Hands-on with Pokkén Tournament

Coincidentally, a majority of the cast happen to be furry favorites…

pokken cover

Hey guys, the Inverseman here with a quick look at one of Nintendo and Namco Bandai’s newest releases, Pokkén Tournament, a brand new fighting game featuring Pokémon!

Pokkén is one of those games everyone in the Pokémon fanbase wanted but didn’t think would actually happen. However, when the developers of Tekken expressed interest, the green light was given and we were on our way. Actually, this is a port of an arcade game, and it did well enough to have a home console edition. Now I understand most people’s trepidations already. Aren’t fighting games intended for the “hardcore audience”, so wouldn’t Nintendo or the Pokémon Company butt in to make it a casual game? Especially since half the game looks like a Naruto game. That’s where you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Lucario enters

Pokkén is truly unique fighter unlike anything else, and at the core of it is the phase change system; one phase of gameplay in a 3D environment that resembles the aforementioned Naruto games and a screenshot of the actual Pokémon RPGs, and one 2D phase resembling a traditional fighting game. In both modes, you’ll need a mastery of game mechanics, your individual Pokémon’s talents, and combos.

Mega Charizard X Ultra Combo

Yes, there is indeed depth in this game! While an auto-combo does exist for newer players to teeth on, the game opens up leaps and bounds when you understand its moves. Then there is the “attack triangle”, a Rock-Paper-Scissors with basic attacks, grabs, and a counterattack similar to the focus attack in Street Fighter IV. I was very pleased to learn my prior fighting game instincts helped me explore possible combos, pokes, mixups, and more. I was even more pleased to know how differently each Pokémon felt with the two phases to show case each one’s abilities.

Weavile reversal

In addition to the auto-combo, the game is still very accessible. Pokken eschews the traditional arcade stick for its own gamepad resembling a SNES controller. Normals and special moves are performed by holding a single direction and pressing a button with blocking assigned to the “R-button”; accommodating for the 3D battlefield and not-so-coincidentally resembling the inputs for Smash Bros. Colorful indicators tell players when their grabs are punished, attacks are countered, and so on, implicitly teaching new players. I could see friends of mine who never touched a “real fighting game” feel right at home knowing the controls were so similar.

Pikachu Libre flexes

In actuality, in spite of the casual friendly appeal, Pokkén gets quite complex. The simple controls betray an extremely wide array of attacks, all with different properties, and with two phases constantly changing you might be falling back on the auto-combo for your first few games. But that’s not all Pokémon have unique mechanics exclusive to them, there are a wide array of support Pokémon to assist you, your Burst Gauge applies additional effects, and even the stage you choose matters. There is actually a burden of knowledge, but you wouldn’t have expected it.

Shadow Mewtwo Appears!

If you’re a Pokémon fan, there is nothing but fanservice for you. For starters, the game looks and sounds beautiful. The Pokémon all have a gritty “realistic” look to them as if to say, “we got you covered, older Pokémon fans”. The game is a spectacle to watch. Attacks all “make sense” for each Pokémon and their unique abilities. Tekken fans will see some of their favorite fighters emulated in the Pokémon themselves. There’s also little details for the most devoted longtime fans. To name a few, in backgrounds you’ll see Ferrum teem with life such as a daycare center with a Gabite and Ditto with their trainer furtively biking up and down with his Volcarona in tow. The stage you fight Shadow Mewtwo is called Dark Colosseum Game Freak, I think Namco-Bandai and the fans want a third Colosseum game.

Gardevoir Bursts

Though not everything is perfect. For starters, the single-player campaign is very dry, a simple tournament setup with a very phoned-in storyline about Shadow Mewtwo. I got rather competent with my main, Gardevoir, but in spite of unique fighters, the small cast made things repetitive very quickly. I was counting down the battles till I had everything unlocked. There’s not much else to do after the campaign bar customize your avatar and hit multiplayer.

Pokken Braixen Bursts

Then there’s multiplayer where the transition from arcade to console was not clean. I haven’t gotten the chance to mess around with much online, and while I hear it’s rather decent, the LAN play has some issues. In LAN mode, one player is forced to use the Wii U Gamepad and the framerate drops from 60 to 30. It’s not crippling and the game still runs fine at 30 FPS, but you feel like you’re missing out. If you are lucky enough to have a friend with a Wii U, the game, a second Pokken controller, a generic LAN cable, and a second TV, you can hook two consoles together under a “tournament LAN mode” so both of you can play the game on the official controller with full 60 FPS. While tournament logistics would mean twice the consoles and monitors, I actually hope to try this mode soon for the “real experience”

Pikachu Electric God Fist

And that’s my look at Pokkén tournament. I’m only a few matches in with the game, and it’s easy to see it’s raw fanservice Pokémon fans and competitive gamers alike. In fact, the Pokémon Company wants to add Pokkén to their tournament lineup with the official games and the TCG with balance patches coming from Namco-Bandai to ensure a healthy competitive environment. If you’re not too bothered by 30FPS, albeit one that runs smoothly, or you have a fellow Pokéfan who also has the game and a second monitor on hand, I’d say grab your friends and have a good time. My group loved it, maybe yours will too. Join me next time when I find out that was not Falco.

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The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.


The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

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