A gloved fist is balled up before its owner swings it at a sentient bear with nothing but malice in mind. Fist makes contact with sternum, and sparks fly as howls fill the air. The bear’s carcass crashes onto the floor with an almighty thud as yet another round of carnage comes to a blissful end. This is a normal occurrence in the bizarre world of Tekken, a game series that proudly boasts not just two aforementioned bears upon its roster but also an afro-sporting disco man from the 70s, a muscular green alien who can turn himself into a giant moth-like creature and a character who is the literal interpretation of the Devil, complete with horns and wings. Tekken Tag Tournament makes the most of this utterly ridiculous collection of nutters to produce an almost “Mario Party”-like experience where characters from the first three Tekken games team up in tag battles for some non-canon destruction.
Tekken Tag Tournament was always a game that I had avoided until recently, mainly because it had never felt like a “real” Tekken game to me. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, none of the events of Tekken Tag Tournament are canonical with regards to the Tekken lore, so the game never really felt like something I “had” to have, especially as it mostly looked like Tekken 3 with a tag mode added to it. Some readers may smirk at this, but the story of Tekken is what has drawn me to it again and again after all of these years. Yes, it was the gameplay and 3D graphics that originally got me interested in the series, but it was the story that kept me coming back for more. There’s just something about those fussin’ and feudin’ Mishimas that intrigues me. Fighting games don’t often get credited for their narratives, but some of them do genuinely have interesting stories, with Tekken being very much one of them.
From a story standpoint, Tekken Tag Tournament isn’t going to give you much to get excited about. Every character has their own brief ending clip if you complete arcade mode with them, but these endings are often very short and disappointingly generic. All of the cutscenes, barring one, are done using in-game graphics and take place in the game’s stages whilst all using the same backing track. This results in all of them feeling static and unimpressive. The only FMV ending, specifically for the final boss of the game, looks fantastic, and it only makes the other weaker endings look all the more disappointing by comparison. Graphically, the game looks very nice considering it’s a PlayStation 2 game from 2000, with everything looking well detailed and nicely animated. The fighting stages are also well designed, with lots going on in the background in most of them, from kids cheering on the fighters outside Jin and Xiaoyu’s school to statues breathing out big jets of flame in Ogre’s temple.
As well as everything looking nice, the gameplay is incredibly smooth, with the tag rules giving things an interesting new strategic dimension to the Tekken 3 fighting experience. As with previous games in the series, each face button on the PS2 controller accounts for one of the fighter’s limbs. Each fighter has a copious number of combos, throws and holds that can be used to punish their miserable foes should your fingers be quick enough to pull them off. By pressing any of the shoulder buttons, one fighter can “tag out” to bring their partner in to continue the fight. Considering the fight ends when just one of the competitors on a team have their life bars emptied, it’s imperative to use tags intelligently when it looks like one of your fighters is in particular peril. At first, I strongly disliked that the fight would end when just one of your fighters was KO’ed, but as the game wore on, I started to quite like it as it added extra tactical elements to the fights.
Do you keep your current character in there, despite their low health, because you have your opponent on the back step and want to keep up the pressure? Or do you tag out and bring in your fresher fighter to finish off the job, even though in doing so you run the risk of the opposing team rallying or making a tag of their own? As well as bringing tactical nuance to the experience, Tekken Tag Tournament also allows you to put together your own eclectic combinations. Due to the roster drawing from all of the first three Tekken games, you have the option of 34 fighters to choose from, which gives you a multitude of choices when it comes to selecting your squadrons. Some of the fighters, such as Heihachi and Kuma, for instance, actually have their own unique animations at the start and end of each fight, which encourages you to put certain characters together to experiment. Should you choose Kazuya and Devil, the two characters will simply transform into one another rather than making an actual tag switch, which is an enjoyable bit of whimsy that adds to the experience.
My personal favourite combination was Lei Wulong and Gun Jack as they represented an interesting mix of skills, which often meant I was often able to match up well stylistically with most of the teams we faced. As well as the standard arcade ladder mode, Tekken Tag Tournament also features 1 Vs 1 fights for the Tekken purists, Survival Mode, Team Battle Mode, Time Attack Mode and a very enjoyable bowling mini-game called Tekken Bowl. Tekken Bowl is a well-loved mode amongst the Tekken faithful, and I can see why after playing it. It’s a simplistic arcade bowling sim, but it’s done with a lot of charm and brings bags of fun, especially with a friend to take to the lanes with.
Tekken Tag Tournament is not a bad game at all. It looks nice and plays really well. I wouldn’t have wanted to pay full price for it back in the day as it feels more like a tech demo for Tekken 4 at times rather than a true standalone game, but considering you get it literally for pennies these days from Amazon or eBay, then I strongly suggest giving it a bash if you never have before. After years of not giving it a second glance, I decided to finally give the game a go, and I really enjoyed it. Yes, the lack of any real story is disappointing, but for an 18-year-old game that I picked up for a mere pittance, it more than delivered value for my money, and I’d happily recommend it!
If you fancy playing Tekken Tag Tournament for yourself, you can pick it up on Amazon for as cheap as £1.72, plus postage. If you’re interested, you can find the page for it right HERE
Are you looking for other great content here on the site? Well, you can read Jes’ review of Tiny Hands Adventure by clicking right HERE. Why not give it a goosey gander, eh?