For as well known a household name as Tekken is, it’s strange to realize that it’s never made its way to a Nintendo home console at any point. There have been handheld offerings on the Game Boy Advance and 3DS, but portable fighters are rarely more than appetizers compared to their beefy console counterparts. Namco Bandai finally decided that the time was right and brought the biggest Tekken game to date as a launch title for Wii U, with Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition.
Try to follow us here: Tekken Tag Tournament 2, despite being released after Tekken 6, is technically the sequel to the PlayStation 2 launch title Tekken Tag Tournament. Rather than adhering to the series chronology, it pulls in a bucket-load of characters from all corners of the Tekken world and pits them against each other in furious bouts of 2-on-2 fisticuffs. Having a partner allows the Iron Fist Tournament participants to perform some pretty impressive moves, like tag throws and extended juggle combos.
Instead of Capcom’s VS rules where one participant is KO’d and the other continues solo, in Tekken the rule is that as soon as one person’s life bar hits zero the match is over. This theme of life bar maintenance will change how you play, as often it's the case that being more conservative and waiting for the opportune moment to strike will be the best course of action if both of your fighters are on their way out. It also leads to plenty of opportunities for mind games when playing against another person, because severely weakening one of their fighters before they get a chance to tag them out is definitely going to shake them up.
Billed as the first “true” 3D fighter, Tekken’s mechanics are as tight as ever. Each face button controls a different limb on your character and masterful timing is required to pull off some of the most devastating combos. Knowing that it would be some Nintendo fans’ first trip to the rodeo, the Fight Lab is there to teach players the ropes, starting with the basics such as moving around the 3D arenas. Not only is the Fight Lab essential for beginning pugilists, but it’s also hugely entertaining and doubles as a story mode. You’re Combot, built by the character Violet (voiced by prolific Japanese voice actor Ryotaro Okiayu, who thrives with silly characters) and must learn how to be a competent fighter. It definitely bucks the trend of training modes being sterile, uninteresting exercises.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is simply filled with content. Single-player modes consist of the genre staples such as Arcade, Survival, Time Attack and Training (with Arcade featuring the traditional cheap, frustrating boss that will have you wanting to snap your GamePad in half after a few rounds). Those looking to play with others have same-console and online versus modes. During our play sessions online bouts were as fast and fluid as if they were being played on the same couch, which will definitely put the minds of those concerned about Wii U’s online capabilities at ease.
What really make the game shine are the additional modes included specifically for the Wii U release. Each of the 59 characters has a selectable costume based on a Nintendo character; while there’s plenty of overlap, seeing Dr. Bosconovitch dressed as Fox McCloud or Ganryu as Bowser never stops being funny.
Also exclusive to the Wii U release are the Mushroom Battle and Tekken Ball modes. Tekken Ball returns from Tekken 3, where instead of punching your opponent you attack a giant ball to send it over to your opponent’s side. If it hits the ground (or them) they take damage. It’s a silly and nonsensical twist on volleyball, but it’s fun and a great way to take a break from the standard game.
Mushroom Battle is a real treat, though. In this mode stages are littered with mushrooms from the Mario series, including Super, Mega, Golden and Poison mushrooms that function exactly as they do in the games they originate from. Grabbing a Mega Mushroom is helpful because you deal more damage, but as you’re suddenly a giant most of your attacks are going to sail over the top of your opponent. It’s hectic, crazy fun (and, if we can be so bold, evokes some Smash Bros. emotions) and will definitely be the star at parties.
The game supports off-TV play, but when playing on a television the GamePad offers move shortcuts for those who aren't quite adept at pulling off some of the more demanding manoeuvres. They default to a standard list that can be tapped on the touch screen, but holding the “shift” shoulder button will assign them to the four face buttons so you can keep your thumbs where they need to be. It’s not terribly inventive, but it’s yet another way that the Wii U Edition of the game takes strides to accommodate newer players and attempt to keep the playing field level.
The GamePad also gets some use in the character customization mode, which allows you to draw on any of the game’s characters as you customize their outfits. It’s as silly as it sounds, and plenty of hours can be lost making serious characters like Kazuya look as ridiculous as possible.
While it looks and plays great, the game does suffer from some pretty brutal load times, especially when booting it up for the first time. Occasionally the main menu screen will pop up but it will take several more seconds for the menu options to populate. It’s not game breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but as Tekken is such a fast-paced game being stuck waiting for things to load can feel like a bit of a drag.
It’s easy to recommend Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition as it’s the only fighting game out right now on Nintendo's new system, but Tekken is also franchise that’s cemented itself as a quality participant in the genre; this instalment is also bursting with content. There’s so much to do and so many characters to try that boredom will never be an issue. Add in the Wii U exclusive modes that will entertain series fans and newcomers alike, and you've got a title that any fighting game fan will need in their library.