Platform(s): Arcade, PlayStation
Even though the first Tekken game is dated by quite a bit, it was still a great and revolutionary game when it first came out with it's console version being the first Playstation game to ever sell over a million units. The next logical step would be a sequel to refine what worked with the game and fix what didn't.... that sequel came just months after the first game took arcades by a storm. How much can Namco accomplish in that time span? Let's find out.
Tekken 2 returns with the innovative 3D combat system from the first one so just about every mechanic you can think of is here... but don't think Namco just adds in new moves and characters then calls it a day. This game does a lot to improve the solid foundation that the first game had created whatnot with every character having a powerful and inescapable back throw, a counter system that allows you to escape grabs or tackles (a feature that was experimented with in the first game but never fully implemented) by pressing the left or right punch button at the right time, the ability to roll to the side while laying on the ground, and more diverse fighting styles meaning hidden characters are no longer derivative of the starting characters. The controls are much tighter here than the somewhat stiff controls in the first game and running actually has a purpose in battle as you can either bum rush them, stomp on them when they're laying on the ground, do a jump kick, or with the right timing... tackle them to the ground to lay on the beatdown.
The gameplay still has some issues though... the jumping mechanics are still awkward and the AI's been beefed up significantly. While the first game's AI difficult curve is mostly adjustable (unless you fought Heihachi), Tekken 2's is downright unforgiving to newcomers.
I ain't playing, this game.. WILL.. OWN.. YOUR.. BUTTHOLE!!! It would input complex button combinations at a rate and consistency that's seemingly impossible for a human player, they guard just about any attack you throw at them, will punish you for any mistake (if possible), and grabs or tackles... don't even consider them as a strategy. They'll counter them all the time and it just gets worse as you progress... but even with that Tekken 2's combat is still a lot more enjoyable than the first game's for the reasons I gave earlier so you'll naturally have the incentive to improve.
All the game modes from the first game have returned but Tekken 2 adds more meat to the bones. Arcade mode still has you select a character then fight 7 of the starting characters then a sub-boss that will depending on the character you play as (which will be unlocked after completing Arcade mode) and the final boss... this time it isn't Heihachi Mishima it's Kazuya Mishima then Devil. After completing Arcade mode you won't be given a record on fast you completed it but you still get treated with an ending for the character you've completed it with even the hidden characters have endings of their own. Kazuya and Roger/Alex do require a special condition to unlock them... the latter you have to beat stage 3 by getting a great (winning a round with 5% health or less) at the last round and the former you will have to unlock all the hidden characters besides him then complete Arcade mode with one of the hidden characters without getting a continue. That's a little better than the first game's method with Heihachi and Devil Kazuya but still more work than necessary.
Tekken 2 also introduces a bunch of game modes that will become staples of the series such as Team Battle mode where you can select up to 8 different characters and either fight against another player or the computer. You still fight one-on-one as always but if you defeat your opponent the current character you're playing as will recover health and if you lose you will play as the next character you have selected.
There is a Time Attack mode which functions just like the Arcade mode except the only thing you have to worry is completing it at the fastest time possible to set a new record and the difficulty setting you have in the options menu doesn't effect it so it's medium by default. One problem I have with this mode is you can't pause it during gameplay so you have to play through it constantly.
There's also a Survival mode where you select a character with only one health gauge which recover after each match and you take down as many opponents as possible without losing for the possibly of setting a new record. It's difficulty is also fixed like the Time Attack mode and unfortunately it carries the same problem of not being able to pause during gameplay.
Last and not least, Tekken 2 adds in a Practice mode which would be rather archaic by today's standards where fighting games practically teach you how they design the game but I'd imagine it being somewhat impressive at the time when practice modes were uncommon. You set the attack data to display total amount of hits you did in a recent combo and a damage ratio to maximize damage. You can also set your initial attacks to count as counter attacks all the time and you can practice combo moves/strings either through reading them from the command list found in the Pause mode (which is in all game modes... thank god) or key displays including the infamous 10-hit combos. You can even replay combo though it's ruined by the fact you can't manually set the recorder to start or replay the record at any time... the game sets the recorder automatically. This mode also demands constant attention as it will send you back to the main menu if you remain idle for too long (damn, what a selfish game!).
The character models have been smoothed out and refined considerably from the blocky ones at the first game had plus the animation is even more realistic. The static 2D backgrounds on stages still clash with the rest of the game's graphics though not nearly as much as the first game. Speaking of stages... each character now has a stage unique to themselves right from the ambient Japanese bamboo forest for the mysterious samurai-ninja Yoshimitsu, the desert for the Native American Michelle Change, or the room filled with dark for the final bosses Kazuya and Devil.
The voice clips for Tekken 2 are recycled from the first game but this time none of the characters other than Armor King, P. Jack, and Kuma share the same voices with other characters and the badass announcer is even more badass. Musically, Tekken 2 is a major step-up from the first game. All the tracks are memorial and are completely atmospheric to every stage (and characters they represent). It's even remixed for the Playstation version... of course, the same can be said for the first game but here they really went the extra mile and... the music for the port is just amazing. It makes you wanna go back to the older times and the sub-boss characters even have their theme even though they're just the tracks reused from the first game, but it's still better than them sharing the same song.
The story of Tekken 2 takes place 2 years after the story of the first game and the plot thickens. Kazuya had gotten his revenge on his father but as a surprising twist instead of righting the wrongs of Heihachi, he not only continues the corrupt ways of the Mishima Zaibatsu but he takes the evil acts to even greater extremes as he let his hate consume him and the Devil is feeding off from it. Because of his various illegal actions (drug-dealing, smuggling endangered animals, assassination, etc.) several fighters have entered the 2nd King of Iron Fist Tournament to beat him for one reason or another with some new faces to boot, including Heihachi who shockingy survived and wants to reclaim his throne. The best part about all this is the FMV cutscenes aren't nearly as uncanny as in the first game... for the most parts.
Also, just like the first game many of the moves are based on real-life fighting moves giving it a more grounded feel to it than other fighting games, even though it's still clearly exaggerated since most of the fighters are superhuman.
Tekken 2 does things in less a year that other game sequels don't in few years or more.... it's a significant improvement from the game that proceeded in almost every way resulting in even greater commercial and critical success. It's also a prime example of an arcade port done right so with that... this game may actually be worthwhile to have in your collection even if you play or own the later Tekken games.
Overall, I give Tekken 2 an 8.9 out of 10