As the name suggests, Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition is a sequel to the original Tekken Tag Tournament game on PlayStation 2, although not a direct storyline-based one as it follows on from the events of Tekken 6. The tale goes that Jin Kazama, long-suffering inheritor of the Devil Gene that basically turns him into an evil destructive Super Saiyan, has won the Mishima Zaibatsu company from the rest of his family, and his uncle, Heihachi Mishima, takes a youth-restoration formula in an effort to win back what he lost in a new King of Iron Fist Tournament. Like its predecessor, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 takes liberties with the Tekken plotline and includes just about everyone from the series' history regardless of their individual circumstances. As par for the course in most fighters, the story initially takes a backseat and lets the player get into the fights quickly. What a spectacle they are, too, with a rich high-definition output, luscious arena designs and a vast number of character archetypes and martial arts styles. The game covers a number of classic Tekken tunes into effective stage remixes, and even allows players to choose which level plays which tune with the Tekken Tunes submenu.
Tekken's fighting system revolves around the diamond-button formation, consisting of two "strong but slow" and two "weak but fast" punches and kicks that can be strung together with crouches and throws to make combos. Tapping upwards makes fighters jump, and holding backwards enables them to block strikes, making for the full roster of actions, which is as solid a system now as it ever was. The Tag part of the game adds a new layer of strategy in the sense that one fighter on the team losing eliminates both instead of just that one, and partners can team up in certain throws when pulled off correctly. The game never forces players to adopt the fighting duo mechanic, letting them go it alone if they so wish, but to rebalance things out the solo character's health is constantly recharged instead of needing to be switched out for it to happen otherwise, and less damage is taken per blow. Up to four players on one system can take control of a character and team up for 2 vs. 2 or handicap matches, too.
Much like Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition on the 3DS, the player with the GamePad has access to four extra pre-assigned moves on the touch screen, with which it is possible to pull off complicated combos without needing to remember the inputs. Alternatively, holding down the ZL trigger and pressing a face button has the same effect. This is a highly useful aid for new players to the series, as is the game's versatility when looking at control options. Alongside the GamePad, the Wii U Pro Controller can be used (which might very well be the best choice, aside from the quick-combo feature missing) and a Wii Classic Controller Pro, which essentially works the same. One of the more unique preferences to try out this fully-fledged fighting game is by using the Wii Remote alone, and despite the awkward button mapping, it actually works fairly well, even if fingers do tend to be all over the place.
Although Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has an enormous amount of modes and options, the one in particular that will take up a good chunk of time initially is the good old Arcade Mode -- an eight-level fight-fest that rewards players with a highly entertaining and wildly varying number of ending movies for each of the 50 or so fighters that are available to choose from. Even messing around with the customisable options for match time and number of rounds won't make much of a reduction in the time required to fully complete this mode, so already the game is offering more than one would expect.
The second mode that will compete for fighting fans' attention is Fight Lab -- a separate single-player mode that takes the direction of a side-story, and places the player in the iron feet of a robotic fighter being put through his paces to become the greatest combatant in the world. Told through a dozen or so chapters, this is ironically the best mode for gamers new to the Tekken series to go to first, as it literally teaches everything needed to know to play like a pro. The number of customisable moves that can be equipped to the Combot and points that can be earned makes for an individual experience, too.
Then there are the non-story-based modes to consider. Time Attack, Survival, Practice, and Team Attack are here in all their glory, as is a new feature called Ghost Mode that pits fighters against foe data that is downloaded every time players connect online. Full online play is also here, with options for ranked fights to compete for the highest spots on the leader boards, and friendly matches against either friends or random players that don't affect standings. Replays can also download from the best players - handy for those wanting to incorporate combos and strategies from the pros and improve their game. This mode's only real drawback is in the sparse player activity level of the Wii U Edition of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which should hopefully pick up over time. One slight hurdle to finding friend matches, however, is the code input that requires one player to make up a word or letter combination and let the other players search for it, which makes for a bit of an awkward stepping stone to playing against friends. Not entirely an unfamiliar process to Nintendo gamers as it resembles the dreaded Friend Code system in many ways, but with the Wii U having Nintendo IDs this really shouldn't be here.
One of the biggest selling points of this Wii U adaptation is the exclusive features and thankfully they do not disappoint. Aside from the Off-TV Play function, which is as handy as ever and displays a sharp visual standard on its screen, there are some exclusive modes. Mushroom Battle is a 1 vs. 1 clash involving Super Mario power-ups and classic background music, with mushrooms both of the supersize and poison variety littering the field, either growing or shrinking whichever fighter hits them, making for a very interesting and surprisingly tactical brawl. Grabbing a Power Star whenever one might appear can change the tide of battle in an instant, making this the go-to mode for quick scraps that offer something a little different.
Next is a returning fan-favourite mode -- Tekken Ball. Basically, this involves whacking a beach ball of varying sizes and weights towards the opponent in the hopes of either not allowing them to respond to it in time, or to make it land on the ground in their area; either option drains their health to a degree and the last one standing wins. Tekken Ball is as solid and fun as ever, and a blast with two players. Tekken Supporters is an oddity, mainly in the way that it allows players to give their gained cash to an individual character that unlocks new content for them, which are mostly costumes or purchasable clothing in the already packed customisation menu, allowing players to change any one fighter's attire at their leisure. Not an essential mode by any means, but a decent option when that wallet is overflowing.
And lastly, there is the case of Nintendo costumes for each character. Each fighter has a get-up from one of Nintendo's popular franchises, including Mario, Luigi, Toad, Link, Fox McCloud, and numerous others. These costumes can't be edited, but seeing Heihachi with a Mario nose and big brown clown shoes is comedy value not to be underestimated.
Although Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ticks a very high quantity of the right boxes, one key area it doesn't manage well in is loading times. That's not to say that players are left waiting five minutes between matches or anything, but there are numerous instances of loading pauses and menu stuttering that can get in the way of an extended gaming session. In Team Battle mode, in particular, it is a huge barrier, putting up a separate loading screen and reloading the fight area every time a combatant is eliminated, making an eight-man team fight a very daunting prospect. Ultimately, though, this does relatively little to impact the product as a whole, letting Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition become a solid choice for the new console.