Review by Garbol Shora

"Endless modes and much replay makes Tekken Tag Tournament several notches above the rest..."

Synopsis
Throughout 3D fighting game history, there have always been two arcade-like games worth mentioning: the Tekken series and the Virtua Fighter series. Soul Blade/Calibur was amazingly deep as well, but it was mainly Tekken and Virtua Fighter due to its old-life in 3D graphic wonders and the sheer difference apart from the two.

Virtua Fighter was, however, one of the most unfriendly games to beginners, as it had an unbelievably wide array of moves that were integral to a fighter's performance, and many aspects of gameplay that frustrated many newcomers. Tekken, in the other hand, was the all-around friendly one, making it both a fun and satisfying button-masher, and an awesome and riveting combo/juggling master. In truth, Virtua Fighter often topped Tekken in terms of depth and gameplay elements, but Tekken's overall fun, overwhelming amount of offerings and story-driven aim made Tekken a formidable contender for fighting games.

Tekken Tag Tournament is Namco's first Tekken for the PS2. To be honest, Tekken Tag Tournament has one of the largest amount of characters I have seen... ever! Modes including bowling and theatre makes unlocking everything a truly satisfying task. There is definitely some fun to be had in 'Tekken Tag Tournament', inviting both beginners, newcomers and veterans of the game!

Gameplay Elements:
Gameplay is a big terrain with tag-teaming fighters beating each other up. That's the short version of it. One thing you’ll recognize from the minute you enter Tekken, is the sheer amount of options that are offered. I have never seen such a large cast of characters and so many things to unlock. Probably the only fighting game that could compete against the locking wonders of Tekken Tag Tournament is Soul Calibur, which is sadly on the forgotten Sega Dreamcast.

A primary element of gameplay in every fighting game is a control scheme that plays a complex, yet simple-to-use button command for the fighting action. Here, you are offered a two kick buttons and two punch buttons: the two being right and left. This is rather simple, is it not? Using these, you will make complex kicks such as Law’s mad flipping kicks and interesting punching combos and stances including Xiaoyu’s phoenix stance. The controls are rather simple and moves usually range in the two button commands such as ‘front, square’ or something of that sort. With these controls, beginners can easily use rather simple combos by using the same button command several times. Hwoarang, for example, is an amazing character for beginners, as the kick button can be utilized to create machine-gun kicks by simply pressing it for times. Tekken Tag balances out characters to create nice and simple commands as well as complex 10-hit type combos. The control scheme, in other words, is excellent and masterfully done.

Now what Tekken has always done to overwhelm the competition, is create original, satisfying gameplay. Tekken Tag Tournament creates an intensely fun fighting game due to its main mode, Arcade. This Arcade mode is no regular mode as it incorporates tag teams. Tag team occurs when selecting two characters to fight against another team of two characters. When the actual fighting starts, only one character of the team is active, but as the name incorporates, 'Tagging' with your other team member becomes necessary when you're low on health. Quickly tagging and then resuming battle as the other character becomes important to gameplay, as the opponent will be doing the exact same thing. It becomes a rather hard task if you don't use the Tag strategy well. If one team member of your team loses all health (blue portion of health bar), both characters of your team is considered 'losing the match'. Due to this, tagging with a character becomes an extremely useful strategy as your characters will indefinitely fall low on your health bar.

As well, Tekken is known to best its rivals (Virtua Fighter/Soul Calibur) with its original and innovative health bars. When you are injured, you indefinitely lose some health, but as well, you also have a small red portion of your health bar that indicates areas where injury can be healed overtime. To put it into an example, 'Jin' has next to no blue health in his health bar, but a large portion of red in his health bar. If he quickly switches with his tag team partner 'Jun', 'Jin' will heal overtime as the blue portion of his health bar will slowly heal up the red portion of his health bar. Due to the fact that he is 'inactive', his health will heal while his tag team partner if fighting. This is one of the most satisfying aspects of gameplay, as health is not 'permanently' lost, but can be healed. If you have no blue portion on your health bar but a large portion of red, you will still lose the match, as your fighter still did not heal him or herself. The basic scheme of using this to your advantage becomes an important part of gameplay, as your opponent will be utilizing the same strategies as well.

