Pokkén Tournament, (otherwise known as Pokémon Tekken) released for the Wii U on March 18th, 2016. Developed by Bandai Namco Studios, it is an arcade style fighting game combining elements of Tekken and Pokémon. Sound good? Well, keep reading to find out!
Pokkén has a total of 16 playable characters, 14 of which are unlocked from the start. Although it’s worth noting that only 14 of these characters belong to unique Pokémon species, which is a little disappointing considering there are well over 700 characters to pick from. I must stress before the comment section fills up with rage-filled fighting game fans at this statement, that in no way was I expecting a large roster in an entry game such as this. I do however feel like this roster should have hit 20 characters at a bare minimum, just to meet current fighting game standards.
The characters themselves are all a mixture of elemental types, weights, evolutionary stages and generational debuts. For the Pokémon purist, the only types not currently represented in some form are; Bug, Normal, Flying and Rock, and there is at least 1 playable character from each Pokémon Generation.
For the fighting game purist, you’ll find yourself familiar with the different gameplay styles offered. Machamp, for example is your token powerhouse character ala Zangief, and Pikachu is your perfect rushdown character. The character selection of this game is quite frankly the most conflicting aspect of it. On the one hand, you’ve got an extremely diverse cast, but conversely your selection is minimal.
What good is a fighting game if it isn’t accessible? Furthermore, what good is a fighting game if it doesn’t offer you the ability to grow and adapt?
Thankfully, Pokkén achieves both of these feats with flying colours. While a quick romp through the training mode is pretty much compulsory for all new players, any casual fan who isn’t particularly great at memorising and executing long combo moves will find themselves at home with Pokkén as they’ll find simple combo moves are straighfoward. Not alienating new players will help keep this game active for years to come.
Anyone looking to enter tournaments, or play competitively will also find solace in Pokkén. In addition to being accessible for newer players, veteran fighting game fans will find a huge array of different ways to mix the game up. For instance, the different stances offered between Phase Shifting will open up the player to far more options at effectively attacking your opponent than novice players will understand.
The Phase Shift is a gameplay mechanic that swaps your gameplay perspective, either from 2D to 3D, or vice versa. The 2D perspective plays more like a traditional fighting game, across a horizontal plane, while the 3D perspective is more akin to an actual Pokémon battle. Phase shifting occurs as a result of just playing the game. Unleashing a devastating combo attack, or just hitting your opponent with a well timed projectile can trigger the phase shift.
While it may be off-putting to some at first, it’s a welcomed attempt at switching up the standard way of playing fighting games, and in my estimation will be the defining gameplay mechanic of Pokkén should it receive any future sequels.
My Town is a “hub”. And by hub, I mean a set of menus in which you go to customise various attributes. You have a licence with your player nickname, as well as an icon and a motto (“Show Me Your Moves” is one of them, a cool nod to Captain Falcon). Some appear to be unlocked exclusively with Amiibo Figures. These are almost identical to the kinds of licenses you’d find in a Street Fighter 4 or Marvel vs. Capcom 3 game.
Beyond your license, you can customise your avatar with all sorts of different clothes, hairstyles, skin tones and various other appendages. In order to unlock said appendages you use in-game money, which you earn from playing matches.
There’s also a level-up system. You earn XP just by using your favourite characters, and upon levelling up these characters, you can assign your earnings to different aspects of the playable characters. You are able to redistribute these points accordingly in your My Town Hub.
The Ferrum League is Pokkén’s attempt at a story mode. It is essentially an arcade mode disguised as a Pokémon Tournament. There’s not a whole lot to it. It’s essentially broken down into 4 separate leagues, and your job is to grind away, match after match against CPU opponents until you are in the top 8 contenders. When you reach this stage, you’ll be able to enter a knockout style tournament to progress into the next tournament. As I previously stated, it’s a grind fest and one of the game’s weakest components by far. One of the most aggravating things about this mode stems from the limited character roster. You’re pitted against the same few characters again and again, making an already monotonous mode even less exciting.
