Tekken’s Katsuhiro Harada on Tekken Tag Tournament 2
[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”Tekken Tag Tournament 2″ developers=”Namco Bandai” publishers=”Namco Bandai” platforms=”PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U” genres=”Fighting” release_date=”10 September 2012″]
When it comes to the fighting genre, there are very few franchises which are as well-known and as highly-regarded as Tekken. Spanning almost two decades since the original in 1994, the franchise has seen countless sequels and spin-offs. With the latest instalment in the series – Tekken Tag Tournament 2 — just a few months away, I was given the opportunity to interview Game Director and Chief Producer of Tekken, Katsuhiro Harada.
Stevivor: Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has the largest roster of characters to date in the franchise. How did you decide which characters would make the final cut?
Harada: With over 50 characters to choose from in this game, we came at the decision to select who would be included in the roster from two points. The first was looking at which characters hadn’t returned in the past few Tekken games. The second involved taking into consideration the feedback from the online community, from both the forums and sites like Twitter, to see which characters were the most popular and who the fans wanted to see.
Stevivor: What did you do to make sure no one character was more dominating or powerful than the others?
Harada: A lot of research was done by looking at Tekken 6 matches played at the arcades and seeing the different kinds of character advantages. In addition, we also listened to online discussions on the forums to see what the community were saying. There is a team of staff dedicated to balancing the game to make sure that characters aren’t over-powered when compared to the rest. That said, we also looked at which people are making these comments. For example, what might be an over-powered character for perhaps a less-experienced player mightn’t be for a professional player and vice-versa. We wanted to make sure we considered player skill when taking these opinions into account and not just saying a character was over-powered or not simply because it might take more work to use him/her properly.
Stevivor: There have been several announcements for DLC including pre-order characters and swimsuit costumes. In previous news it’s been said that DLC would not cost players. How will these be released to players who haven’t pre-ordered? Are they a timed exclusive?
Harada: I’ve always said that when it comes to DLC, we should never charge for content that is essential to the game (for example, characters and techniques). With the pre-order content, we wanted to give the fans something to show our appreciation – so we are giving them early access (and at no cost) to content such as the swimsuit costumes. For people who don’t pre-order, it may be released later at a small price. I feel that DLC is important and that’s why we’ve been listening to what else the community would like to see. For example, the possibility of giving gamers the option to download the game’s soundtrack or cut-scenes from previous Tekken games much like you would download music from iTunes. For additional content like this, I don’t think the fans would have a problem paying for it.
Stevivor: What new and existing features have been included in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 to not only make this game rewarding for the fans, but also to introduce newcomers to the franchise and its finely-tuned combat system?
Harada: In making this game we realised that a lot of players simply jump into arcade or online matches and not everyone who wants to learn and practice how to play are necessarily beginners (for example, people who haven’t played a Tekken game in a while and are coming back into it with this title). In this game we have introduced a new mode called ‘Fight Lab’, a way to practice and improve your skills as not just another tutorial mode. We learned from the past games that players really liked the mini-games and we wanted to bring that back with Tag Tournament 2.
Aimed at not just new but also advanced players, Fight Labs allows you to do more than simply practice how to fight. Through the mini-games we tried to make learning the game and the combat system fun and hopefully a mode that people will come back and play again and again. In addition you can also build your own custom character (known as Combot) where you can mix and match player’s moves and techniques and take your experience with the game that much further.
Stevivor: How will the new online features allow the player community to collaborate and interact with each other beyond the standard versus matches?
Harada: We used the online set-up from Soul Calibur 5 as a foundation for Tekken Tag Tournament 2. A lot of the features such as lobbies, being able to chat with other gamers while watching a match and the team feature from Tekken 5( from the arcades) have been brought over. Perhaps the greatest feature though is the ability to work in teams. What this does is allow players to fight online in a group and collectively earn points. These points can then be used to purchase content in the game. More details on how this will work are yet to be revealed.
We also noticed online a lot of videos online of gamers showing off combos, juggling characters in the air, etc. on websites like YouTube so we hope through modes like Fight Lab where players are able to customise techniques and moves that we’ll see a lot more of that with this game.
Stevivor: This is the first time players will be have the ability to customise their move set. Why was this chosen to be included and how will this work?
Harada: This relates back to Fight Lab and the stages that you progress through as you develop your skills. For the more advanced players, as they get further they’ll be able to use the combos of other characters to see what works best. A lot of the pro players can often predict what the other player will do so we wanted to use this as an opportunity to give them more freedom and to really perfect their strategies and approach to a fight. There are 100s of different techniques that you can unlock as you play that you can use to customise Combot – so much so that you’ll not be able to get all of them the first time you play it through!
This will work only for Combot though and not the other characters in the game – mostly due to the fact it wouldn’t look right with the animations and such. Combot will also be un-usable for ranked matches.
Stevivor: How has the tag system evolved since the first Tekken Tag Tournament?
Harada: To begin with, you can now fight with up to four characters on the screen at once, with the option to have each character being controlled by a different person. Unlike the original Tag Tournament title you don’t need to wait for one character to get off the screen before they are replaced with another. We’ve also introduced new fighting mechanics called ‘Tag-Throws’ and ‘Tag-Combos’ so you can be fighting your opponent at one point and then call in your partner to jump in and attack at the same time or even rescue you if your opponent has the upper-hand.
In addition, have a feature known as ‘balcony-break’ where if you manage to smash your opponent through a barrier/wall in the arena they will fall down to a new section of the arena (not necessarily larger than the ‘main’ section) and your partner will be waiting at the bottom to continue to combo. In addition fights can be 1 on 1, 2 on 2 tag-team or even 1 on 2!
Stevivor: How was it like collaborating with Snoop Dogg on the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 soundtrack and why did the developers feel he was the right fit for the game?
Harada: Something we like to do in all the Tekken games is try different music genres. In the past we’ve worked with genres such as rock and techno but we’ve never done anything with rap/hip-hop – to have a game created by developers from the East but with music from the West. We heard that Snoop Dogg said he was a Tekken fan a while back so we asked our Marketing team if they could approach him and he was thrilled. Things moved really smoothly from there.
We also wanted to make it more than just licensing his music though. Snoop recorded an original song for the game and there’s even a Snoop Dogg-inspired stage in the game where you see him sitting on a throne in the background rapping. For the music video we included actual Tekken championship winners and yeah…it’s pretty interesting.
Getting some hands-on time with the game myself, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 looks pretty cool. Even as someone who’s never had much experience with the franchise or the genre as a whole, I found the combat system fairly easy to play but certainly one which requires a lot of skill and practice to master. The environments and characters all look great and the tag system really adds a great new level to the game – particularly when you can tag your partner in and have the both of them simultaneously beat the living-daylights out of your opponent. With over 50 characters to play with, new moves and stages to get familiar with, the ability to hone your skills and create your own unique fighter in the Fight Lab mode and the return of all your favourite offline and online game modes, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is one game fighting fans won’t want to miss!