Amidst all the characters you are given, each character can employ an extremely large collection of moves, which becomes increasingly important with every attempt to master a certain character. However, the importance of utilizing a large variety of moves is less important than in Virtua Fighter, as characters can often win through knowing several techniques. Others, who wish to master a character, can take on some of the exciting combos and difficult techniques that are used in Tekken Tag Tournament. This is one of the primary reasons why Tekken Tag is so well done in terms of inviting both beginners and veterans of the game. The reason is, a gamer can no longer emerge victory through simply pressing Square. They will need to complicate their moves somewhat to be even remotely successful. Tekken Tag Tournament, with its sheer number of characters, will also offer anybody a favorite character that they will especially use.

What makes Tekken Tag Tournament an endless party game is its ability to incorporate 4-players in one match. This is determined through 'Pair Play Mode'. This is one of the most innovative, intelligent and extremely fun parts of Tekken Tag. 'Pair Play Mode' will allow a character to join in on a team with their friend. This means, a battle starts with two people being on the SAME team, instead of opposing team. Just as a normal ONE-player tag team would be, TWO players can play on the same team, tagging each other when they feel the heat is on. As this is possible against the CPU, this is possible against two other people as well. This becomes an endless fighting game frenzy with a large amount of characters and 4 people.

Other modes are available including Time Attack, Survival, Team Battle, Practice and 1-on-1 modes. Time Attack is a race against the clock to see how quickly you can beat Arcade mode. In truth this is simply a variation of the actual Arcade mode. Survival Mode is a bit more interesting, requiring characters to survive a battle against an endless amount of opponents without being healed. If a character dies, the amount of fights you've won is tallied and then ranked accordingly. Practice is the mode that makes beginners only enjoy Tekken even more, as it helps gamers practice in certain situations against the CPU. While not as helpful and beginner-friendly as Training Mode in Virtua Fighter 4, it is still a mode that will be used by gamers to become familiar with their characters in battle.

What makes Tekken so immediately interesting is its endlessness. You'll be unlocking modes, characters and character endings along with a new movie and some other tidbits. Fighting has never been so deep. While Virtua Fighter 4 offers you an exciting gameplay based on mastering a character through technical achievements, Tekken Tag Tournament just goes straight to the main objective: fun. Both games merit on different qualities, but Tekken Tag Tournament will indefinitely be the better of the two games for a party or with a friend... indefinitely! 10/10

Visual Presentation:
The Visual Presentation for its time was done rather well. Its graphics are crisp and the models are smooth and animation is nicely done. The backgrounds aren't interactive, but they are sure pretty. As for visual presentation in terms of backgrounds, it is very diverse and rather appealing. Fights range from the outside of a school where high school members are cheering you on. Or a brazil-theme jungle with spectators gathered around. The backgrounds are great, in other words.

The character designs are very well done. There are up to five costumes per character, ranging from color variations to a totally different costume on its own. There are even completely different characters in terms of costume variation. For example, Kuma's costume variation can range from a polar bear, a brown bear or a panda. Unfortunately, due to its animal characters, not much realism is incorporated into the visual presentation. Fighting a kangaroo throughout your battle may create a less intense experience. Nevertheless the character designs are done well, and although some are a bit too outrageous for my liking, most of them are nice and helps the game well.

In a whole, the visual presentation will have you satisfied, but not with your jaw gaping. It indefinitely sharpens and clarifies everything that the arcade version did, and does many things a lot better. While it doesn't have the graphic force of X-Box's breast-bouncing girls of DoA3 or the striking realism of PS2's own Virtua Fighter 4, Tekken Tag Tournament is still nicely done for graphics. For today's standards however, it may not impress some. 7/10

Audio Presentation:
This is the criteria where Tekken Tag can easily overwhelm the rest of the fighting game competition. Music is the primary reason this criteria would get a high mark. Very upbeat, rhythmic, fast-paced and forcing an intense and quick battle. Many of them have some bizarre techno tune that it could do without, but good and steady drumbeats along with some very memorable tunes will keep you interested in a tune or two. The competition, Soul Calibur and Virtua Fighter 4 simply cannot compare to Tekken's great beats and its nice sounds. Virtua Fighter 4 is unbelievably forgettable while Soul Calibur doesn't have enough variation to their tunes.

