|The "King of Iron Fist Tournament 3" is over, but the fighting is far from finished. The combatants from past Tekkens past are itching to rumble, so much so that they're pairing off and traveling the world to take each other on, all in an insatiable quest for knuckle sandwiches, Wind Godfists, and proof of kung-fu superiority in the Tekken Tag Tournament.
Although the Tekken storyline is vast and complicated, with a spotlight focus on the soap opera tribulations of the profoundly screwed-up Mishima family (which makes the plot a little like Dallas with martial arts), Tekken Tag Tournament exists outside of the actual Tekken canon, if there is such a thing. Rather, it is a conglomeration of each of the previous games, with every fighter that has appeared in the Tekken series (Gon and Dr. B, present in the PlayStation's Tekken 3, are absent here), regardless of their being alive, dead, or far to old to compete within the context of the Tekken legend.
But who needs a storyline, anyway? This is a fighting game, first and foremost. The Tekken series was one of the first 3D polygonal fighters out of the gate, second only to Sega's Virtua Fighter, and although the gameplay has been refined, it's still remained operationally consistent for the last six years. Tekken Tag itself is built off of a slightly modified Tekken 3 engine, with the most noticeable difference being the aforementioned tag feature, clearly inspired by the Capcom "Vs." series. Players select two characters from a cast of 34, and fight it out in various exotic locales, be it on the beach, or in a Buddhist temple, or even the dark, grimy streets of Inner-city, U.S.A.
Tekken Tag Tournament was a U.S. launch game for the PS2, and has received a considerable facelift from the arcade version, which was created using Namco's System 12 board, the same architecture from the four-year-old Tekken 3. Characters and stages have been re-rendered and updated, thanks to the PS2's abilities. The game even received extra tweaking between the Japanese and U.S. markets, with Namco responding to claims that the game was too "jaggy" by implementing polygon-smoothing anti-aliasing. Likewise, the music has been remixed and altered from its arcade counterpart.
Gameplay is similar in function to Tekken 3, and there are still a wide variety of moves and fighting styles available between all characters. One of Tekken's unique abilities is to give new players the enough simplicity to enjoy the game, and yet enough depth to satisfy self-described "Tekken Masters." Control is based on a four button scheme, with each of the buttons acting as one of the fighter's limbs (now a fifth button, for tagging, has been added to the mix), and relies on speed, combos and the art of "juggles," or combos that are enacted while the opponent is in the air, rendering the ability to block or reverse them impossible. Add to that chain throws, side-stepping, reversals (some universal, some limb-specific), and even reverse-reversals (known as "chickens"), and you have the Tekken fighting engine.
The tag feature has been implemented with the hopes of giving the game more depth while still remaining true to its frenetic pacing. Players tap on the tag button to bring fighters in or out, and unlike the "Vs." series, once one player loses their entire life bar, the round is over. Characters sitting on the sideline slowly gain back energy, and if they're kept out long enough, they'll come back into the fight with the ability to inflict a bit more damage for a limited amount of time.
In their usual tradition, Namco has added a whole heap of modes for the home conversion of Tekken Tag. There's Arcade Mode, which plays as a straight up 8-match game; Vs. Battle Mode, which is suited for 2-4 players fighting amongst themselves; Survival Mode, where the player must run through as many matches as they can until their life expires; Time Attack Mode, which is a speed race to get t