With Tekken Tag Tournament, the series mimics the gameplay that Capcom created with its "VS" series. Like the "VS" games, you pick two characters to make your tag team. The tag button (the fifth button next to right punch) allows you to switch characters (the inactive character slowly regains health). Tag throws and tag combos -- throws and combos started with one character and finished by the other -- allow TTT to introduce a whole new style of gameplay, not only with the inclusion of the tag feature, but also with more features like new staggers and stuns and more sidestep moves.
While it may be difficult at first to get used to the changes made to the existing Tekken 3 characters (i.e., Paul's Falling Leaf has been weakened), Namco has done a fine job of balancing each and every character. While some characters may have similar moves (Baek & Hwaorang), the new moves added to each character help to define their fighting style even more than in Tekken 3.
Veteran Tekken players might need a few hours practice to get used to the new style of gameplay in TTT. Any player, regardless of skill level, can get into TTT very easily with the wide selection of characters. 20 selectable characters -- Ling, Yoshimitsu, Nina, Forest, Hwaorang, Eddy, Paul, King, Lei, Jin, Gun Jack, Anna, Bryan, Heihachi and Julia -- return from Tekken 3, alongside Baek, Michelle, Armor King, Ganryu and Jun, making their long-awaited return from Tekken 2.
12 time-released character boxes are also present on the character select screen, with 1P and 2P Random Select boxes. Kunimitsu will be the first time-released character, and the rest of the Tekken 2 cast will most likely fill out the roster. We may also see Dr. B and Gon from the PSX version. A new boss character, named "Unknown" for now, gives clues to the upcoming time-released characters, as her moves (similarly to Ogre) are based on the time-released characters' moves. But time-release is not the only change from T3 to TTT.
The camera has been moved slightly closer to the fighters, giving the game an even more intense feel to it. New lighting effects on stages (neon lights illuminate Lei's stage, while Eddy's stage is now bathed in a beautiful sunset), animation for each team before and after the fight, a new CG intro and other small visual touches (i.e., Heihachi's stage -- a hole left where Jin threw Heihachi through the wall in Jin's PSX Tekken 3 CG ending) make TTT look very new even though its graphic engine is not cutting edge. Sound effects haven't changed that much from Tekken 3, with only a few new hit sounds and character voices. The music has been remixed, as well as new tunes added, while keeping its typical Namco style.
The best thing about Tekken Tag Tournament, aside from the myriad improvements to all aspects of gameplay, is that it masterfully builds on the successes of its predecessors. TTT takes the highlights of the series (the sheer number of characters from Tekken 2 and the depth of each characters' fighting style from Tekken 3) and merges them to make TTT this summer's finest fighting game.
Special thanks to Arif Anwar, the Tilt Arcade at Ballston Commons Mall in Ballston, VA and the Gametime Arcade in Alexandria, VA for TTT info.