Released in September 2017 for Nintendo Switch, “Pokken Tournament DX” was originally put out on a lesser known platform, the Wii U. Nintendo felt “Pokken” was lost in the commercial failure of Wii U. They decided to revamp the traditional fighting game for their newest console. I did not own a Wii U and cannot compare this installment to the original one, so this will look at the game as an individual entity.
Developed by Bandai Namco, the developers of “Dragon Ball Xenoverse” and “Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2” as well as a number of Naruto fighting games, “Pokken” plays like a traditional fighting game but a far reach from “Pokemon Colleseum” in the days of Nintendo 64.
“Pokken Tournament DX” is a fun one-on-one, traditional-style fighting game. The colors of each Pokemon and their moves are thick, vibrant and appear to come through the screen and into reality.
The battle stages are elegantly put together with a few paying homage to previous generations like Dragon’s Nest, Regi Ruins and Blue Dome to name a few of the 20 different battle locations available. They are majestic silhouettes to the action at hand but with that, the battle space is confined.
The fighters are restricted to a fighting area the same size as the average front yard. This confinement at times can restrict movement, abilities and worst of all, camera angles. In a game that relies so heavily on the characters and the player’s ability to see and work with them, “Pokken” has trouble keeping a consistent framing, which could potentially impact combat ability during a match.
When playing both tournaments and single-match fighting, not many people are able to play. While Nintendo and the Switch have had massive years, Switch is still not widely spread and neither is “Pokken Tournament DX.” It has the infrastructure and network allowing for online and wireless gaming, but there are not many people out there on the Switch or “Pokken” for that matter.
The plethora of combinations and moves combined with the different types of locations can keep the game fresh for a while, but when venturing out into some of the solo portions, there is a clear issue with its roster of Pokemon.
At just 20 playable Pokemon, there already feels like there is a letdown on the number of accessible characters. To go with each character is a support set of two Pokemon to use in battle but are not available for fighting. They are just support. While this is an interesting addition to the game, I would rather just have the Pokemon available to fight with.
The roster is small, but having Pokemon to choose from is not the worst thing, except for it is not entirely 20 Pokemon. Two of the 20 are renditions of Pokemon already in the game, including Shadow Mewtwo and Pikachu Libre. There really is not a need for two Pikachu. As adorable as the yellow electrified rodent may be, having a more diverse spectrum of fighters and recognizable characters would make for a more compelling contest.
The fight that this game is missing is Mewtwo vs. Mew, who is noticeably absent from a game. It would have provided a different approach to the fighting style and made for a more thought-based style of attack.
That being said, this game acknowledges some of the rare and starter Pokemon and splits the game into three groups: starter Pokemon, random and rare. In theory, this could have worked well, but in execution, there is too much of the same. It lacks the contrasting physical style of brooding heavyweights like Blastoise or Onix. It completely rejects starters from the Johto region and neglects starters from every region except Hoenn, all for the worse. Expanding the roster to 35 and including more starters and rare Pokemon with fewer randoms like a Chandelier Pokemon, would significantly increase interest in every matchup.
After the fifth time facing Garchomp in one round of the Ferrum League, fighting attains a tedious redundancy that is less prevalent in more compelling characters. Lugia vs. Raquayza is a matchup that we deserve in 2018.
Despite all of my complaints and the rushing of this game by Nintendo to have a Pokemon game on their console, it is enjoyable. It is not trying to set a new standard or attempting anything different than its predecessor. It is a fighting game with Pokemon that is just not worth what it cost. So find a friend who has it or wait until it hits a modest price point. Until then, it is a flawed design with good strokes and missteps that could be helped by an update.