"Before committing themselves to a Tekken 4, Namco has released a tag-team variation of its prominent fighting series befittingly entitled Tekken Tag Tournament (triple T, if you will). The concept is quite simple: roundup every Tekken character, render them in 3D-pixelated heaven, and then pit them against each other in teams of two. For all intentional purposes, this semi-sequel compilation is a “Tekken All-Stars” that follows the crossover trend of Capcom’s prolific and seemingly never-ending ..."
Before committing themselves to a Tekken 4, Namco has released a tag-team variation of its prominent fighting series befittingly entitled Tekken Tag Tournament (triple T, if you will). The concept is quite simple: roundup every Tekken character, render them in 3D-pixelated heaven, and then pit them against each other in teams of two. For all intentional purposes, this semi-sequel compilation is a “Tekken All-Stars” that follows the crossover trend of Capcom’s prolific and seemingly never-ending “Vs.” titles. As such, Tekken Tag delivers on its intentions, serving as an addictive multiplayer that packs enough nonstop action to satisfy any group of fun-hungry gamers. Unfortunately, it does not fully capitalize on the tag-team concept and ultimately comes off as a pleasurable yet shrug-your-shoulders addition to the Tekken line.
Sure to respectfully appease its fans, Tekken Tag Tournament does not stray too far from the gameplay foundations that gave Tekken 3 such vast success. Except for the standard graphical facelift, the integration of the tag-team concept, and a power-balancing update that teaches old characters new tricks, nothing much has changed. Controls are as tight, responsive, and conveniently placed as ever before. Lightning reflexes and accurate timing will still give beginners a migraine just as Tekken veterans will cringe when they fail to pull off the 10-hit combo they practiced a million times before. Any changes to the movelists or mechanics of characters from Tekken 3 are barely noticeable. Pre-Tekken 3 characters have been granted a wider arsenal of moves, but their basic style and strategies have thankfully been left intact. Also as before, the party-friendly Versus mode as well as the unlocking of characters through successive Arcade mode completions keep the replay value extremely high. Unfortunately, the Survival and Time Attack modes return despite, again, having no real purpose other than filler. In fact, as well-grounded as Tekken Tag Tournament is to its revolutionary predecessor, it does not push the Tekken series forward as much as it should have.
To be sure, Tekken Tag does have a palpable vision with its initial exploration into the already heavily-saturated tag-team territory. Still, its attempts at innovation are neither noteworthy nor all that well-executed. Reminiscent from as far back as the X-Men vs. Street Fighter days, characters now have restorable (red) health, which gradually recovers when they are inactive, in addition to their main (blue) health. Tagging in and out is as simple as tapping the analog stick or pressing whatever designated button you assign. The difference from other crossover fighting games is that a team immediately loses if either member is knocked out. While this gives more emphasis on juggles, high-damage attacks, and 10-hit combinations, it also makes them more threatening and more powerful than they already are or ever need to be.
In lieu of a Capcom-esque energy bar for specials, Tekken Tag offers partner-assist throws as the one and only actual tag-team attack. Not only does this show a lack of effort, but the added damage is so minimal and the buttons to perform them are so frustratingly concealed (they are not given in the movelist) that these throws are barely worth finding, let alone actually using them. Moreover, Jin’s updated movelist is the only one that incorporates team-specific moves; in this case, with Heihachi. Why they are the only pair to have these exclusive attacks makes the game feel incomplete or at the very least, unfair. On the good side, team introduction sequences sometimes show interaction between two characters. For instance, a Heihachi and Kazuya team stand-off against each other before fighting while Devil and Kazuya virtually fuse into one being. Almost as a twitch of inconsistency, however, there are a few team match-ups that are just pining to have some special introduction, but yet are inexplicably absent. For some reason, Jin is not surprised to have Jun, his dead angelic mother, as his partner. (Well, it is Jin, so maybe it’s not too surprising.) Indeed, all of these mishaps only add to the feeling that the game plays more like two separate versus battles rather than one cohesive tag-team battle.
As Tekken Tag Tournament features effectively all of the characters from Tekken 1 through 3, storyline had to be sacrificed in order to maintain the plot thread of the Tekken series. As a result, the only reason for fighting the final boss, Unknown, is under the most uninspiring and assumed notion of an “evil force that will destroy mankind”. Just as unfortunate, the endings for every character, besides Unknown, serve nothing more than an unnecessary and uneventful waste of space. There is hardly any character development nor even true character involvement within any of the 10-15 second epilogues. Adding insult to injury, the same musical track is repeated throughout each ending, rendering the Theatre Mode an aurally monotonous affair. Alternatively, replaying the historic endings from Tekken 2 and 3 would have been a better idea.
To its credit, Tekken Tag Tournament’s graphical prowess overshadows much of its flaws. Higher resolution and polygon counts have yielded smooth and incredibly detailed character models. Every character, costume, and environment is refined – a testament to Namco’s long-standing excellence in visual effects. Tekken Tag features many new fighting arenas and some old environments, such as the school, have returned much improved in clarity and substance. On the other hand, the game’s sound and music do not match the brilliance of its graphics. Though the mostly techno, semi-electronic soundtrack remains above average fighting fare, the sound effects have been left unchanged. Exactly when a character will cringe in pain or attack with vocalized effort is completely random. Not only are the sound effects subdued and rather muffled, but characters do not voice their actions nearly as much as they should, and there is also no voice work or voiceovers.
On the contrary, Tekken Bowl is a fairly well-executed and pleasant diversion that presents the softer side of Tekken, if there ever was one. Unlike the haphazardly-produced volleyball counterpart from Tekken 3, Tekken Bowl faithfully recreates the casual sport of bowling with a Tekken spin. A selected team of two characters play one full round in a gutterless lane featuring gold Heihachi statues as pin fodder. If the first member, designated the initial ball thrower, fails to knock down a strike, the other character then tries to deliver the spare. As a nice touch, the speed and precision of the ball mirrors the character’s fighting style, be it strength-based or technique-based. While there are minor issues with aligning the bowler with the pins and ultimately abusing the scanning devices internally equipped on Jack, Bryan, and Yoshimitsu, they are not enough to harm the whimsical nature and ephemeral amusement of an otherwise solidly produced mini-game.
Though not by any means revolutionary, there should be no reason for Tekken fans not to purchase Tekken Tag Tournament. Though the ill-conceived tag-team concept, less-than-stellar sound effects, and lackluster endings will cause some criticism, they are not enough to stop casual gamers from enjoying the exquisite graphics and the superb gameplay. While 2-D fighting fanatics as well as Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter veterans will not change their minds with this title, Tekken Tag Tournament is sure to fill that Tekken-void before the true sequel is released.
Community review by draqq_zyxx (October 04, 2005)
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