Bandai Namco makes a Pokemon fighting game. It’s very effective!
When I saw the surprise reveal for the Pokkén, I didn’t really know what to think outside of, “wow, this thing is real?”
Sure, Pikachu has been a Smash combatant for years now but a roster of only Pokemon seemed like a bit of a stretch.
Still, I have long history with fighting games of all types, and have learned that I definitely shouldn’t write off any contenders until I’ve gone toe to toe with them.
In that spirit, I decided to fill out my Pokedex and see what Pokkén is all about, and came away thoroughly impressed.
Platform: Wii U
Multiplayer: Local and online multiplayer
Length: 10~ hours to finish the league mode but it’s a fighting game
The general flow of a typical Pokkén match goes something like this:
The battle begins in a “Field Phase” where both of the players are given full 3D movement in an enclosed space along with an automatic lock-on.
When a player lands a certain powerful attack, the perspective and movement shifts to a traditional 2D plane called the “Duel Phase”.
In this 2D phase, the action shifts to more combo oriented attacks, where the players can really pile on the damage.
After landing certain high-impact moves or a series of hits, the battle shifts back to the field phase once more.
Every Pokemon has a different set of moves based on which phase they’re in, and even though all of the moves are done with simple inputs like forward + y or down + b, there‘s a nice variety of moves available in every Pokemon’s arsenal.
The other core mechanic of the game revolves around a simple rock, paper, scissors foundation.
Counter attacks beat regular attacks, grabs beat counter attacks and regular attacks beat grabs.
This is constantly in play regardless of the phase, and becomes the core mechanic of the game.
There’s also the synergy meter, which doubles as a super form/move and a support Pokemon that can be summoned to provide a variety of effects, but everything felt intuitive and easy to implement in combat right away.
As for the modes of play, there’s a small story to unearth by playing through the league mode, but in reality there’s very little content in terms of actual plot there, and most of the players will find themselves grinding away in league mode for the unlockables more than to see how the story plays out.
Speaking of unlockables, there’s a plethora of cosmetic items to dress up the player’s avatar in, along with titles and other goodies to unlock through playing the game.
There are also two extra characters which can be earned by finishing the league mode, and although the roster isn’t particularly big, I found that all the characters felt quite unique in their style of play and for a first iteration of a fighter, it felt sufficient.
Contrary to the other big fighter that was released a month ago, Pokkén comes with a full feature of content in terms of fully flushed out tutorial and a challenge mode, which includes sample combos for every playable character.
It’s a great way to learn the various mechanics of the game and ease players into battling with their Pokemon of choice.
Local versus took the Wii-U’s gamepad into account by allowing both players to have the same view, with one player viewing the action on the gamepad and the other on the T.V. Given the importance of the perspective, it was a very nice touch indeed.
The online multiplayer mode works as advertised, with the netcode being quite solid as I barely noticed any lag during the dozens of playtest matches, but the mode lacked some staple functionalities like player lobbies and search options.
I certainly had my doubts about Pokkén when I booted it up for the first time, but it’s safe to say that it’s thoroughly won me over. The vibrant visuals with some spectacular animations, along with a combat system that’s deceptively deep but simple to grasp makes Pokkén easy to recommend to anyone, whether they be a fan of Pokemon or not.
Fun Tidbit – The super bosses in the league mode are suffering from a serious case of SNK Final Boss syndrome and I can just imagine some child trying to beat it hundreds of times and failing.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.