Tekken Tag 2: ‘My Staff Say We Have Too Many Characters’ – Harada Interview
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a fast-paced mash up of the best characters from across the entire series. The fan service is huge, the fight mechanic solid and the anticipation through the roof.
We spoke with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 producer Katsuhiro Harada to learn more about this massive brawler ahead of its 14 September launch.
Following the release of Tekken 6 on console, what was the main thing you were looking to improve for the console release of Tekken Tag Tournament 2?
Katsuhiro Harada: Obviously the one everyone’s thinking of is online play and for Tekken it’s quite difficult anyway because out of all the fighting games, and even other games, Tekken is the quickest between the button input and when it’s displayed on screen.
There’s hardly any timelag there. So taking that and having the same experience online is quite difficult anyway, so that is something we focused on for Tag 2.
Not only that, but Tekken 6 almost four million copies worldwide, so there’s a lot of people there who haven’t played Tekken before. We did have practice mode but practice mode isn’t something that people will pick up and play themselves, It’s more for advanced players and such.
The people we wanted to play the most didn’t pick it up. So we wanted to create something especially for them to enjoy the game but while they’re doing so, they pick up the basic mechanics of Tekken. So that’s where Fight Lab came in.
Virtua Fighter 4: Evo had good tutorial mode, arguably the best for any 3D fighting game, so is that something you looked at? Does Fight Lab serve as a tutorial mode?
KH: I was aware of the tutorial mode from when the game came out and that’s something we looked at. Not putting down Virtua Fighter at all but the one thing we realised from doing much research on the topic, people don’t consider themselves as novice players or as someone who needs a tutorial.
So a lot of times people wouldn’t even try to pick it up. So we shied away from it because of that. The naming itself as well, it’s not tutorial for such reasons.
We thought up until now, tutorial modes called as such didn’t include mini-games per se or story backdrop or some of these other elements that we decided to include in Fight Lab because we wanted to draw in players who normally wouldn’t pick up a tutorial.
So those are some of the reasons behind what we did. So for tutorials in general, if you include one that’s friendly for beginners, for more advanced level players, that’s something they feel they don’t need.
You’re doing something for one portion of the player base but then the others get left out. So for Fight Lab, we wanted to have something that would appeal to both.
The way we do that is that if you look at Fight Lab, it’s going to teach novice players how to play the game by doing various mini-games and such but from the perspective of more advanced players will be enjoyable.
But not only that but Combot is the simple character and you go through and pick up new techniques to choose from and equip on him, so you can customise the move list.
This is a first for Tekken and this is something that will really appeal to those groups of players. So it really is something to satisfy both needs.
As Tekken 6 wore on, Bob, Lars, Law emerged as top tier characters and will Zafina was bottom tier. Was that something you anticipated happening? How will characters be rebalanced for Tekken Tag Tournament 2?
KH: I’m quite surprised. You seem to know a lot about the game. We don’t get that question often. Maybe once or twice [laughs]. The characters you mentioned are characters that are considered strong in Tekken 6.
More so maybe for mid-level players than advanced because the really top level players have a different perspective on that. But obviously when we were creating Tag 2, we did view some of those criticisms and try to address them.
But we had to rebalance anyway because with Tag Tournament, you have different levels of balance within your team, your two characters that you select.
On one level, there’s the story, where the two characters might hate each other or might be more friendly, and that actually affects the game dynamics – the more your partner takes damage, the more you get enraged if you have a good relationship.
Whereas if you take Kazuya and Heihachi, they have a bad relationship, so you normally don’t see rage occurring that much because of that.
On another level, there are also the gameplay mechanics, what kind of moves they have available for launchers and connecting wall combos and how they pair together.
There are also combinations that are more beginner friendly as well. So we had to go through and rebalance the whole game, to make it more geared towards the Tag gameplay.
We also did spice it a bit to make sure the characters people were saying too strong or too weak were evened out a bit. So the balance should be quite good this time.
With all the characters needing to be balanced and then having to make the endings and so on, do you feel as though there are too many?
KH: Every day the staff tells me there are too many characters and stuff to complete! I was thinking we could do go up to 60 or so but I’m thinking recently we should decrease it to half [laughs]
There have been a lot of comeback mechanics in fighting games recently – Ultras in Street Fighter IV, X-Factor in Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Rage in Tekken. Was Rage implemented as a comeback mechanic, was that the design thought behind it?
