Tekken 2 is a supremely well-made game with nicely designed fight stages and a thumping soundtrack. I might even go as far to say that it has the best music of any game on the original PlayStation (although it does cheat slightly by pinching a large portion of its tracks from the original Tekken when it comes to the sub-boss characters). The fights themselves look a bit blocky at times, and the lack of movement in their faces can be a tad unnerving, but for a game released in the latter-mid 90s, Tekken 2 looks pretty darn good. All in all, it’s an impressive overall package, and yet despite all that, I just don’t find myself taking to Tekken 2 like I do for the other PSX Tekken releases.
Nostalgia may pay a part in that, owing to the fact that I did get to play Tekken quite a bit in the arcade and then played Tekken 3 a lot at home due to it being one of the two games that came with my PlayStation when I first got it. Because Tekken 2 hardly factored into my video gaming history, I have no real connection or nostalgia towards it as a game like I do for the other two PSX era games. The first time I ever really sat down and put some time into Tekken 2 was for the purposes of this very article, and that was after having to buy two copies of it due to the first disc being so scratched that it wouldn’t play the music or any of the FMVs.
Despite the lack of nostalgic pull I have for it, I’d still happily say that Tekken 2 plays better than it’s more cumbersome elder sibling, Tekken, which is a pretty slow and overly laborious fight experience, especially to a modern eye. Patience and defensive fighting is still often a better technique than in the slicker and more polished Tekken 3, but the fights themselves have a bit more spring in their step in Tekken 2 when compared to the first game in the series. Fighters on the roster have copious amounts of combos and throws, and diligent timing from your fingers will be able to see you inflict all kinds of misery on your opponents.
There’s a good mix of fighting styles amongst the main characters as well, with pro wrestler King providing punishing piledrivers and lethal lariats, whilst wacky ninja Yoshimitsu will teleport and go straight up route one sometimes by trying to slice you up like salami with his ruddy big sword. All in all, there’s a decent variety of fighters on offer, and there’s a good chance at least a couple of them will tickle your violent fancies. My only main critique would be that the move sets for the majority of the unlockable sub-boss characters are mostly just made up of moves from the existing main cast, which almost has them bordering on being palette swaps sometimes. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is a tad disappointing.
I can put up with the slightly slower and more meticulous fight style of Tekken 2 when compared to Tekken 3, but I have to say that I don’t think the difficulty is weighted as well in the second game as it is in the third. Tekken 2’s difficulty spikes exceptionally once you get to the last three fights (Sub-Boss -> Kazuya -> Devil), almost to the point that it goes from being a challenge to just being an unenjoyable slog. I’ll admit that the difficulty spike was too much for me, and after a torturous 30-minute plus run with Yoshimitsu (of which about 20 of it was spent losing the will to go on in the final three fights), I had to drop the fights down to single round bouts in an effort to preserve my own sanity. This is a very similar issue that the original Tekken faces (with Heihachi in particular being a difficult enough fight to cause you minor PTSD), but I’m willing to give that one a bit more of a pass because it was the first game, and they were still very much in an arcade mindset of “We’ve got to stretch this out so people keep chucking change in the cabinet”.
Eventually, I reached a point where I instigated the pretty miserable tactic of finding a move or two that usually worked and then just spamming the heck out of them in order to ground the tougher opponents down, which is a shame as I actually like Kazuya and Devil as the final boss one-two punch, and it would have been nice to be able to have a bit more of a balanced battle with them like you can with Ogre and Heihachi in the third and fourth games of the series. I don’t mind getting whupped in something bordering a fair fight if I’m not good enough, but there has to be a semblance of give and take with the CPU in a fighting game, or the difficulty just feels artificial and unreasonable, which robs it of any true enjoyment you could gain from a good knock-down drag-out affair.
One bonus that Tekken 2 brings to the table that the first game doesn’t is that now all characters, including the unlockable sub-bosses, have their own unique closing video when you complete the arcade mode with them, which wasn’t the case with the sub-bosses previously. Even though I don’t personally enjoy Tekken 2 as much as the other two games from the PSX era for various reasons, I can’t deny that it’s an impressive game that combines better refined fighting mechanics with a fantastic soundtrack and a definite graphical upgrade when compared to the first game in the series. I certainly think that, even with its flaws taken into consideration, Tekken 2 is a game that every PlayStation owner should consider adding to their collection.