The ending tune in the end in particular as a rather nice theme to it. Tense and outbursts of the strings along with some steady drumbeats make it a good finale type theme. Other tunes such as Xiaoyu's stage gives off some nice dance-like 'get-your-groove-on' type disco theme that makes for nice atmosphere in an outdoor attraction theme park-like setting. Overall, many of the music themes fit the mood and while there are some awkward tunes (Yoshimitsu's theme), it is usually a fitting tune for the area you fight in. Fighting sounds are... well... fighting sounds. However, a note of mention is the Ogre stage, where it is large and empty. The sound effects in this region would echo in the distance, such as cries of pain and body impact on the floor. Sound effects are forgettable, as they are simply made to offer a sense of impact, but the music outdoes itself.

As mentioned before, Tekken Tag Tournament easily has one of the more upbeat, rhythmic tunes over the rest of the 3D competitors. In terms of presentation, the audio of Tekken does exceptionally well. 9/10

Story and Composition:
Tekken has a rather interesting storyline that, as many fighting games, makes almost no sense at all. However, kudos to Tekken for having a storyline that focuses on main characters instead of making everybody 'hoping to win some tournament' or whatnot. Basically, the story stars the Japanese circle of family. This being Jin, the ambitious fighter and son of Jun, who is the wife of Kazuya. Strangely enough, Jun and Jin are three years apart (19 - 22), so it makes for some questionable history. Anyway, the theme involves some curse of the devil that is inside Kazuya and Jin. The story basically revolves around these characters and how they relate to each other. Mind you, there are some characters who simply have next to none in terms of relation to Jin and company. These characters being some of the many add-ons that compose the 30+ character collection in Tekken Tag Tournament.

There really isn't much to be said about story, as Tekken is a lacking story. However, in terms of a fighting game story, Tekken actually does rather well. It runs in the 'middle', being slightly worse than Soul Calibur's riveting possession and curse tale and better than Virtua Fighter's dull composition of winning tournaments. Tekken Tag is indefinitely worse than an RPG tale, but for a fighting game, it is much better than some. 8/10

Replayability and Extras:
As mentioned in the Gameplay portion of the review, replayability is endless. For a fighting game, Tekken Tag Tournament offers much for endless satisfaction. There are plenty modes, including the Pair Play mode that is integrated into other Tag team modes such as Arcade and Time Attack. But best of all, Tekken takes a rest from its fighting game objective, and puts in a totally simple, totally addicting game called Tekken Bowl. With its tag team partner, characters will literally play bowling, rolling balls and knocking pins. This however, is rather deep for a mini-game that is usually supposed to be a shallow add-on. Characters will press the X button at a precise moment to determine where they want the ball to go and at what speed. Characters such as Anna who don't pack quite a powerful punch in real battle won't be sending off the bowling ball as quickly as Paul, for example.

To sum it up, there are so many modes to offer that Tekken Tag Tournament will occupy you for every situation, keeping you busy in ONE-player and keeping you even more interested in TWO-player. With new endings to unlock, new modes to unlock, new characters to unlock and... STUFF TO UNLOCK. This is one of the greatest unlocking fighting games to date (Soul Calibur being the other). Heck, if you have four controllers, you may just be wasting an entire party playing Tekken Tag Tournament. 10/10

Conclusion:
Tekken Tag Tournament is an excellent game with many innovative ideas that sets itself apart from other fighting games, using its Tag Team focus to create a lengthy replay value for everybody. This game has some weak points, but the gameplay is rock solid. The audio is excellent and the replayability is endless for a fighting game. From every Tekken out there, Tekken Tag Tournament gives you most.

For a fighting game, Tekken Tag Tournament really outdid itself. It may as well be in everybody's game collection, as it can easily fill up the gap that is empty at the moment due to the lack of fighting games (Soul Calibur 2, Mortal Kombat 4 and Tekken 4 being released soon enough). While Virtua Fighter 4 may satisfy some, it is not a party or friend game, as it does not incorporate many modes or any tagging whatsoever. While it has less depth than Virtua Fighter 4, it outdoes VF4 in other criterion. To conclude, endless modes and much replay makes Tekken Tag Tournament several notches above the rest!

How it all adds up!
(average is determined through the importance of the criteria)
Gameplay Elements: 10/10
Visual Presentation: 7/10
Audio Presentation: 9/10
Story and Composition: 8/10
Replayability and Extras: 10/10
Final Score: 9


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/25/02, Updated 02/09/03


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