"Make sure you've got one killer question," my Namco Bandai contact intoned ominously as I waited for my appointment with Katsuhiro Harada, producer of the Tekken series. As an incredibly passionate and knowledgeable master of all things fighting game, Harada is famed for his sensationally detailed interview answers, and since he spoke through an interpreter, ten minutes would go by in the blink of an eye. Lo and behold: they most certainly did.
So, here goes... plenty of exciting Tekken Tag Tournament 2 info from one of the most important figures in the series' development, explaining how the latest spin-off will be the "ultimate Tekken of all time" and cater for fans both new and old with the Fight Labs mode. But not just that! Read on.
Dealspwn: It's fantastic to meet you. I suppose, first of all, what's new in Tekken Tag Tournament 2? What sets it apart from previous Tekken games and the original Tag?
Katsuhiro Harada: So, actually, there's quite a lot that's different about this title. Naturally we have a lot of the popular elements from the original Tag. Not only that, but all the gameplay elements we've introduced since then in Tekken Four, Five and Six - for example, the interactive scenery elements, breaking floors and walls during the game to open up the arenas. Also, the newly-added balcony break is another interactive stage element that's new this time around.
But not just that! All of that is in the game as well, but all the Tekkens up until now have only been one-on-one. So, even if you had two on two, you only had two characters on the screen at once. Even if it was tag. This time, because of the improvements in the graphical engine, you can have four characters on the screen at once. This allows for some new gameplay elements, for example: Tag Assault, which you can call your partner out to form an aerial combo on your opponent, with both of you at once teaming up on your opponent. You can also do a Tag Crash, so if you're having trouble and low on health, you can have your partner jump in to save you instantly. So those are a few of the new features that have been done as a result of four characters on the screen at once.
But not just that! The game rules them have changed quite a bit. For example, some people only know one-on-one play, so they can only control one character. Some people really got into the original Tag and they like to use two. We wanted to let these people play with each other: so you can play one-on-one, you can play two-on-two, or you can also play one-on-two if you want to. These aren't different modes, it's just basic gameplay structure. So all of this was included.
Also, you can have a real tag team. For example, if you have four people and four controllers then each can control a different character and you can use the pair play to control four players at once. All this has been included into this one package, so it's kind of like the ultimate 3D fighting game, the ultimate Tekken of them all.
Dealspwn: Awesome! The four-player Tag Team sounds fantastic. Fight Labs is one of the most interesting new features of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, so can you explain how that will help bring new players in the game?
Harada: I'm glad that you asked that question and that you're interested in this mode. One of the objectives, as you've said, is to introduce new players into the series, but not just that, we wanted it to appeal to more advanced players - even those who play in tournaments! The mode and what you get from it depends on your skill level, really. For example, more novice players are going to enjoy playing the various minigames that we've prepared for this mode, that are based on the backdrop of the story to see how that progresses. So, they're kind of developing Combot, the robot made with Violet's systems, while progressing through this mode to learn about the story but also, as they're developing Combot, they realise that they're also developing their own skills at Tekken. So they're going to be better at the game once they've finished.
So that's one way that they'll enjoy the game. So if you take people who are already familiar with Tekken, who are at a higher level of skill, what they're going to get out of the mode is - they'll also be interested in the story progression in this mode - but as you clear the different levels and such, you'll gain access to more techniques that you can add to Combot's movelist. So you can customise your move list for the first time in Tekken. So, you'll have access to techniques from Paul or Heihachi or Nina; all your favourite characters. You can combine them all into one character, and take that online to fight against a friend. You'll say "this is the cool Combot that I made and he's going to be stronger than yours."
So all of this is going to be in one mode and is going to appeal to a wide range of players. That's what's really cool about Fight Labs.
Dealspwn: Sounds great. So, just a quick question then: who's your favourite new character, and what new abilities does he or she bring to the table?
Harada: I guess it would be the Young Heihachi, he's a new addition feature-wise. But as far as new gameplay mechanics - which is the point of your question - I can't answer that now because he's a character who hasn't been properly announced yet! So look forward to hearing about that later.
Dealspwn: Is there time for... really? Right. Just one last question: just tell us why Tag Tournament 2 will be the best Tekken ever!
Harada: It's got everything that people liked about the original Tag, plus, since then, Tekken 1-6. All the Tekkens, all the good things have been added, plus new original gameplay elements. The character roster is the biggest roster ever. We've even done a lot to please people who've never played Tekken, you know, adding Snoop Dogg to the game, with expanded online elements as well. All of this is going to make it the best Tekken ever.
Apologies - my WP7 HTC 7 Pro hates low light conditions.