A Pokémon fighting game sounds like a brilliant idea on paper. Contract the team that works on Tekken to develop and it seems like a dream. Pokken was an interesting experiment when it launched on the Wii U. Not only because of the limited install base, but also because it was something that could potentially fall flat if not handled with care. The original game was met with positive feedback, but still lacked a player base. Now Switch owners can finally see what all the fuss was about.
Pokken Tournament DX contains everything that was found in the Wii U version, as well as all the characters from the arcade and one new one. None of them are locked from the beginning, which is always nice. There are also plenty of modes to choose from. The single player works in tournament fashion, ranking up and gaining access to new sets of fighters. Each Pokémon also leveled up as I used it, giving me access to points that increased various stats.
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
There are daily challenges to take on, local and online versus modes, and a bevy of customization items to unlock. This game is packed with stuff to do.
The fighting itself attempts to mix 3D and 2D styles with varying results. The free-roam fighting feels great. My biggest issue is that certain moves force players into the 2D plane, which feels both limited and unnecessary. If the game was entirely 3D I think it would work much better. Move sets change when switching planes, making the game more complicated than it needs to be. This is a Pokémon fighting game, simplicity is its biggest ally.
Pokken feels like a game ripe for DLC, yet the roster remains at just over 20 fighters. This seems decent in the context of a fighting game, but when it comes to Pokémon, it barely scratches the surface. I wish there were more. I also wish their elementals came into play more effectively. Instead the system relies on rock, paper, scissors mentality. Imagine diving deep into the RPG mechanics when setting up fights; now that sounds like a blast.
Moving the game to Switch has allowed for local play with the out-of-the-box system. Players can fight split screen with the two included Joycons. The big issue is that when the screen splits it is so cluttered things are hard to discern. Also playing in tablet mode just isn’t happening. Online is also present and worked fine before launch. My biggest concern will be player base as the game moves forward.
Pokken Tournament is a game that deserved a second chance. A Pokémon fighting game is still one of the best concepts out there. I wish it was more fleshed out, and perhaps a sequel will do just that, but DX marks yet another solid first-party title to add to the Switch’s already stellar year one of games.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.