Developed by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Published by: Nintendo
When Pokken Tournament was originally released on the Wii U, I always regarded as a waste of my money. While the game wasn’t terrible by any means, I only played it like maybe three times before letting it rot away on a shelf, and then eventually selling it for some sweet chinga-ching-ching. So, when I heard that Nintendo would be bringing Pokken over to the Switch, I, like pretty much everyone else, had no interest in picking it up whatsoever. However, at some point, Nintendo decided to release a downloadable demo on the eShop of the game for people to try out, which was admittedly a great move on their part. I took the bait and decided to try it out for myself and see if it would be as underwhelming as I remembered, or if maybe I would have a better experience with it. Turns out, it was the latter. There’s just something about the Switch Pro Controller that just makes any game work, and this demo was no exception. So here I am now, getting the game on release and wanting more than anything to give this game another chance.
Pokken Tournament DX, as the name suggests, is an updated version of the Wii U title, having six more playable Pokemon, including Empoleon, Scizor and Decidueye (one being exclusive to the Switch version) to name a few, as well as a slight increase in content, overall. Being a fighting game, the amount of playable Pokemon is actually kind of low, which while it is totally understandable, just…I don’t know, confuses me. There are well over 700 Pokemon in the universe now and yet in this region, there are only 22 Pokemon you can play as? It’s strange, really, especially since two of the playable Pokemon are literally just re-skins of other Pokemon, but with a different move set. Those Pokemon being Shadow Mewtwo and Pikachu Libre.
I can give Shadow Mewtwo a pass simply because it was originally a boss Pokemon only and in the Wii U version, you had to go through special circumstances just to be able to play as it. Here, it’s just simplified to just being in the roster and can be played as whenever. Which is whatever to me. Pikachu Libre, on the other hand, just seems like a waste of space. I know people are a little touchy about this subject especially when it comes Nintendo’s other popular fighting game, Super Smash Bros., but in the case of Pokemon, there are HUNDREDS of other Pokemon that would be very suitable for this game, but they decided to just have two Pikachus, because why not? Eh.
As for the actual combat, Pokken uses a system called Phase Shift, which basically switches between two different planes, 2D and 3D. Field Phase is the 3D plane and it’s usually the phase that most players will start their matches. In Field Phase, players will control their Pokemon in a 3D plane and have access to ranged attacks as well as homing attacks. The objective in Field Phase is pretty much to switch over into the Duel Phase, as you can do a lot more damage in Duel Phase. However, in Field Phase, you can collect these Synergy Orbs which will raise your Synergy (which is basically like your ultimate, special, whatever you prefer to call it). In Duel Phase, the game pretty much becomes a typical 2D fighter…so basically, the game gets a lot more fun this way. When in Duel Phase, you have access to weak attacks to help form combos and heavy attacks to cause massive damage. You can also block to minimize damage or activate counter attacks to completely nullify damage and send it back to your opponent, but this doesn’t always work. Players also have an array of different Pokemon moves at their disposal depending which Pokemon they play. For example, Empoleon has moves such as Drill Peck that acts like an anti-air attack, or Ice Beam to attack opponents from a distance. Seeing some of these classic Pokemon moves utilized for a fighting game is neat.
Every Pokemon also feels pretty unique and different in their own way. No two Pokemon are alike. Once you win a battle, you earn Experience points for your Pokemon and whenever you get a level, you can increase a Pokemon’s stats such as it’s attack or defense. You also earn some money, which you can spend on accessories for your Avatar character. This can be something totally fly like a backwards cap or something completely silly like a round clown nose. The stupid possibilities are pretty much endless. Overall though, the controls are pretty simple, making the game easy to pick up and play.
As far as content goes, the bulk of the game is spent at the Ferrum League, which is basically like the story mode. The basic idea of the Ferrum League is to fight, fight, and yeah, fight. In League Matches, you start at the lowest rank and fight your way through five Pokemon in a row until you become in the top eight rank. Once you’re in the top eight, you compete in the League Tournament. In the tournament, it’s basically Dragon Ball Z style, meaning you’ll only be partaking in three matches total. Once you win the tournament, you square off against the League Leader and when you defeat one of them, you move on to the higher divisions. Rinse, rather, repeat.
You can also just participate in one-on-one matches if you feel like it. There are also certain missions you can do in the Ferrum League to unlock different collectibles and accessories that you can equip for your avatar. The Ferrum League also has a story element involving a different colored Mewtwo that shows up in between your progress. Not really much to say about it other than, “Oh hey, thanks for putting in something, I guess?” If anything, the Ferrum League is pretty much meant to ease you into the controls and teach you how to become the very best, like no one ever was. It’s good, mindless fun.
One of the newer modes introduced is the Daily Challenge. As the names suggests, you are given a challenge that you can do daily for extra skill points to distribute to your Pokemon. The only challenge they seem to give you is to play as a random Pokemon and win a certain number of matches. Because of that, it’s a good way for you to learn how to play as other Pokemon. It’s pretty much how I picked up Braixen. I had no interest in playing as that Pokemon until I did the Daily Challenge, so it’s good for that if nothing else. You can also play against your friends or strangers through a number of different ways. The game has a two player mode, where two people can play using one Switch console, a wireless mode, where two Switch users can connect and play with one another, and finally, the online multiplayer, where players can play anyone around the world.
Unfortunately, I don’t know any Switch users with the game and have no friends, so I don’t know exactly how the first two modes really work (forever alone). However, I have played online and it’s pretty decent and plays the way you would expect. You start up a lobby, wait for someone else to show, and boom. Let the fighting commence. You can also privatize your lobby through a code and let only certain other people join in, similar to Mario Kart 8. There is also a spectator mode where you can watch matches that have been saved throughout the world. There is also a way to search for specifics such as a certain Pokemon you want to see, so that’s pretty neat. And finally, you can do all sorts of things with the My Town option. You can pick what your main Pokemon to be used in the Ferrum League will be, you can distribute Skill Points earned, and buy all sorts of clothing for your avatar.
In all honesty, I think this game is mediocre. I mean, I greatly enjoy the gameplay, but it feels like the game just never gives you anything to do and whatever it does give you to do is just the same dribble you’ve seen and done billions of times before. I feel like the game really only shines if you have a good internet connection to play with people around the world, or if you have friends that would willingly play this with you. Again, I like the game, but it just gives you nothing to do. If you’re looking for a simple fighter to get into and play, then you might enjoy this, but I feel like once you’ve seen most of what the game has to give you, it gets old rather quickly. Maybe if Pokken went the route of something like ARMS where it would continuously get some sort of support, in the form of newer playable Pokemon or newer missions/modes to play, then this would be a pretty good game to own, but I don’t believe that is the case. What you see is what you get and I say just wait for a sale if you really want to play it.
Final Verdict: Wait for a Sale. Pokken Tournament DX is very fun and simple to get into, but offers very little in the way of content.