Tekken Tag 2: Fun, Sexy, and Deeply Confusing

I have enjoyed the Tekken series since I was a youngster playing Tekken 2 with my friends. It has always been fun for me, and after missing out on the series for some time, I finally picked up the newest title, Tekken Tag Tournament 2. As an adult, I am noticing some things about the game which I either failed to notice before or missed in their development.

The first thing that I noticed is how funny this game is. It makes fun of itself and the fighting genre, which works well with its powerful and serious characters. Its good humor makes it difficult to understand what exactly it is really saying sometimes. Tekken is, like many arcade games, highly sexualized. However, it is very aware of this and pokes fun at the clash between violence and sex. For example, the opening cut scene begins with Jinpachi, who is glowing with a powerful aura, riding in a cab presumably on his way to the fighting tournament. He tells the cab driver that it should be obvious where he is going, as he needs to unleash his awesome power. In a follow-up cut scene available in the gallery, we see that the driver mistook Jinpachi’s cryptic remark to mean that he wanted to go to sin-corner to pick up a prostitute. In other games, the character Ganryu fell in love with Michelle after kidnapping her mother and Michelle subsequently kicked his ass. After Michelle was written out of the series and replaced by her daughter, Julia, Ganryu arbitrarily forgot about Michelle and fell in love with Julia. 

Speaking of Michelle, I have to admit that I was extremely excited to get Tekken Tag 2, partly because Michelle is in it, since she was always my favorite character to play and hasn’t appeared in a game since 2000. I have to say I’m a little bit disappointed with her character design, as her first default outfit is highly sexualized; she could star in a successful television series simply titled World’s Shortiest Shorts. Don’t get me wrong, I remember that Michelle always wore short shorts for one of her outfits, but I don’t remember them being this short. And most of my memories of her in her shorts also involve her wearing high socks covering most of her legs, anyway. I’m sure I’ve always liked Michelle partly because she looked sexy to me, as I was swollen with male hormones when I used to play, but seeing her like this now makes me feel uneasy. It’s almost as if I had a real relationship with this character, and seeing her so scantily clad makes me worry about her. The most confusing thing, though, is that given the lighthearted and humorous voice of Tekken, I can’t be sure that this isn’t a jab at other fighting games for their sexualized female characters.

Michelle’s other default costume is far more modest, but I don’t understand why she’s wearing all warm clothing if her sweater shows her belly. Seriously, every other inch of her body is covered. It looks nice and all, but why doesn’t she wear a normal sweater? For that matter, why isn’t her secondary outfit Native American-themed? Michelle is, after all, half Chinese and half Native American. It’s one of the things that always made me like her. Her secondary outfit always reflected her involvement with her tribe, even if it was an inaccurate costume.

And then there is Julia, who for arbitrary reasons is fighting as a wrestler under the pseudonym Jaycee. I’m fine with that, but two of her three outfits play right into what is the unfortunately accurate sex-symbol portrayal of women in WWE wrestling, which is funny but weird for me. Again, I’ve got this relationship with Michelle’s character, and Julia is her daughter. Julia’s other outfit consists of the same short sweater that Michelle wears, but she paired her sweater with those super-short shorts and leather chaps. At least she’s dressed for warmth, except for her belly and upper thighs….

I’m not usually one to get caught up in gray-area gender over-sexualization, (and while I admit that where Tekken Tag 2 falls in this spectrum is debatable, it is a gray area to me), I can’t help but wonder about it. It’s just a little strange to me. Julia and Michelle are the most sexualized characters, it seems. Anna and Miharu have some teeny-tiny outfits, which is expected of their characters, but they both also have much more modest outfits, especially for Anna considering how sexual her actual character is. And all of the other female characters aren’t wearing anything nearly as revealing, and have totally reasonable clothes on otherwise. Maybe I’m just not thinking in terms of what these characters would like to fight in, and maybe I’m thinking too much about statements a game may or may not be trying to make. Maybe I just underestimate how hot everybody thinks Michelle and Julia are, and this is just fan-service and the developers sexualizing as few characters as possible to get the demographic who really cares about that. But then again, maybe I’m not. It may be that Tekken Tag 2 isn’t trying to dig deep, but why shouldn’t it try? Its humor is so good, because of the context of the genre, and the deep and the subtle are exactly the goal when going in such a semi-satirical direction.

Besides all of those thoughts, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is an extremely fun game. You’d be hard pressed to find another fighting game with more characters and fighting styles, and its insistence that it not be taken seriously is always refreshing amongst the rest of the dark and gritty media out there.