I went through about three drafts trying to figure out a clever way to open this review, and I’ve got to say, I’ve got nothing. Maybe a better writer could come up with something – but seriously, what more can be said about Tekken that fans don’t already know?

We all know that each new iteration is going to feature new characters, a sprinkle of new moves for the existing characters, new stages to fight in, new tunes to rock to and hopefully some graphical improvements. Unless Namco Bandai does something really off the wall, like putting in super power meters, fatalities or a zero-gravity mechanic, you can probably sum up every new Tekken game by saying: it’s pretty much what you expected.

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Not that that’s a bad thing – you’ll find that your enthusiastic fighting game fans are game for that kind of thing. It’s like being a boxing or wrestling fan. You know that you’re in for pretty much the same ride as last season, but it’s those little surprises, new elements and small changes that make the tried-and-trusted action worthwhile. There’s nothing quite like choosing your favourite character in practice mode, sifting through their move-lists and discovering their handful of new techniques, then pinching your chin in evil contemplation while you speculate on the possible applications and combo-ability of each attack. You’re always hoping that your favourite character will get something good, and usually they do – unless the developers change the properties of, say, one of Bob’s moves, meaning it doesn’t connect with the follow up any more! Making one of your beloved, staple combos impossible! Meaning you have to find something else! AAAAAAH! Whhhhhhyyyyy?

Anyway, it’s been 12 years since the last Tekken Tag Tournament game, but the idea is basically the same. Namco Bandai has brought back all of the characters from Tekken 6 and handed out a few new moves and tweaks for hardcore players to learn. They’ve also brought back a whole bunch of older characters, some of whom are hidden in the game, some of whom will be available as downloadable content. We’ve even got a new character this time – well, she appears to be new, at first. She’s a masked luchador called Jaycee, and she has a quite a few high-flying Mexican wrestling moves similar to those of El Blaze from Virtua Fighter. She also has quite a few familiar Kung Fu moves that just happen to belong to a female character who is conspicuously absent from this year’s roster – gee, that’s strange, I wonder who she could be? Doy….

Some of the returning characters defy explanation because they were either killed in previous stories or just went missing without any explanation. Jin’s mother Jun Kazama, for instance, is back (again), even though I’m pretty sure she was supposed to have been killed by Ogre after Tekken 2, providing the impetus behind Jin’s mastery of Mishima karate and the transfer of her moves to Jin’s cousin, Asuka Kazama. Not that I’m complaining – I love Jun Kazama, and this time she’s rocking a mostly new set of really cool moves and she’s even discarded her old 10-hit combos in favour of a new one. Cool! How she came to be alive again is irrelevant – hell, I’m pretty sure that the Tekken Tag Tournament stories are not meant to be part of the overall Tekken story or “non-canonical” or whatever the Internet fantards like to call these tangent entries. Besides, the Tekken story is so retarded anyway that if you’ve got anything invested in it at all, you clearly haven’t been exposing yourself to enough worthy fiction.

The tag-team play is what it’s all about, this time. Players can choose any two characters they want to fight against opposing tag-teams, but unlike some other tag-focused fighters, TTT requires that you knock out only one of your opponent’s characters to win the round. This might seem like a harsh rule at first; after all, if you’ve got another character with a full health bar waiting outside the ring – why can’t they continue the fight? Well, it’s actually a masterful way to force players to use the tag-team play mechanic. When your current character has taken a bit too much damage, you can swap them out with their partner before they’re knocked out, and they can lick their wounds and slowly recover some health while their partner carries on the fight. This makes things quite tense on both sides – you’ll be desperately trying to finish your opponent off before he escapes and he’ll be trying to get enough breathing room to tag his partner in before you land that final hit. It’s awesome.

In addition to just tagging in and out, you can perform a few tag moves. The first are tag combos, which require you to simply launch your opponent into the air and hit the tag button, at which point your partner will run in and allow you to continue the juggle combo. For the best results, you’ll want to perform a combo ending in a launcher with one character, then tag your partner in to finish it off. The tag throws are still in there, requiring you to press the tag button and the right-punch button together. When you do this, both your characters will appear on screen and perform some kind of nasty, two-pronged grapple attack. Some characters also have special tag throws that become possible when you choose specific teams – and they’re usually pretty spectacular.

Okay, that’s pretty cool, the same as last time, right? Yes, but there is one new tag ability you can use. It’s called the Tag Assault, and it’s performed by hitting the tag button as you slam your opponent into the floor with a bound move – you know, the moves that cause opponents to bounce off the floor slightly so you can combo them? When you do this, both of your characters will appear on screen at once, enabling you to pull of short, sharp combos with both of them in rapid succession. I still haven’t fully mastered this, and there seems to be some unusual timing involved, but I’m sure I’ll have it down soon.

I’m sure some of you old school, no-nonsense fighters are thinking, well, this flashy tag-combo stuff is all very cool, but why would you want to take this risk of attempting it? There is a very good reason for it. Whenever you damage an opponent with a tag move or combo, they not only get hurt pretty badly, but it also reduces the amount of life they can regain when they’re tagged out of combat. Given that battles with defensive fighters can drag on for a long time as they constantly tag their characters out, reducing their incentive to tag out is a very desireable thing.

Oh, and if you’re like me and suck at tag-based combat, or if you just prefer fighting alone, you’ll be happy to know that the option to fight one against two opponents is in there. In that case, your character will have enough health for two characters and they’ll regain their tag out health bonus during the fight – albeit slowly. This is also very handy if you want to spend a long time learning to use one character without having to tag them out of combat halfway through each round.

You can do all of this in the usual modes: the single-player arcade mode, where you fight through a line-up of challengers and bosses to see each character’s ending; the ghost mode where you can fight against an infinite number of random computer opponents; and practice mode where you can hone your skills. You can fight online in ranked and unranked matches if your Internet performs well enough for it. If you’re lucky enough to have three Tekken-savvy friends who will actually get over to your house at the same time, you can also play a four-way, two-versus-two match – which is something I’ve only been able to do a handful of times in my life – but damn, it’s fun.

There’s also a theatre mode where you can view all the videos, and a Tekken Tunes mode where you can change the background music of each stage to DLC music from the previous games, or even music from your PS3’s hard drive, which is pretty cool. I thought the music in Tekken 6 was pretty catchy overall, but TTT2’s music seems to have gone for the trancy, techno vibe from the original TTT, and it annoys me to no end – so the fact that I can add in my own music is very welcome.

There’s also an interesting mode where you can train Combot, the robot from Tekken 4, to be the ultimate fighter. It’s short and sweet and takes the place of those annoying story modes you usually get in fighting games. There are five challenges in total, and the better the rank you acquire in each, the better the moves you can teach Combot. Oh, and there’s the obligatory customization mode where you can buy and equip new items and accessories for every character. Not a huge attraction for me, but I think some players find it quite enthralling. One interesting thing about it is that it does allow you to equip your characters with weapons that give them new attacks – mostly silly, comedic stuff that your opponent would have to be in a coma to get hit by, but it’s good for a laugh.

And that’s Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Somehow I managed to write quite a lot despite my opening lamentation that these games are hard to talk about – but there you go. I’ve described the finer nuts and bolts of it, and you probably already knew whether or not you were going to buy it – so go and buy it already. It’s great.

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