As kids, we often hoped for a Pokémon game that would let us to play out the epic Pokémon battles that we saw in the anime. Now with Pokken Tournament DX, fans can finally live out that dream on the Nintendo Switch.
The original Pokken Tournament for Wii U was released on July 2015 to critical acclaim, rating highly among fans and critics. Pokken Tournament DX is the updated version of that game, bringing with it six new characters, new support Pokémon, new modes, and a much-needed replay feature that allows players to look back at matches so they can improve.
I wanna be the very best
Every great trainer had to start as a rookie.
The game’s mechanics, controls, and overall depth might be difficult for new players to pick up and play from the get-go.
Pokken Tournament DX’s shifting battlefield mechanic, called phases, switches between 2D and 3D fighting during matches. And it’s just one of the many features that can make the game tough for newcomers. This is something that Bandai tries to address when you load up the game for the first time by throwing you straight into the tutorial.
At the start of the game, players choose their partner from a bunch of iconic Pokémon from both early and current generations. The Pokémon can be switched at any time but serves as your main fighter to get you through the tutorial stage.
After learning the basics in the quick tutorial menu, the game advises players to focus on completing the game’s version of the story mode, the League.
The League can sometimes feel like a slow grind, with most of the first opponents being straightforward and easy to beat. It does, however, let new players get used to controls and learn combinations in their own time without feeling overwhelmed.
As players advance through the story mode, the difficulty begins to slowly increase, giving them do-or-die scenarios and risky situations. Enemies get significantly harder to beat the more a player climbs, and this gives a natural sense of progression that other fighting games don’t offer. A loss against a high-ranking opponent feels justified and you can watch the replay to see what you did, or more importantly, what they did to beat you, helping you to learn as you go.
In short, the campaign is a good-entry point for players and lets them learn everything they need to know at a pace that suits them, before jumping into the meat of the game—multiplayer.
Players can choose any of the 21 playable characters to face off against each other in one-on-one battles, or the game’s new three-on-three team battles over multiple stages.
Players also need to choose a support Pokémon before a fight.
These Pokémon give the player an extra ability during fights that can either attack opponents, act as a counter, a speed or power buff, or even heal the player for a chunk of damage.
When playing, a clutch heal sometimes gives just enough health to win fights. When being pushed in a corner, a counter Pokémon like electrode gave us breathing room to regain composure. Support Pokémon can sometimes be the difference between a victory or defeat—so choose wisely.
The phases combat system, which shifts the player into two different battlezones seamlessly during battle after completing a character specific move or dealing a lot of damage, requires a great deal of focus from the players—and a good sense of rhythm. Some Pokémon fight better in one of the two phases, so making every hit count and forcing your opponent to enter a phase that benefits you for the longest time possible is vital.
The competitive future
One-on-one battles are the standard fighting formula, but the new three-on-three formula introduced in this version of the game has the potential to be Pokken’s future competitive game mode.
Similar to King of Fighters, a fighting game made by SNK, players choose from three Pokémon each and arrange them in any order they want. The first two characters will face off against each other until they knock out their opponent.
That fighter then stays on to battle against the opponent’s next Pokémon, retaining any damage they took in their previous battle. The person who knocks out all three of their opponent’s Pokémon first wins.
The new mode adds a bit more strategic play, with players creating teams that could be used in different scenarios. It also creates a better viewing experience for the audience. A player could be down to their last Pokémon and end up reversing the situation, creating a great fighting game moment.
Pokken Tournament DX doesn’t add many new features over its previous installment, but is still a great game to join the Nintendo Switch library.
It’s a technical game that follows the typical fighting game formula of “easy to learn, hard to master” gameplay. There is plenty on offer for hardcore fighting game fans while also being accessible to newcomers. Pokken Tournament DX is a beautifully crafted game that is worthy of the investment for those that didn’t pick up the original.
Let’s just hope for more DLC down the line.
Disclosure: Our Nintendo Switch review copy of Pokken Tournament DX was provided courtesy of Nintendo.