No, not Freeze Tag...
Well, the wait is over. The PS2 has landed Stateside and GR has the coverage you need to help make those spending decisions a little clearer. As the title at the top of this page most assuredly revealed, Tekken Tag Tournament is our first official PS2 review, and boy is she pretty!
Tekken Tag Tournament has gone through a few welcome changes since its release in Japan, most notably in the exemplary use of anti-aliasing. This absence in the Japanese version caused a big uproar in the gaming community. It's amazing how the lack of a little texture blurring can whip people into such a frenzy.
There's no need for further worry, though, as the developers have apparently solved the problem. The North American Tekken Tag fixes the jaggies, resulting in super-smooth edges reminiscent of Namco's legendary Soul Calibur. Anti-aliasing junkies rejoice.
Another difference the US version has over the Japanese version is the toned-down carousel effect (the foreground moving independently of the background, creating a weird, rotating visual). However, it would be impossible to completely do away with this as Tekken Tag Tournament is a two-dimensional affair with an infinite plane, meaning you can back up forever, or least until the camera reaches its zoom-out limit. This removes the worry of being pinned in a corner with your back against the wall.
I've always loved the Tekken series, especially Tekken 3. The counters, parries and the grace of which characters like Eddy Gordo and Xiaoyu move around each other have always been Tekken's crowning achievements. Indeed, you'll find all the Tekken gameplay intact, from the easy to pick up controls to the ubiquitous 10-hit combos.
But Namco's adherence to the same old Tekken play style is both a blessing and a misgiving. Each character possesses a few new moves and attacks, which is a must in any fighting sequel. But I would have preferred to finally see a true 3D environment with freedom of movement in any direction. After all, we saw it in Soul Calibur. Why is TTT so scared to grow? Oh well, maybe there's still hope for Tekken 4...
One really cool new attack is the double team maneuver. This is much like the tag-team attacks found in Capcom's Rival Schools or Tecmo's Dead or Alive 2. Watching Eddy Gordo slam an opponent to the ground as your tag team partner descends from the sky to deliver a potent life-draining stomp to the poor sucker's midsection is gratifying, to say the least. Ouch!
Like the Japanese version, there are initially 20 characters to choose from. There are also 12 unlockable characters, which leaves a total of 32 playable combatants. To my disappointment, most of these extra characters are familiar faces, like Bruce, the kickboxer from Tekken 2 and Kunimitsu, Yoshimitsu's doppelganger.
For the most part, the characters look good. They all come with several outfits to choose from, and the textures (like Jin's shiny leather pants) are sheer eye-candy.
The background textures are just as sweet as those used on the characters. The Shaolin temple and the Hong Kong harbor stages were nice in the import version, but they've been madeover for the American release. Exceptional lens flare effects and kick ass lighting make for a pretty game. These last minute improvements are really well done.
There are three things that I absolutely hate about TTT. Please note that none of these are huge...but as a fan, I gotta bitch.
One is the music. I don't know if it's supposed to be techno, new wave rave music or what, but it blows. Tekken 3 is one of the only PS games that had music I could tolerate (Tenchu being another). Tekken Tag Tournament surely does not. I turn the music off every time I play.
Another fly in the Tekken soup is the stupid, repetitive death animation. Every single fighter dies the exact same way. Why Namco would include a death movement without granting each character their own personal animation is a mystery. This ending match spasm more resembles a tic you might see from someone plagued with Tourette Syndrome.
Lastly, the most despicable Tekken Tag faux pas is the omission of a last hit slow-motion replay. Where is it? Nowhere, that's where. This replay used to show you the last 3-4 seconds of a match, which looks really cool. In its place is a new generic feature wherein your very last winning blow is very quickly repeated twice from bad angles. This is a lot like what you see in the Bloody Roar games, but to a lesser degree. It just doesn't allow for a gloating victor to annoyingly relish in the slow-motion defeat of his opponent. Dammit!
But regardless of these somewhat specific and minor problems, Tekken Tag Tournament is a solid addition to your fighting game library. Though this fighter seems like more of an add-on than a full-fledged sequel, I'm sure any fan of the previous Tekken installments will be pleased to get their mitts on what is still the best hand-to-hand fighting game around.