The Pokémon series is always one that I have admired but never dove into. I’ve tried countless times to play the core games, but after a few hours of grinding, and minimal story, I usually give up. Still, I love the character designs and do have my own favorite Pokémon (Ninetails being number one of course). When Pokkén Tournament first came out on the Wii U, I was intrigued by the concept; a Pokémon fighter made by the Tekken team sounds good to me. Sadly, the game came out at the tail end of the Wii U’s life, and didn’t leave much of an impact. Thankfully, it has been ported over to the Switch and here’s hoping Pokkén Tournament DX has a lengthier life span.
At the core of the game, you’re a trainer that is in charge of one of 21 Pokémon, with 30 supporting Pokemon, and you do battle against other trainers and their Pokémon. The game contains all of the original Pokémon that were in the Wii U release, as well as the four additional Pokémon that came out in the arcades in Japan, plus one new Pokémon from Sun and Moon; Decidueye. The game runs at a silky-smooth 60 frames per second, and the combat is indeed fast and furious. You can easily get by button mashing in this game, against the weak computer AI; however, when you face against real people online, it won’t hack it.
Pokkén Tournament DX utilizes a pretty solid combat system, that breaks down into a combat triangle of sorts. First off, you have your basic attacks, then you have counterattacks, and finally, you have grabs. The triangle works as follows; punches can beat grabs, grabs can beat counterattacks, and counterattacks beat attacks. It’s very simple as it has a rock-paper-scissors system, but it takes some time to really nail down the timings, but it is doable. I’ve been playing fighters for quite a while, just casually, but I was able to pick up on it and hold my own online after a few battles. The characters also have a decent amount of attacks, special moves, and combos that can be chained together. At first, I thought that the game would be light on combos, but after playing for a while, I really started to branch out and get some serious combos going. If you really want to get into the meat of it as well, there are cancels, guard breaks and other more advanced techniques. It will definitely take some time to truly master Pokken Tournament DX, that is for sure.
The other thing that makes Pokken Tournament DX stand out from traditional fighters is the two fighting modes that fighters take place on. The rounds initially start in the “Field Phase” like Arms or Power Stone, in which your Pokemon can run around and fire projectile attacks at each other. After a number of successful hits are landed, you enter “Duel Phase”, which is a more traditional 2D fighter view. It took a little bit to get used to the movement during Field Phase, and how the camera can spin around when your Pokémon are criss-crossing, but in general it isn’t too bothersome.
The graphics overall in the game are pretty solid, with crisp colors on all Pokémon fighters and the thirty supporting Pokemon. The character models look great, and it’s always fantastic to see Lucha Pikachu slamming down on a Mewtwo. There is quite a variety in the different arenas, showcasing different locales from the Pokémon universe. The levels generally look good, but the backgrounds can sometimes seem a little sparse, but I guess you aren’t going to be paying too much attention to what is going on in the background in the heat of a battle. The soundtrack as well is pretty solid, with a number of familiar tracks, and tunes that will get stuck in your head long after you are done playing.
There are quite a few different modes in the game, that offer a variety of ways to play the game, either solo or with friends locally or online. There is a league quest mode, which has a bit of a story, but it’s basically a way of introducing you to the game and getting comfortable with it, as the difficulty isn’t too tough. One of the biggest modes is a new 3-on-3 mode, which plays out like King of Fighters. Each player takes a team of three Pokémon into battle. After one is knocked out, the player has to choose which of his two left he wants to put in. It helps add some complexity to battles, as you try and figure out the best counter to other Pokemon, or whether or not you want to save your best Pokémon for last or use it to even out the odds.
There are also a variety of local battle modes, where you can either use two Switches and play against each other, or use two JoyCons and play on the same screen. Here is where there is one of few drawbacks to this fantastic fighter. In the Wii U version, if you wanted to play two players, one player would play on the gamepad, and the other on the TV. On the Switch, you can play on the same screen, but the camera is positioned behind player 1 when in Field Mode. You can do split screen, but the game takes a noticeable dive down to 30 frames per second, and the screen gets scrunched even more to replicate the aspect ratio of the Switch screen. In short, just have the fighters on the same screen: split screen is terrible. There is also great online play, including ranked battles, and finding fights took no time at all.
One thing that I really enjoyed in Pokken Tournament DX were the in-game achievements, and unlockable titles. I’m a big fan of little goals or achievements to work towards, so it was fun to try and get 15 wins in a row, or getting one million credits. The big one I am currently working on is for 100 wins with Decidueye, and once I get that title, it will feel great, After that, I will challenge the next goal. The credits that you earn can be used to buy various clothing pieces and accessories for your avatar. Customizing your assistant is pretty hilarious, and some of the outfits, like the Christmas helper outfit, are just goofy, but add a little bit of charm to the game.
Pokken Tournament DX is a stellar fighter. The fighting itself is fantastic and responsive, and the character models look great. There are a lot of unlockables to work towards, and the various ways to play and even replay fights will keep you occupied for a long time. There are quite a few fighters already on the Switch, but this stands out as easily the most enjoyable of them. If you’re a fighting fan, a Pokémon fan, or both, then definitely check out Pokken Tournament DX.
A Nintendo Switch code of Pokken Tournament DX was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.