Tekken Tag Tournament 2 hits Nintendo's shiny new console with a bang: the Wii U edition comes loaded with all of the hidden characters and stages of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions completely unlocked from the get-go, along with a range of tasty Nintendo-themed additions supplying some obligatory fan service. There are also a number of gameplay and balance tweaks, making the Wii U Edition the most complete version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 available by far.
So on the content side, we're covered. But how well does the Wii U game stand up to its 360 and PS3 counterparts on a technical level, bearing in mind the conversions of mixed quality we've seen since Nintendo's new machine launched a few weeks ago?
Based on first impressions, not much appears to have changed. We find that the same rendering set-up is used, with a dynamic framebuffer employed, adjusting the resolution on the fly according to the rendering load. In order to maintain the target 60FPS update as closely as possible, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 aims to operate in native 720p but drops down as low as 700x720 (with 800x720 and 900x720 also being seen) when there are two characters on screen performing tag-team combos with motion blur enabled.
Tagging between characters causes a drop in resolution on some stages - but not all - regardless of whether blur is enabled, which is something that we see happening slightly more frequently on the Xbox 360 and PS3. However, dropping the blur effect entirely allows the game to run in higher resolutions more often on all platforms: outside of performing dual character moves and highly aggressive combos, a large part of the fight is rendered at 720p, or just slightly below, offering the cleanest presentation.
So far, so good. However, as we move away from pure image quality concerns it becomes apparent that Namco has made some small tweaks to the Wii U code by reducing the quality of certain visual effects, or in some cases by removing them entirely. There are also a few graphical bugs that crop up from time to time, which seem at odds with the rest of the game's visual presentation. Let's take a look at our Xbox 360 and Wii U head-to-head video, and there's a large 720p triple-format comparison gallery to take a look at.
"Despite the additional content, the small visual cutbacks and slightly lower the performance level may put off pro-level Tekken players."
The impressive, computationally heavy object blur effect that dominates the look of the game on all formats is rendered in lower precision on the Wii U, with the different stages of distortion more easily discernible in still shots. Nintendo's console appears to be skipping what looks like a second motion blur pass performed on the other formats, which provides an additional blend between the eight samples used to create the baseline effect. This makes the blur take on a grainier appearance in motion, although only those with keen eyes will really be able to spot the difference outside of viewing stills.
Additionally, there are further - albeit subtle - reductions in other areas: some of the plants and trees dotted about in the backgrounds of a few locations are missing, as are the chickens in the Historic Town stage. On top of that, the interactive snow on the ground in the Arctic Dream stage is removed entirely, now replaced by a solid icy floor. The loss of a few tulips in the Netherlands environment also makes that areas look a little more barren than on the other formats. Curiously, in some areas we actually see a subtle increase in foliage on the Wii U - on the branches of a few trees - which is somewhat strange given the reductions in detail elsewhere. But we actually see slightly less stable frame-rates in this area than on the other versions.
Elsewhere, there are a number of visual oddities that initially point to further downgrades, but in truth mostly appear to consist of occasional graphical bugs more than anything else. The most obvious of these is with regards to the appearance of textures on certain objects, such as the rooftops on some of the buildings, which look like they could be of a lower resolution compared to the PS3 and the 360. Some of them are indeed pared down, but most of the differences here appear to be down to the way in which the Wii U's GPU filters textures at certain angles, which leaves certain objects looking blurry while others remain nice and sharp - so in some places a higher level of filtering appears to be in effect. We also see evidence of the odd texture being flipped on some objects, pointing to rendering bugs being the main cause of most of these anomalies, rather than developer-intended compromises.
Most of the differences are mild and hard to spot during gameplay, so almost certainly won't have an impact on your enjoyment of the game as a whole. Perhaps Namco simply ran out of time before being able to sort out some of the last-minute rendering issues that remain in the finished version, or was struggling to find a better way of stabilising overall performance in time for release. On the plus side, elsewhere we find that the higher-quality FMV sequences contained in the PS3 version are also used on the Wii U, thanks to the console's large-capacity discs being able to hold a similar amount of data to Blu-rays.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U performance analysis
Fighting games live or die by their performance, and Tekken is no exception. As we have briefly discussed, Namco makes some small graphical tweaks to certain aspects of the Wii U code to better optimise the game around the hardware. But we also see the odd one-off improvement as well, which causes some performance issues. So what's the story here?
Just as we did for the previous Tekken Face-Off, we immediately went online to take advantage of the game's replay facility, which allows us to use footage taken from intense matches featuring more advanced players. However, after an hour of searching through various replays we failed to encounter anywhere near the same standard of play seen on the other versions on a consistent basis, with fewer fights on show which could be used to really test the engine. It is apparent that most of the die-hard Tekken players are glued firmly to the game on the PS3 and 360 at this point in time. Perhaps the game's user base will open up given more time, but we're not entirely convinced that this will be the case. In the end we managed to find a few clips that featured a few revealing differences between the Wii U edition and the other versions.
"The one level where we see additional graphical features in play also hosts a noticeable drop in frame-rate compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game."
