and that’s the most important thing. This is probably my favorite game for the Wii U right now and I never thought I’d refer to a Tekken game as my favorite ANYTHING, so there you go.
I definitely think the touch pad aspect and the extra Nintendo exclusives make this the version of the game to go for, but most won’t because like two other games that play better on the Wii U like Madden NFL ’13 and FIFA ’13, people already own the PS3 or 360 version of TTT2 because it came out first. That’s a pretty big deal. Sure SOME will pick this up in addition to the version they already have and some, like myself, may just get this version, but the bulk with stick with the 360 or PS3 version of the game simply because they already own it and the majority of the fighting game community will stick to the systems they know unless tournies start having Wii U as them. Still, if I was going to recommend any version of this game, the Nintendo WII U one would be one as the extra bells and whistles and the touch pad control entry really makes the game more interesting, both for better and worse.
When all is said and done, I can honestly say Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition is hands down the best Tekken game I’ve ever played in terms of graphics, visuals and bells and whistles. I don’t like that the game has becoming about little more than juggle combos and the lack of speed and difficulty does irk me a bit, but those are personal preferences and it takes nothing away from the quality of the engine or the overall experience. Fans of Tekken are going to love this game and people like myself who aren’t so fond of the franchise will probably come away with a newfound respect for it and a desire to keep plugging away until they’ve seen all the different endings. Online play is a wonderful experience compared to most fighting games (Hey we’ve all been there) and although I feel the GamePad makes playing Tekken EVEN EASIER, I really like how the touch pad is implemented and find it to be a positive rather than a negative. If Namco Bandai can just do a little more tweaking on both balance and challenge while stepping back from juggle-palooza, I can see myself converting to the Tekken fold pretty easily. Go team Panda!
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Appeal Factor: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: Good Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition is a solid game in all respects. The game is easily the best looking and sound title from the Nintendo Wii U launch lineup and the touch screen controls make doing long combos or intricate moves exceptionally easy. Just a flick of your stylus or finger and you’re playing like an expert. That said, this (plus the laughably easy A.I.) makes this one of the easiest fighting games of all time and Unknown is the anti-Geese or Rugal, meaning that the arcade ladder is a cakewalk to clear and thus easy to get character endings, but ultimately unsatisfying if you’re looking for a challenge. The positives far outweigh the negatives though and even if you’re not a fan of “who can hit the longest juggle combo first” style of gameplay, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition is still a game you can have a lot of fun with. Also, it has a nifty reversible cover.