Review by discoinferno84

"Just the two of us..."

There's strength in numbers. Ever hear of that old saying? It's not just random piece of philosophical jargon, but an observation of our daily existence. Ideally, a team of people can get a job done far more efficiently than someone working solo. The average person cannot lift a car, but the combined strength of several others can make it a relatively easy task. The size of an army can spell certain victory or utter doom in the midst of battle. The authorities may easily carry off a lone protestor, but a massive mob can prove to be a far deadlier force. Depending on the circumstances, having more people united for a single cause will greatly increase their chance of success. This doesn't just apply to the real life either; many video games are steeped with countless playable characters, hundreds of unlockables, tons customization options, and endless other features to keep you coming back for more. But in the end it's the simple, common-sense ideas that will make a game great.

Take Tekken Tag Tournament for example. The Tekken series has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success on multiple systems and has become one of the most highly-regarded fighting game franchises to date. There's a small army of fighters linked together with intricate storylines, hundreds of moves to master, and some of the most technical gameplay ever seen in a fighting game. In this addition to the series, you're granted access to the full fighting roster from all three previous Tekken games. You'll get to smash a few heads with Jun Kazama, annihilate everyone with her son Jin, Heihachi, Yoshimitsu, Nina, Paul, and everyone else in between. Fans might be taken aback to find some of these characters present, as a few have been killed off as the series went through Tekken 3. However, Tekken Tag Tournament does not follow the series' story progression, offering a chance to play with a total of almost 40 characters, from the first game all the way through the third. In short, it's a Tekken fan's dream come true.

While Tekken Tag Tournament may sport the largest character roster in the series' history, few things have been changed since the previous games. Unlike countless other fighters, this game places a strong emphasis on learning specific button commands, timing them to perform a myriad of punches, kicks, and combos. At first glance, the gameplay seems horribly slow; many of the characters' basic attacks only offer a light punch or a kick. This a far cry from the intensely fast gameplay from Dead or Alive, Street Fighter, and even Virtua Fighter. What first-time Tekken players may not realize is that the seemingly slow-paced moves are implemented to allow enough time to choose and input the button commands for your next attack. A small punch can lead into a harder punch, then a kick, a throw, an uppercut, and countless other potential combinations. Once you've gotten a feel of how the controls and combos link together, you'll find that the game's pace picks up considerably.

Such emphasis on learning specific moves has always been a staple of the Tekken. However, Tekken Tag Tournament throws in a wild card to grab the attention of seasoned vets and newcomers alike: the tag system. Instead of merely fighting your opponents with a single character, you are able to pair up your favorite fighters and step up against another team of two. At first, it doesn't seem like much, even a gimmick. But the ability to tag team your characters opens up a wide amount of possibilities and strategy to an already solid game. Imagine that one of your characters is getting his or her ass kicked, the health gauge almost nonexistent. Before your foe can deal out the finishing blow, you can switch out your injured character and sent your second fighter in, ready to continue the fight with absolutely no damage whatsoever. That injured fighter will also regain health as he or she rests off screen, allowing them to potentially rejoin the fight later on. Should you send an opponent flying into the air, you can constantly switch between fighters and administer a few nasty juggles and other moves before they hit the ground. And if all else fails, many of the characters have special tag combos which feature special attack animations and can dish out a fair amount of damage. However, such teamwork works both ways; both your characters must survive the match to proceed to the next bout.

Trying out various combinations of fighters will prove to be a fun and incredibly entertaining experience. But if you somehow get tired of taking on the game's Arcade Mode, there are plenty of other things to keep you busy. Tekken Tag Tournament comes with the usual Time Attack and Survival Modes, allowing you to testing for your mad gaming skills to the fullest extent. You can also give Team Battle a try, which allows you to choose up to eight combatants and face your friends or computer in a battle of epic proportions. There's also an unlockable Theater Mode, which allows you to match the endings of all the characters that you've used to complete the Arcade Mode, as well as the various intro and bonus movies from the rest of the game. While all of these features may be great, the game's main draw will be Tekken Bowl, a wonderful bowling sim for the closet fans out there. That's right, your favorite fighters will take a break from the tournament, grab some smelly rental shoes, and try to score that elusive 300 score. Two characters can pair up and take it to the lanes, allowing you to position your characters, determine the speed and power behind each roll, and watch them take down dozens of gilded Heihachi-shaped bowling pins. If that isn't the best mini-game idea for a fighter ever, I don't know what is.

Of course, the wide variety of gameplay options won't be the only thing to grab gamers' attention. Tekken Tag Tournament is the first game in the series to be featured on the PS2. Thankfully, the transition from the original Playstation went remarkably well; the presentation is one of the best ever seen on a 3D fighter. Jin, Paul, Jack, and all the rest are back in full three-dimensional glory, complete with their usual costumes and physiques. You can see the light reflecting off Armor King's chest plate, or the way the characters crane their heads upward to watch their opponents being struck in midair. All of the attack animations flow smoothly to one another, making the combat seem so much more fluid and lifelike than it was in previous games. You'll hardly be able to keep up with Eddy's fast footwork or Yoshimitsu's signature spinning attacks. All of the characters come with their distinct voices, featuring the usual attack screams, painful grunts, and all the other corresponding sound effects for the attacks. Too bad that the games utterly horrible music mixes drag the experience down. Thankfully, stages are just as detailed as the characters, allowing you to fight in an amusement park, an ancient temple, a grassy island, and plenty of other strange locales. You'll able to see the snow drifting around you, the neon signs reflecting in the puddles in the downtown area, and even watch as the students from Mishima High School cheering you on from the playground. While there are a few glitches, terrible music and overall camera perspective issues, it's still one of the finest fighting game presentations of the system.

While Tekken Tag Tournament is one of the oldest fighters on the PS2, few of the later fighting games have come close to matching its quality. This game has everything a Tekken diehard could want; it has a massive roster of characters from the three previous games, a surprisingly complex and challenging gameplay style to master, an wonderfully implemented tag team feature, and a truckload of extras to keep you coming back for more. The minds behind the Tekken games have outdone themselves with this installment, allowing the fans to fall back in love with a series that could have gone stale after so many sequels. Thankfully, such was not the case with Tekken Tag Tournament. So if you're in the need for an awesome fighting game, look no further than this. This game might seem aged compared to some of the other fighters out there, but it's still got quality beyond its years.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/26/06


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