The Tekken series has been a roller coaster of quality. From the heralded heights of its PlayStation era to the lukewarm waters of its more recent releases, Tekken has always managed to be good if not great and it started with the second entry in the series. The first game was a solid title in the series and there are many, myself included, who still enjoy it. However, it felt like a first attempt and the game lacked polish in various aspects. The second game was an improvement in every way and when asked which is the best in the series, this game along with the third game are usually your answer. I recently bought it again so I could play it on my PS2 and coming back to it after all these years, the game is still as incredibly deep and fun as I remember.
Tekken 2 was one of the first games I got for my new PlayStation. You see, for the first year or so I had an original Sony PlayStation, I was flying blindly sort to speak as I didn’t know many of the games being released for the platform. I hadn’t heard much in the magazines I was subscribed to and I had grew up on Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, and Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I didn’t know who Crash Bandicoot was or what Twisted Metal was about. So when I wanted a fighting game to play on my new fangled disc based video game system I picked up Tekken 2, a series I’d never heard of. I had however heard of Virtua Fighter and it looked similar to that. Luckily, my gamble paid off and I was introduced to Tekken with one of the best entries in the series.
Story in many fighting games usually doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and Tekken 2 falls into that opinion. However, the story that is in place is good in that it’s not overly complicated, a trait that would change as the series went on. Kazuya Mishima, the protagonist of the first game, won the first King of the Iron Fist tournament by defeating his father, Heihachi Mishima, and dropped his body off of a cliff. Kazuya then took control of his father’s organization, the Mishima Zaibatsu, and used it to deal in illegal operations such as extortion, kidnapping and animal experimentation. In order to make sure no one would challenge his power, Kazuya announces a second King of the Iron Fist tournament.
Like many fighting games, the individual characters you get to play as are the reason you become intrigued in the story. The overarching plot may not be anything that engrossing but the varied, colorful cast is. Each of the combatants in Tekken 2 has their own fighting style with only a few repeated and those that are usually have been changed to give that character its own take on the style. You’ll want to see each character’s ending to see what happens to them, especially with the opening cut scene laying out the motivations for each character (vaguely).
Of course story and characters do not a good fighting game make. Fighting mechanics are key to any fighting title and Tekken’s is a lot of fun. Unlike fighters like Street Fighter, there are no projectiles in this game and it’s all about close combat. You use left and right punches and kicks along with the directional pad to execute moves and combos. Throwing is emphasized as powerful attacks. When your opponent is knocked down, you can do a ground attack that will hit them while they’re vulnerable.
Fighting in Tekken is all about two aspects: timing and combos. To excel in Tekken 2, you need to know how long a particular attack will take to execute, how much time you have to attack and if you can continue attacking after the initial blow. Counter attacks are a huge factor in this as they take more damage than if it had been a normal attack. It’s all about avoiding an attack and then executing a move quickly enough before they can block or continue a combo.
This also brings up the fighting mechanics’ sole problem. Tekken 2 is very deliberate in what a hit is and what isn’t. If you are a pixel off, it won’t register. Consequently, characters barely move without initiating a dash maneuver, meaning everyone moves very rigidly. This makes Tekken 2 a slow game at times as the only real way to move fluidly is by doing attacks and taking advantage of the animations. Time has not been too kind to this facet of the gameplay but because of the timing and combo mechanics, Tekken 2 still manages to be fun to this day, if a bit dated.
What good is a solid fighting system if you don’t have anything to use it for? Not much but Tekken 2 features several modes to keep players busy. Along with the basic Arcade, Versus and Options modes, Tekken 2 has Time Attack, Survival, Team Battle and Practice modes. Time Attack has you go through a series of matches is fast as possible, Survival throws opponents at the player until they lose, Team Battle pits two teams of up to eight against each other, and Practice allows players to learn moves and fighting strategies with any of the characters. While these modes are mostly commonplace today, they were not back in 1996 and they are still nice to have today. Practice mode is essential in every fighting game now and Team Battle is a lot of fun. After you’ve gone through the Arcade mode and unlocked all the characters in the game, you still have these various modes to keep the game fresh.
The presentation is where Tekken 2 really falters as the menus and graphics are lacking. No music during loading screens or any of the menus, and static pictures or just black in the backgrounds of said menus as well as the levels. Characters are blocky looking, have a LOT of clipping issues and look worse than in the first Tekken game. All of this gives the game a minimalistic feel that works against it as the characters don’t lend themselves well to a more serene experience. Future Tekken titles would be presented more energetically.
Of course, this is not to say that this is a badly presented game. The music is great in this game and there’s both the original arcade soundtrack as well as an arranged version to listen to. Sound effects have a great chunky sound to them as well. The various cut scenes are entertaining and amusing in a cheesy kind of way. Furthermore, although the characters look bad, their animations are more fluid than before, although still unimpressive and highly aged by today’s standards.
Tekken 2 represents the best that came from a time when third dimensional fighting games was a new thing. It introduced a new kind of fighter that relied a bit less on special attacks such as fireballs and more on in close combat. It may show its age but it remains a fun game. It lacks the presentational polish later Tekken titles and even its sister franchise Soul Edge would show soon after. However, because of that, the focus was the fighting mechanics. It wasn’t the flashy, competition ready presentation that later installments would focus on. If you haven’t played it by now, I highly recommend you try it. It’s one of the best titles early 3D fighters have to offer.
Final Verdict: 4 out of 5