Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PlayStation 3) review:

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (PlayStation 3)

In addition to being the game's primary educational mode, Fight Lab is Tekken Tag Tournament 2's main narrative mode. In Fight Lab, you help playboy businessman Violet fine-tune Combot, a multipurpose robot who borrows individual moves from the rest of the cast. This mode does a lot of things right to make itself attractive to new players. The lessons move at a slow pace, covering the basics of offense, defense, and movement. They're also pretty funny, including some spoofs of a few Street Fighter alums as well as one-off minigames.

6396292Combot knows all the right buttons to hit in TTT2's Fight Lab.480none

Between lessons in Fight Lab, you may spend resources earned to unlock new moves for your Combot. Once your robotic warrior is properly decked out, it can be used in offline matches or in player matches online (sorry, Combot is off-limits when playing ranked matches). Fight Lab does a good job of illuminating the "how" behind various fighting mechanics, but stumbles with the "why." Basic strategy and understanding how to approach a fight are left to the school of hard knocks online.

Whether you're winning or losing, nearly every match fought in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 rewards you with some money. This cash can then be spent on all sorts of cosmetics, including new hairstyles, clothing, or exotic items. And not all of the clothing options are available right away. More clothing items, and categories, are unlocked as you progress. This is a great way to incentivize players who are practicing offline or who suffer an especially brutal loss online.

When you're not tweaking your Combot, or your favorite character, you will find that the single-player offerings in this game adhere to the fighting genre norm. Time Trial, Survival, Team Battle, Arcade, and Offline Versus are all accounted for, as well as Ghost Battle. Ghost battles are great for tailoring the game to your skill level, because you can dictate the difficulty of each successive fight. More challenging fights offer up extra bonuses, such as additional funds or even character-specific ending cinematics.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2screenshot
After winning the King of Iron Fist tournament, Panda enjoys a day at the park.

Rounding out the single-player offerings is the game's Practice mode. All the standard features are present, but two that stand out are its defensive training and positioning options. Defensive training lets you program a move, or series of moves, for the AI to perform in random order for you to practice guarding against. The positioning options let you automatically reset your characters anywhere in the arena. This is especially handy for practicing wall combos, one of the key ways to score big damage.

Online, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 provides all the features fighting enthusiasts expect. You can compete in ranked matches to improve your personal ranking or in friendly player matches against multiple opponents. Two players can also join up and practice against each other online or fight on the same team against others. Replay support is also present, complete with character-specific filtering options to help you study new techniques for your favorite fighter.

With regard to online performance, the game runs well under the right conditions. Against opponents of a three- or four-bar connection rating--regardless of region--matches perform without serious issues. Dropping below that rating results in noticeable lag during interstitials and the fights themselves. Clear connection indicators are present to help you avoid suboptimal matches.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2screenshot
Tekken Tunes lets you customize the background music of each stage.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a challenging fighter that rewards speed and ferocity in those willing to make the commitment. Its humorous (and educational) Fight Lab and defensive training options in Practice mode make good educational tools before you step into the game's numerous other modes. And these modes are all supported by a challenging and well-realized fighting system with near-endless room for player improvement. While some fighting games have simplified their mechanics to be easier for genre newcomers, the Tekken series remains unapologetically brutal.

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