For the most part the Wii U version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 stays locked to the 60FPS update required to maintain smooth gameplay and a consistent controller response, with the exception of replays and the cut-scenes at the end of each fight, in which we find that all three versions tend to drop a few frames. Where things start to diverge is when larger characters are on-screen on certain environments, where we see small, but fairly frequent dips in smoothness not present in the 360 and PS3 releases - curiously, these occur when there is a fair bit of foliage on show. Thankfully, the variance in frame-rate is small enough to go practically unnoticed by the eye, but the fact that this happens at all during gameplay means that top-tier players will be able to feel the difference.
For the rest of us, these small fluctuations in smoothness probably won't have a big impact at all, though we did feel that some of the timings were a little out when performing certain combos in the affected areas. But most of the time, the game runs smoothly at the required 60FPS with only the occasional two-frame drop which we certainly couldn't notice. Outside of the occasion blip in smoothness Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on Wii U delivers a highly enjoyable slice of fighting action, but it won't be the first choice for die-hard fans when gaming online - besides the more uneven frame-rate, the level of competition just doesn't appear to be up to the other systems at this point in time.
The Wii U difference
In terms of content, there's no question that out of the box the Wii U offers up the most feature-rich version of Tekken Tag 2 available on the market right now, containing a number of extra modes and goodies without the need to venture online.
As we've already mentioned, all of the additional stages and DLC characters from the PS3 and 360 games are available from the off in the Wii U edition. On top of this, there are three new modes on offer. Tekken Ball - first introduced in Tekken 3 - makes its return and this is joined by a Nintendo-themed Mushroom Battle mode where players use power-ups such as Super and Poison mushrooms during fights. Finally, there's a Tekken Supporters mode where you can award money to characters in exchange for various items, which are then ranked and compared to other players online.
Beyond this we also see the inclusion of Nintendo-themed costumes, taken from popular titles such as Super Mario Bros., Star Fox, The Legend of Zelda and even F-Zero. These additions basically amount to a whole lot of fan service for the hardcore Nintendo crowd and a pleasantly amusing extra for a series that doesn't take itself too seriously beyond the fighting mechanics. We defy anyone not to enjoy suiting up Yoshimitsu in a Captain Falcon outfit.
"An appropriate level of fan service is included with some cute Nintendo-themed costumes."
Besides being able to use the original Wii Classic Controller and its Pro variant, the new Wii U Control Pad Pro is also supported alongside the standard GamePad, which sees some limited touch-based functions implemented into the game - you can pull off certain moves and combos with a tap of the touch screen, but nothing more. During normal use, move lists and character bio data is displayed on the tablet screen, but when watching replays online the entire match can also be viewed this way too. Switching the Play Style to Wii U GamePad also allows you to play viewing the tablet screen instead of on the TV. Surprisingly, there's no option to use the GamePad's touch screen functionality to navigate more quickly through the menus, and most of the features are bare-bones additions. Thankfully, fighting games don't need fancy touch screen controls during gameplay, so it's no big loss.
Along with all the extras found in the Wii U game, there is also one major omission - the removal of 3D support. However, it is unlikely that many people will care, given how compromised the experience was when playing the game this way on the 360 and PS3: low-resolution visuals are permanently combined with heavy frame-rate drops that significantly impact upon the core gameplay. In that respect, 2D is the way to go regardless of which version you happen to own.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 on Wii U - the Digital Foundry verdict
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 makes its way to a new home a few months after appearing on the PS3 and 360, and by and large Namco has done a decent job porting the game over to Nintendo's new console while adding a slew of extra content to entertain dedicated fans and new players alike. Visually, bar the loss of some interactive snow and some flowers limited to two stages, the game closely mirrors that of the other versions, with the use of a lower-precision blur effect that only the most eagle-eyed of gamers will spot during play. On some stages we see the Wii U command a brief image quality advantage where the game stays running in native 720p for longer during less intense battle scenes between two characters with the cool blur effect enabled, but this aspect of the engine varies from scene to scene on all versions to some degree.
"Tekken on Wii U is a fine release, but the PS3 and 360 versions edge it owing to more stable online gameplay and slightly better visuals."
On the matter of performance, the slightly less stable frame-rate will only be an issue for the most seasoned of players who will be more sensitive to the timing of moves and combos in the game - but for most players, the game remains fluid and fun to play at all times. The range of control options available - from the Pro Controller to some of the various Wii Arcade sticks - also has more dedicated fans covered. This is a nice bonus, considering that the standard GamePad is a bit too large and unwieldy for playing this kind of game.
In the end, there's nothing really wrong with the Wii U Edition of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, although players wanting the best visual experience (by a very small margin) and most stable online gameplay would do better to look towards the PS3 and 360 versions of the game. If you already own one of the other versions of the game there's little point in picking up the Wii U release, but if you haven't made a purchase yet - and own Nintendo's new machine - Tekken Tag Tournament 2 remains an excellent fighting game that's well worth the investment. It's just a shame that publishers insist on charging full price for titles on the Wii U that are available at significant discounts on the other consoles, which makes a 360 or PS3 purchase the way to go.