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The "King of Iron Fist Tournament 3" is over, but the fighting is far from finished. The combatants from 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.
The Tekken storyline is vast and complicated, with a 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 true "Tekken canon," however. Rather, it is a conglomeration of the previous games, with every fighter that has appeared in the Tekken series (though Gon and Dr. B, present in the PlayStation's Tekken 3, are absent here), regardless of whether they are alive, dead, or far too old to compete according to previously establishedTekken legends.
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, second only to Sega's Virtua Fighter, and although its gameplay has been refined, it remains operationally consistent. Tekken Tag is built on a modified version of the Tekken 3 engine, with the most noticeable difference being the aforementioned tag feature, which was clearly inspired by the Capcom "Vs." series. Players select two characters from a cast of 34, and then fight it out in various exotic locales, be it on the beach, by a Buddhist temple, or even in the dark, grimy streets of a modern metropolis.
Tekken Tag Tournament was a U.S. launch title for the PS2, and 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, to take advantage of the PS2's abilities. The game even received extra tweaking between the Japanese and U.S. markets, as Namco responded to claims that the game was too "jaggy" by implementing anti-aliasing features. The music has also 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. One of Tekken's strengths is in giving new players enough simplicity to enjoy the game, while still providing enough depth to satisfy practiced "Tekken Masters." Control is based on a four-button scheme, in which each of the buttons works as one of the fighter's limbs (now a fifth button, for tagging, has been added to the mix). Successful fighting demands speed, combos, and the art of "juggles" — attacks made 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 either player loses an entire life bar, the round is over. Characters sitting on the sideline slowly gain back energy, however, 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.
As is its tradition, Namco adds a heap of additional modes for this home conversion of Tekken Tag. There's "Arcade Mode," a straight-up, eight-match game; "Vs. Battle Mode," suited for two to four players fighting amongst themselves; "Survival Mode," where players must run through as many matches as they can until their life expires; "Time Attack Mode," a race to get through the Arcade Mode in the shortest amount of time; "Team Battle Mode," where players pick from four to eight characters and duke it out; and "1 on 1 Mode," another U.S.-exclusive, which returns the traditional (non-tag) style of the previous Tekken games.
Add in a "Practice Mode," where players can hone their skills; a "Pair Play Mode," where players can use a Multitap to get a little four-way brawling on; and "Tekken Bowl," a bowling mini-game, and it becomes clear Tekken Tag's cup runneth, over in terms of game modes and option. There are also "Theater" and "Gallery Modes," where one can view the rendered endings, or save and view gameplay screenshots. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide