When it comes to fighting games, one of the developers that are well-known in that genre is Bandai Namco and it’s due to the increasing popularity of the Tekken franchise. Be it on arcades or consoles, Tekken has been that one franchise that many people all over the world play and love. To make things a little bit different, Bandai Namco did a little experiment and that’s to work with Nintendo to bring a new fighting game that features Pokemon. Implementing some of the features from the Tekken franchise, and using Pokemon as its characters, Pokken Tournament was created. When the game was first announced, I was ecstatic I have been looking forward to it for a very long time. Who wouldn’t want a real fighting game featuring some of the most iconic Pokemon as their characters? Unfortunately, after playing it for over a week, the game didn’t deliver as much as I’d hoped it did.
For fans that expected Pokken Tournament would have some sort of story, there’s really nothing extravagant to see in the game except for your character wanting to become the best trainer in the world. The moment you start the game, you arrive in the Ferrum Region where you are immediately briefed on the things you can do in town. First, you will have to create your own character. If you are looking for deep customization, you will be disappointed as there are only a few choices to choose from. As soon as you create your character, you will then choose your primary Pokemon partner. As soon as that’s all done, you’ll see three sections that will be of interest to you; the Ferrum League, Online/Local Battle, and the Single Player.
The Ferrum League in Pokken Tournament will let you fight several trainers and work your way up to the top. You start at the low ranking called Green League and the more trainers that you fight, the higher leagues that you can participate into. There are a total of four leagues available and when you reach the highest league, a legendary Pokemon that you can fight and join your roster await s- think of this final boss as a big showdown where your skills will be put to test. As for its Single Player mode, it’s for people who want to fight other CPU-controlled players with different modifiers. It’s quite interesting and challenging but it will grow on you when you play it for a prolonged period of time.
Out of the three sections that are available, my favorite is battling other trainers online. If you think that you know the mechanics too well, head to the Online Battle section for some intense ranked matches with other people all over the world. Getting into the match is quite easy. From what I’ve played, I’ve experienced no lag and it was quick to search for other players online. You pretty much are given several seconds to connect with someone, if the time expires, you will then fight a CPU controlled player. As soon as it finds someone for you to play with, a prompt will lead you to the match. While looking for online matches was painless, my gripe is that there are no lobbies. As for playing with friends, it’s possible if they’re on your friend list.
Regardless if you are playing online with friends, participating in the Ferrum League, or playing by yourself in the Single Battle, you will get experience points where the Pokemon that you are using can level up. Every time a Pokemon levels up, you are given a skill point that you can distribute to make them more competitive in battle. Of course, the higher level they are, the more stronger they get, thus easing through matches will be quite faster. In addition to the experience points, you will also unlock several things as you go along the way like titles, and costumes for your character. Or if you have a Pokemon Amiibo, you can use them to unlock more stuff.
As far as the playable characters go, I am saddened that there are only sixteen Pokemon in the entire game. For a series that has over 700+ Pokemon, I was expecting that Pokken will have a decent amount of characters that you can use. While it is really disappointing, the good thing about it is that these Pokemon have cool attack combos that you can use. The majority of them are quite flashy, especially when they are using their signature moves when the Synergy meter is full. Compared to other fighting games that have deep mechanics, Pokken has them as you will really have to learn their moves and incorporate them well in battle. It’s not simply about smashing buttons but more about learning their moves to win fights. Hopefully your favorite Pokemon makes it on the list, as mine made it – yay for Gengar!
The list of playable Pokemon have their own uniqueness in battle and play style. Take Gengar for example where he primarily focuses on teleporation attacks that can easily go through in and out of the battlefield while other Pokemon like Suicine primarily focuses on ranged attacks. While it’s quite disappointing that there only a few Pokemon that you can use in battle, it’s somewhat understandable for Bandai Namco to do that as they want to make sure that the playable Pokemon are varied and will have their own unique play styles.
There’s something quite unique in how the fights work in Pokken Tournament and that’s through the two phases that you will undergo in each round. At the start of the fight, you will be in “Field Phase” where you can roam around a circular battlefield. After hitting certain buttons or executing a particular combo, it will change to “Duel Phase” where the 3D turns into 2D and you will have to move only from one left to right – think of this as a the regular fighting game you play. Throughout the match, the phases will be switched multiple times. When this happens, there are certain attacks that can be done in each phase, so it’s best to practice with your Pokemon first in the Training Mode section of the game. Whenever you are in “Duel Phase”, it’s more fast-paced and it allows you to deal more devastating attacks, especially the Synergy Moves – a special attack that you can use when the Synergy Bar fills up. At first, it’s hard to get used to but after spending time on it, you’ll get used to it.
Visually, Pokken Tournament looks beautiful, especially it’s the first Pokemon game in HD. The Pokemon that are in the game are well drawn and they all pop up wonderfully when it comes to battle. If there are things that I like about Pokken visuals is that the synergy moves are flashy with a lot of special visual effects.
Pokken Tournament does a great job of bringing the classic RPG to the fighting game genre. However, it still has a lot of room to improve. Not only is there hardly any story, the character roster is missing a number of notable Pokemon. This makes for a somewhat underwhelming experience, especially if you take into account the real lack of content. Needless to say, that’s a real shame, especially since Pokken Tournament is in no way a bad fighting game. It has the depth you’d expect from Tekken and does a wonderful job of bringing the Pokemon to life, but its hard to ignore the missed opportunities. So if you want a solid fighting game, Pokken Tournament is certainly that, though if you’re hoping for a fighting game that brings the Pokemon experience to life, you’re going to be disappointed.
[Editor’s Note:Pokken Tournament was reviewed on Wii U platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Pokken Tournament Review,