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Looking Back to 1996 and the Polygonal Pugilism of Tekken 2 


1996. That seems like a very long time ago, literally in another century, and yet I was playing video games even back then. In actual fact, me and video games go back to the late ‘70s, and yes, that does make me feel super old, thank you very much.

In 1996 though I was a relatively fresh faced 23 year old, with the world at my feet. And so what did I do with my time? I played games on the Sony PlayStation that I had spent ages saving up for (and that was subsequently stolen when my girlfriend at the time, displaying an admirable lack of awareness about what a crappy area we lived in, left the living room window open one day and some little scrote climbed in and ran away with it). Still, it gave me an excuse to get a PlayStation 2, so every cloud…

Anyway, I digress. The purpose of this article is to look back to one of my favourite fighting games of all time, Tekken 2. While at the time it was cutting edge, with more polygons on display than other games such as Battle Arena Toshinden, with the benefit of hindsight it’s a rough looking game these days. However, the magic was found in the fighting, and the crazy characters that you could play as. I’ll always have a soft spot for Roger the boxing kangaroo, and fighting with my friends, as we used to do of an evening, his moveset always used to confuse them. So, let’s look back 25 years into the past and see what I can dredge out of the old long term memory, shall we?

tekken 2 image

First off, the story of the game, and as I’m sure we all agree, it’s nice to know why we are beating seven bells out of each other, isn’t it? The story follows on from the first game, and sets the path for the subsequent five offerings, right up until the most recent, Tekken 7. Two years after the first game, the Mishima Zaibatsu is under the leadership of Kazuya Mishima, and he has allowed the Devil Gene he carries to take him over completely due to his hatred of his father, Heihachi. What follows is another tournament, King of the Iron Fist 2, which is part to draw out Heihachi, yet also has the interesting side effect of getting one of the characters, Jun, pregnant with Kazuya’s baby. That must be a different branch of the martial arts than the one I studied! Anyway, in the end, Kazuya was defeated and thrown into a volcano by his dear ol’ dad, and in the meantime, Jun had her baby, who would star in the third game and the other releases also. 

Tekken 2 was first released in the arcade in 1995, and came with an expanded roster of characters. In addition to the 16 returning characters, they would include the sub bosses from the first game who were now playable. These included people like Armour King and Anna Williams, Nina’s sister, and while they were pretty much clones of other characters, they did have new moves added. Seven new characters were also dropped in, including Roger who I mentioned before, Jun Kazama, who I also mentioned before, and others, including a new version of Jack, the Russian Robot, imaginatively called Jack-2. The arcade release of Tekken 2, according to a Japanese magazine called Game Machine, was the most successful arcade machine of the year. With this success under its belt, it was inevitable that a home version would follow, and follow it most certainly did. 

This wasn’t just a straight port of the arcade machine though, and the home version included a host of new features and even new characters. New modes were added, such as Survival, where you had to win as many fights in a row as possible, Time Attack, where you had to clear the game is as fast a time as possible, Team Battle, where you could choose a team of up to eight fighters to squad up, and the self-explanatory Practice mode, where you could try and learn the ridiculously complicated ten hit combos that each character had. 

tekken 2 characters

My abiding memory of Tekken 2 though is that, for the time, the characters looked amazing and the animation was top drawer. The fluidity with which the fighters moved, jumped, rolled and even side stepped attacks was very cool indeed, with it setting the standard for 3D-style beat ’em ups. The characters back then were made up of about 800 polygons, and it shows when you watch footage from back in the day, but the way those polygons were organised and moved was truly remarkable. I spent many happy hours learning all the characters’ moves, trying to finish the Arcade mode with each one so I could see their own special animated epilogue. 

While it’s safe to say that the more modern games of this era blow the older generations out of the water graphically, to me there is a purity in the fighting action from this era that seems to have become lost in this generation. Super meters to fill up and so on and so forth don’t always cut it. In those days, it was you against the computer, or against a friend on the couch (pretty much as there were no online capabilities then) and so every match was a test of your skill. No more so than those in Tekken 2.

So, these are my memories of playing Tekken 2, both in the arcade and at home. Did you play back in the day? Do you still have a functioning PlayStation to play it today? Also, did this article inspire you to play some Tekken on the Xbox? Let us know in the comments. 

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