KH: Even before Rage, Tekken has been a fighting game where it’s easier for novice characters can make comebacks. If you pull out Tekken 1 or 2, you could see that a lot of accidents can occur because of the amount of damage, when playing against novice players.
But that being said, with Tekken 6 at that point, the series had been going on for quite a long time so there were a lot of very advanced-level players.
So we wanted to lower the barrier for newer players to come into the game. That is, as you said, one of the reasons for Rage being implemented.
Also it adds more pressure to the game as well. Even if you pull off a really high damage combo, if you drop your opponent partway through and they become enraged, that adds a lot of pressure. It makes the game more exciting because of the tension as well.
You’re bringing back characters like Tiger Jackson, Kunimitsu, Prototype Jack. I know there was a lot of “where’s Kunimitsu, where’s Kunimitsu” demands from fans prior to that happening, so how often do you listen to fans versus your own instincts when designing a game?
KH: Regarding new characters, for example Bryan back in the day when he was introduced or Alisa, these new characters are solely based on my gut instincts and what I think people might want.
But regarding returning characters, such as the ones you mentioned, I rely on feedback of what people want to see. Not just the internet but the results we see when we ask certain marketing companies to conduct research on who is popular and such.
Also polls, questionnaires… also we go out to all these different events and media events as well, so what we hear directly from the fans goes into who we bring back. But the returning characters is mostly decided by what the fans are asking for.
Are Tekken fans nowadays harder to please than they used to be?
KH: Back in the day for the first Tekken, Tekken 2 and even Tekken 3, I think the player base was more casual then for fighting games. Especially 3D ones.
Now, on the current hardware, we’re in the second or even third generation of players because back in the day, the people in their 20s who were playing those games are close to 40 now.
In this generation, they’re choosing to play fighting games. It’s not the cool thing so far, as it was back in that day. Obviously because they choose that category, they seem to have a lot of preferences with what they expect from the game.
And even the people who have been playing since the first three Tekken games, they’ve been playing so long that they have their own deep and perplex preferences that they have.
So pleasing these people recently does seem to be more difficult than it used to be.
How many tweets do you get a day?
KH: If I’m just laying low and being quiet on Twitter, maybe 120 or so a day. If I’m answering questions – I don’t usually write a whole lot myself, it’s pretty much answering questions from fans – then it’s beyond being able to count. Sometimes I stay up five or so hours in the middle of the night answering questions. So it varies.
Who has the crazier Twitter fanbase – yourself or Ono?
KH: It’s hard to say. Both fanbases are kind of similar. If you had to distinguish, both fanbases are crazy in some aspects. Ono-san has a group of people who are quite vulgar in their comments to him, while I have a certain group or say the same thing over and over and over again [laughs]. So both are crazy in their both unique way. It’s hard to say.
Nintendo announced Namco will be working with them on the new Smash Bros – will any of the Tekken staff be involved?
KH: Obviously it’s a big priority for the company, so company-wide there are a lot of people involved with that particular project. Not just from Tekken but a lot of our franchises. Although our main core staff is busy with Tag 2 and trying to finish that up, I do think we’ll support the initiative in some kind of capacity.
Can we expect to see Namco or Tekken characters in Smash Bros?
KH: That question was one of the most frequently asked questions we got when we announced the project. Especially from abroad. The fans, rather than asking about Tales or Gundam or some of our other franchises, the fans abroad saw Tekken as one of the key words and took off on that.
We’re not really sure at this moment but when thinking of the playerbase who is playing Smash Bros, maybe Tekken characters is something they wouldn’t want, so I’ve been pulling back on that a bit. But I don’t know. What do you think?
It would work. Tekken characters worked in Street Fighter x Tekken, so it would work. But I will say that I never want to see a Smash Bros character in Tekken.
KH: [hysterical laughter] Looks difficult. Maybe Peach could be muscular and buff!
How is Tekken X Street Fighter coming along?
KH: The look of the game is coming along. The game system itself though, we’re still prototyping a lot of things.
We only found out through your tweets that you did the voice for Forest Law in Tekken 2 and 3. Are there other similar facts about Tekken that you can surprise us with?
KH: I also did some of the voice for Yoshimitsu. And some other staff as well, like the sound composer Sano Denji, who did the music for Ridge Racer and Tekken back in the day, he did some of the sound for Yoshimitsu.
This might make you disgusted but back in the day – the data has been swapped out by now – but Michelle had the pose where she would pray or Xiayou did some kind of cute pose. That was me doing the pose! [laughs]
Put it in Tag 2 as DLC.
KH: [laughs] I doubt that would sell!