It’s been over a year and a half since Pokken Tournament initially launched on the Wii U, and it was definitely one of the more decent games coming late in the consoles lifespan. Here at Shacknews we scored it a 6 and stated that it failed to live up to its potential as an arcade Pokemon fighter. Pokken Tournament has received the Deluxe treatment and has finally landed on the Nintendo Switch. Though some of our original qualms still stand, Pokken Tournament DX is a solid step-up from its Wii U predecessor.
Making The Switch
Pokken Tournament’s success was bogged down by the the tribulations of the Wii U. It had an extremely obscure audience and was released at a very awkward time in the consoles life span. Pokken Tournament DX gets the opportunity really spread its wings and soar on the Nintendo Switch. Pokken Tournament is one of those games that takes full advantage of all three of the Switch’s playstyles. In handheld mode, it works as a fun single player fighter you can experience in short bursts throughout the day. TV mode is where the beauty of this game really gets the spotlight. Throw Pokken Tournament DX up on the big screen and have a ball with your favorite arcade Pokemon fighters. In tabletop, you can pop off the joycon and challenge friends and foes to local matches.
One of my concerns going in was that the controls wouldn’t be nearly as sharp when playing with a single joycon, but it works like a charm. The controls have been very fine tuned to where you can go from playing in handheld, to pro controller, to single joycon without losing your competitive edge. Something that seems simple but is very significant when it comes to these quick-paced action fighters.
The daily challenge and three-on-three battles are two new notable additions to Pokken Tournament DX. The daily challenges pretty much assigns you to play as a certain character against a certain AI controlled character in a certain circumstance. Winning these challenges will yield an underwhelming reward of skill points. The daily challenge isn’t a bad addition to Pokken Tournament’s Deluxe version, but it isn’t a very compelling feature either. The tree-on-three battles are fun and help to shake up the game’s formula, I just wish it were possible to swap and tag-in pokemon mid battle as it is in other popular fighters.
A Colorful Cast of Characters
One of the greatest appeals in the Pokemon universe is how different every pokemon is from one another. Each of them has different stats, typings, movesets, etc that make them unique and separate. Although you can’t play as the 800+ Pokemon from the main series, Pokken Tournament DX manages to maintain this sense of diversity. Each of the 21 fighters are all very different from one another. Playing for 40 hours Scizor and mastering his entire arsenal of moves and combos won’t translate if you decide to jump over and start playing as a character like Darkrai, who is a less physical and more methodical fighter.
In a fighting game with such a variety of playstyles and characters all clashing on the battlefield, it’s important that there is balance and equality among the fighters. Unfortunately, when playing online, it’s clear that a couple of pokemon are what some would call “broken” or “overpowered.” Specifically, Braixen can feel unfair when playing against.
Something for Everybody
Pokken Tournament has a little bit for both all types of fighting game fans. Hardcore fans will be able to experience riveting and competitive battle in Pokken’s online ranked mode and duke it out to climb the leaderboards.
The less intense fans who prefer to play against the CPU or locally against their friends will find a lot to enjoy in Pokken Tournament DX. They can hit the practice dojo to refine their skills and learn new combos. There is also Ferrum League mode, which is the closest thing to a campaign. In this mode players battle against an endless array of CPU controlled trainers to improve their rank. Once a player reaches top eight in their division, they can enter a tournament for a shot to move up into the next division of trainers. This mode is fun, but can sometimes feel like an endless tower of enemies, which can get boring. Bandai Namco have included an odd Shadow Mewtwo side story serve to provide a narrative and help build up the lore around the Ferrum region, but it just doesn’t work. The Shadow Mewtwo Cutscenes attempt to break up some of the repetitiveness and would have been more effective if used in a more narrative driven story mode.
Pokken Tournament is a very solid game. It has well refined mechanics that create a fun battling experience. The fact that each character feels unique and plays completely differently from any other given character helps to keep the matches feeling fresh and diverse, it also forces players to adapt and adjust their strategies. On the downside, there are some noticeable balancing issues. The Ferrum League mode, while fun, can feel redundant after a while. Fans of the original game will love everything Pokken Tournament DX has to offer.