Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Preview
At Namco's Global Gamers Day, rock star developer Katsuhiro Harada emerged from a Lamborghini with two cosplaying ladies at his side to show us a little bit of his next fighting game, Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Even with his dapper suit, sunglasses in a dark room full of journalists, and jokes about his fellow developers and competition, he quickly took on the role of humble developer, showing off some of the new features going into his latest brainchild.
From the impression I got, TTT2 is not intended to be the next canon game in the Tekken series, even if it has better visuals than ever, a large roster (over 50+ in the upcoming console editions), and the ability to choose one or two fighters on each side of the battle. The freeform combo style that Tekken is famous for is back, and of course now you've got two characters that can help mix things up, with more than a few ways to tag into your partner to keep a combo going. A tap of the RB/R1 button makes for a quick tag when you're in trouble, but you've also got button combos while attacking that create a tag combo move.
Of course, you lack access to that if you've chosen only one fighter to go solo against your opponent, but your advantage is that you take less damage and dish out more of it for every move. The downside is that you can't do any tagging and might be a victim of a bad match-up since it seems unlikely that you'll have chosen a character that happens to be good against both of the opponent's. And then again, if you both pick solo characters, then you might as well be playing Tekken 7, even if that's not really what the developers intend this game to be.
From a technical perspective, TTT2 is already looking and playing great, with no sluggishness or issues when tagging between characters, and a full 60fps shown on the PS3 hardware at Namco's event. My hands-on time with the game went very well, with precise controls and smooth action, and while I'd have liked to see some fightsticks set up instead of standard Sony controllers, none of us were exactly pro tournament players anyway. Load times are also very fast - shorter than any console iteration of Street Fighter IV - and while there weren't many arenas in the game yet, Namco is already adding more and they're more diverse than the old days of Tekken. Now, arenas have different attributes like walls and will crumble in mid-round. Sure, Tekken has played with it in the past, but I feel like this might be the first game in this franchise to finally fully embrace how each stage can directly affect gameplay.
There is one particular thing that got asked pretty often at Namco's Gamers Day: will new fighters be sold as DLC? The answer was a pretty simple "no" - everything will be either completely open or unlockable right from the start, because the developers feel like there's a strategy in character selections that should be open to all, and selling characters compromises that. Seems like a reasonable enough position to take, and we hope that Capcom considers that in the future.
One of the most interesting things Harada-san said in a roundtable Q&A session was that many players need the help of a tutorial mode, but they don't necessarily know they need it. They don't want to go into anything called a tutorial, and while the training mode that's in nearly every fighting game would probably help them, most people don't know how to make best use of it - as UltraDavid and James Chen have already demonstrated on their Twitch.tv channel. Harada's solution, then, is to create Fight Lab, the new mini-game series that's going into TTT2 that teaches you tutorial-like things but has a goofy little story and makes it fun to go through. The short portion we saw teaches the player about high, mid, and low attacks, defense, and the like, and while the mode is only 10% complete, it will eventually have advanced fighting techniques, too. I really like this idea and appreciated how the recent independent fighting game Skullgirls does the same thing in its tutorial, where general tactics are taught rather than just having you rattle off ridiculous combos like some of Capcom's challenge modes.
The night before we were shown TTT2, some of the best Soulcalibur V players in the world were gathered in a nearby hall to find a world champion for that game, with $10,000 on the line. With this in mind and the mention that Capcom was throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at tournaments for their games throughout the end of 2012, I asked Harada-san about whether Namco plans on stepping up their tournament cash prizes - and whether TTT2 will be getting any of it. He said that Namco's executives are still a little disconnected from the rest of the world and how they play and compete in serious fighting games, but that the intention is for this to happen - he just has to convince his bosses that while he can't directly point to an increased number of sales in the accounting books, the way big-money tournaments generate buzz and hype is still worth it.
It's important to point out that as an arcade version goes, TTT2 was already released in Japanese arcades last September, and that the console versions really are just going to be enhanced ports. It's not been quite as easy as it may seem since the arcade hardware Namco is using has more horsepower than current-gen consoles, but I like what I'm seeing already - especially considering the full game is still months away from release. Once I jumped into a game with a fellow journalist and made it few a through matches, it was tough to tell that I was actually playing an unfinished game; I'm pretty sure most of the development time from now until the September console release date will be spent adding the fighters and stages that the developers have promised. Either way, I wasn't really terribly excited for a new Tekken game after the mild disappointment in how little changed between Dark Resurrection and Tekken 6, but TTT2 has me excited all over again. I'm really looking forward to September now!