Tekken is a bit foreign to me.
Name any fighting game series, and I’ve probably owned or at least player it: Everything Capcom and SNK, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, Mortal Kombat, BlazBlue, even more obscure releases like Arcana Heart, Groove on Fight, Asuka 120%, or Breakers Revenge.
Tekken, however—I’ve just never connected with the series. I owned the original as one of my early PlayStation purchases, but from there I just found my fighting game interests going in directions that Tekken wasn’t taking. I’ve kept up with the series throughout its various revisions, and I’ve at least spent some hands-on time with every new iteration or chapter, but my exposure to the series never got much deeper than that.
That is, until Street Fighter X Tekken—a game released by Capcom which suddenly had me caring about the characters of a rival publishing company. If I could come to find interest in Tekken via this latest fighting game cross-over, I imagined that a lot of other people could be feeling the same thing.
So, this puts Tekken Tag Tournament 2 in a very interesting position. It isn’t just a game for the long-time Tekken fans—it’s also potentially going to be the gateway for a lot of Tekken-curious gamers as well.
As part of the promotional efforts for Street Fighter X Tekken, a number of humorous collaborations have cropped up between Tekken godfather Katsuhiro Harada and Street Fighter main may Yoshinori Ono. I’ve met Ono numerous times now; he’s a chipper, cheerful guy, a person who always has a smile and who always seems to be having fun.
Harada, however, gives off a completely different aura. This day, we’re introduced to him via a video, as he—dressed to the nines—steps out of a custom Tekken Lamborghini Aventador, a beautiful Tekken-themed cosplayer on each arm, and accompanied by wait staff bearing champaign upon his entrance into the room.
Sitting here now—in a room in the Cosmopolitan hotel in Los Vegas where Namco Bandai has set up a Q&A session for Tekken Tag Tournament 2—Harada still seems all business. And yet, I can still get a sense of the excitement and passion hiding behind the stylish shades he’s donning.
The first point Harada stresses is that Tag 2 is all about giving players options. In addition to the expected standards of 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 battles, you’ll also now be able to do 1 vs. 2—no matter which side of that equation you wish to be on. Each choice will provide its own set of benefits: Going solo will mean you’ll dish out more damage, take less damage, and avoid moments of weakness such as when tagging in and out, while playing as a team will allow for more escape options when knocked down or in a corner, additional damage options when doing juggled, and tag-specific techniques.
This new choice brings up an obvious question: Which is better? A few other fighting games have tried the idea of letting players mix up their character counts, and there’s always that uncertainty in regards to which decision will give you the better advantage.
“In arcades, this option [for choosing your play style] is already out in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Unlimited,” Harada tells us. “The results we’ve seen from players is that a lot of people say that solo is much stronger. But then, we have other people who say no, tag teams are much stronger. When we look at the empirical data that we get from Tekken Net—which links all of the arcade machines—we can look at the win percentages of each of those, and they’re pretty even at the moment. It seems like it’s balanced pretty well, because one isn’t winning more than the other.”
It does seem a bit like teams may have an advantage when it comes to options, which includes one that’s new for Tekken Tag Tournament 2—the Tag Assault. With this, a character performing a combo can call in their partner, who will then be on screen simultaneously with the original character—giving you two fighters dishing out pain for the price of one.
The other big element being added to Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that we’re shown this day is Fight Lab. Harada introduces us to the mode—and the thinking behind it’s creation.
“Often, one of the questions we’re asked is, what would a novice player do to get better at the game? And, up until now, we would usually answer that with practice mode, and suggest you try to get your combos down in there. Or, maybe we’d offer a tutorial mode for the very beginners. But practice doesn’t do a very low-lever player much good, and a lot of people don’t feel like they need a tutorial if they’re an advanced level—or even if they aren’t, but they think they’re not beginners. So, you can understand how difficult that is.
“And when you say tutorial, obviously the image you have is of just going through these objectives you have to learn, and it doesn’t seem very fun. So, when we created [Fight Lab], we thought, okay, how do we have the player learn what they need to learn about the game, but still enjoy what they’re doing while they’re doing this? Also, how do we make a mode that everyone’s going to enjoy, and not just beginners or advanced players?”
This has long been an issue for fighting games, and Fight Lab seems like an interesting—and potentially brilliant—solution. Give players a method for learning the game’s systems and subtleties without making it feel like work, and said players will do so without feeling like they’re been babied.
The set-up is this: Violet (the alter-ego of Lee Chaolan) brings back his Combot project, but an unfortunate accident leaves him having to start from scratch with a prototype model. The player is then tasked with teaching the Combot prototype how to fight—the catch being, of course, that doing so is actually teaching the players themselves how to fight.