If you were to order the assets of a fighting game that the majority of fans care about, then mechanics and characters would be neck and neck for that coveted number one spot. Trailing behind in third would be stage selection. And while you won’t find as many stages in this game as you will in a Super Smash Bros game, you do have a pretty healthy selection of diverse environments to
pick from. Aesthetically, you’ve got stages that vary from domains such as haunted houses, to more traditional settings such as true battle arenas (ones that you’d find in Pokémon Leagues).
Beyond the aesthetics, stages offer different sized and different shaped battle areas. At first glance it didn’t appear to me as if this would be a factor in how matches would play out, but it had a stronger impact than I initially thought, particularly for zoning or projectile oriented players.
The Synergy Gage is a super meter that steadily fills up in the middle of your battles. When it reaches maximum you are able to unleash your character’s special ability. For some, this means they Mega Evolve. For those characters who don’t have Mega Evolved forms (such as Pikachu and Machamp), they still get similar power ups, but they obviously don’t evolve. While in effect, your character becomes more impervious to attacks, and you are able to deal greater damage than usual. Think of it as being Pokkén’s answer to Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s X-Factor.
Additionally, while in this mode, you are able to unleash a single very powerful attack akin to a Hyper, or a Final Smash from Street Fighter or Smash Bros. respectively. But be careful, if you miss with your attack, you’ve missed your until you fill your Synergy Gage next time (though you still keep your enhances until the meter runs out).
In addition to the roster of playable Pokémon, you are also treated to an array of additional Pokémon, though not playable, these Pokémon are able to support you in your battles. If you’re familiar with Marvel vs. Capcom 1’s partner system, Pokkén’s support Pokémon system is almost identical. Though instead of limiting the number of uses with a finite number, you are limited instead by a charge meter. Support Pokémon are packaged together in sets of two. You select your duo prior to the battle, and are able to swap between the two in between rounds, which adds an air of unpredictability towards your opponents. Support Pokémon effect the battles in many varied ways. Some, like Lapras use physical attacks. However some, like Sylveon can slightly heal your character (there are also other status/effect changes).
Beyond fighting game fanatics, Pokkén will also have a lot of die-hard Pokefans flocking to play it. Thankfully, Pokkén fits both molds. Pokémon fans will be happy to know that the characters feel like they’ve been genuinely plucked from the main series Pokémon games.
Moreover, you’ll find many references to not only the main Pokémon games (the character’s move sets are brimming with moves found in the games), but also to Tekken. Moreover, the world is an accurate portrayal of the world of Pokémon, with many NPC characters cameo’d in the background of stages. While it has a very unique art style, it feels simultaneously natural and memorable. It doesn’t
depart from the overall look and quality that you’d expect from the Capsule Monsters we all know and love. I think my favourite thing about this game, as both a
fighting game fan, and a Pokémon fan; is that it feels like we’re getting the chance to play out Pokémon battles with more depth and complexity than ever before.
It’s sometimes easy to take for granted how much effort it takes to make spinoff games such as these to feel like they’re accurately portraying the source material.
Online has become increasingly more important over the past few years, and Nintendo has been progressively excelling at the online offerings of their recent titles. For example, if
you were to compare Super Smash Bros. Brawl to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U in this regard, there’s virtually no comparison.
Pokkén is no different. Nintendo have taken another stride in providing its consumer base with a functionally great online system. I’ve personally experienced practically no lag, and have had no issues in finding people to play with. LAN play is fairly simple, and playing online with friends is about the best we’ve ever seen (again, for Nintendo).
However, the match making system itself is unfair. As a rookie, with only 1 match under my belt online (on my first day of owning the game), I was pitted against a person with an 80% success rate, and over 100 matches played…This could be a problem for casual players who are just looking to have some fun online with strangers (wow, that sounds weird out of context).
|+Diverse Cast of Characters||-Poor Story Mode|
|+Stunning visuals||-Barebones in content|
|+Compelling Mechanics||-Unfair Matchmaking System|
|+Accurate portrayal of Source Material|
What do you think of Pokkén Tournament? Are you going to sit this one out? Let us know in the comments below.