This training won’t just come through your standard “do a move” or “complete this combo” requirements, however. Harada brings up the various mini games that have been a part of the Tekken series for a while now, and how they can serve as the inspiration for giving players a better method of learning a game’s systems.
One hypothetical example he gives is learning how to side-step as a dodge. Typically, you’d be asked to side-step a move performed by a CPU opponent, which would result in either a “pass” or “fail” being doled out. What if, instead, you were playing the role of a young bear who is having sushi thrown at him? The bear has to dodge out of the way of the sushi as a mini game—which, of course, would give the player a chance to perfect their side-stepping skills.
Another (again, hypothetical) example from Harada is Tekken Ball. What if we bring Ganryu into the picture, and have players try to perform aerial juggles on him. The more Ganryu is juggled, the more his size inflates—until he finally explodes if the player is successful in pulling off a long enough string of juggles. A little gruesome, sure, but another example of how learning gameplay elements can be offered to players in a more enjoyable and easily understood package.
Fight Lab will offer up more than just these basic tutorial scenarios. By taking your Combot through Fight Lab, you’ll be able to upgrade him not only with custom visual parts, but also new techniques. The Combot you’ll end up with will be one that’s been tuned and tailored to your particular likes and dislikes—and will no doubt be very different than the Combot your friends and opponents will have crafted.
“In one mode, we’re able to have something where novice players can learn how to play the basic mechanics, and advanced players can play the same game but still want to customize Combat, and to add as many techniques as they can to their list of selectable moves,” Harada notes. “All of this has been accomplished with one mode.”
Harada seems proud of the diversity that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has to offer, through its variety of characters, its options for team styles, and its expansive Fight Lab. In talking to Street Fighter X Tekken producer Yoshinori Ono a while back about game options, I asked him about all of the various modes that were going into the game—and if such modes could ever be considered for Street Fighter V whenever it comes along. It’s a good question: How do you decide which options from one game in a franchise are included in a following game, and do you run the risk of offering too much in one game that fans will expect in another?
It’s a question that Harada seems to be considering very deeply about Tag Tournament 2—and his own potential follow-up, Tekken 7.
“We think [Tag Tournament 2] is so unique that if we were to put out Tekken 7, for example, and it only had one versus one, we might get a lot of people out there who ask us why not use the previous format, where you can do two on one, two on two, and one on one? So, we’re not sure, but this could become the standard [for Tekken].”
We get in a few questions at the end of our time with Harada, and one of the other editors there in the room asks about Tekken Tag Tournament 2‘s netcode. Harada points out that the previous fighter from Namco Bandai—Soul Calibur V—had netcode that was very well received by fans, so something very similar will be in place for Tag 2.
When it comes my turn, I decide to ask Harada an interesting question—one that goes back to where I started all of this. There stands to be the potential for a lot of players coming to Tekken for the first time thanks to Street Fighter X Tekken, so given the similar team aspects, would Tekken Tag Tournament 2 be a good place for those players to start with the series? And, in a bigger sense, how would he feel knowing players would be coming to his fighting franchise via the work of another developer?
“The tag team system that Ono-san implemented in Street Fighter X Tekken, as you know, is one where if one character is defeated, the team loses,” Harada begins. “That’s the original rule that was in Tekken Tag Tournament 1. Apparently, Ono-san was a fan of Tag 1 back in the day, and he decided to adapt that for Street Fighter X Tekken. We’re really glad, because that seems to have now been taken on by players who haven’t been familiar with Tekken.
“Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken are very different games, so to have players come over to our games, that’s really great if that happens. As you know, the game systems are quite different between 3D fighters and 2D fighters, and something that’s quite interesting is that for people who play 3D fighters, a lot of them have played 2D before. But, you don’t see the opposite that much. I think for a lot of the 2D fighters out there, the players who are into them don’t play 3D fighters much. So, we don’t want to pressure them to play Tekken. We do, though, think that rather than just saying, “because you played Street Fighter X Tekken, you need to play Tekken,” recently we’ve been taking our game around to various events, where we have consoles available for people to check it out. We hope that they’ll enjoy what they see, and gradually get into the game that way.
“However, that being said, Fight Lab is one way where people not familiar with Tekken can kind of get into Tekken Tag Tournament 2, even if they haven’t experienced a 3D fighter before. I think they can then feel why it might be entertaining to jump to the world of 3D. So, we’re also thinking of that audience when implementing that mode. As well, I think it’s also quite difficult to take a 2D fighter and customize move sets like you can with Fight LAb. I think maybe if there are 2D players out there who see Fight Lab, and think it might be cool, that might be something else that will draw them into a 3D fighting game.”