Pokken Tournament is every nineties child’s dream come true. Its a beautiful looking fighting game with the undeniably addictive Pokemon as its foundation. The first of it’s kind, Pokken Tournament looks to accomplish what fans have been begging for. With the anticipation and hype at an insane height, was Pokken Tournament worth the wait?
As with all my reviews, I handle them in segments, and Pokken is no different. Firstly, we look at the graphics. From the start, Pokken is a beautiful game. The character models are crafted with heart and care, the stages look excellent, and the art style is unique. Pokemon are the most high definition they’ve ever been, and they look amazing. The lighting and general effects are spectacular. Huge special moves are accompanied with awesome light shows, and the animation is nearly perfect.
On the audio side, Pokken delivers soundly as well. The female support character can get annoying, but that’s about the only thing that doesn’t do well. Voice acting is solid when it’s not repetitive, and score is serviceable as well. It’s by no means amazing sound design, but it’s exactly what the game needs. The fights sound exciting and crazy, and all the attacks feel incredibly satisfying. There’s a real weight to heavy attacks and combos, and the effort put towards that is commendable.
With any fighting game, the majority of the focus is on the gameplay itself. The game is broken into several modes. You have a league ladder to climb and it also serves as a small story mode. There’s a character or two to unlock, and tons of stages and support Pokemon to collect. There’s basic exhibition fights, local multiplayer, as well as online ranked and social play. The online works exceptionally well, and I noticed no visible lag at all during my time with the game. The framework is laid down for an excellent fighting game here.
The gameplay is frantic yet strategic. You start off in an arena, and battle in a 3D plane. You face your opponent on the opposite side of the arena, and maintained locked onto them most of the time. After executing specific moves (or if enough damage is dealt) the gameplay completely changes. The camera pulls in, and you enter a 2D fighting plane. Controls between the two fighting styles are different, and the change takes some time to get use to. It seems confusing at first, but a few minutes spent in the tutorial will clear that up quick. In fact, once you understand what buttons to press, the fighting isn’t all that difficult. Moves are easy to execute, varied, and quickly accessible. Projectile, homing, light, and heavy attacks, all have their own assigned button. This way, switching between defensive and offensive play is quick and intuitive. Combos are easily achieved with the repeated press of a singular button, and counters are just as simple to pull off. Besides a standard health bar, you have an energy and synergy bar. When your energy bar is full, you can enter an ultra mode with a quick press of both triggers. Pressing the triggers again while in this mode will throw out a devastating attack. All this feels very satisfying and simple to pull off. When your synergy meter is full, you can press a bumper button to call upon various Pokemon to assist you in battle.
The roster is varied, but a little bit disappointing. There’s a great variety of actual Pokemon here, but the selections are questionable. There’s two different version of the mega-popular Pikachu, but fan favorites like Squirtle and Bulbasaur are nowhere to be found. Charizard helps represent the first generation, but most of the roster contains more recent additions to the Pokemon roster. All the characters are fun to play and completely different, but there could have been some changes to help with fan service. Exclusions of these aforementioned Pokemon are only made more annoying when characters like Chandlelure take up precious space. The roster is also slightly unbalanced, with Pokemon like Machamp, Suicune, and Gengar being slightly overpowered. However, most (if not all) Pokemon have a few very cheap and spam heavy moves.
In conclusion, Pokken Tournament has all the great workings for an excellent fighting game. The gameplay proves to be tons of fun, and content is plentiful. Unfortunately, the lack of a deep combo system and an unbalanced roster may impact longevity. Fighting games are most known for their large competitive communities, but games like Pokken Tournament often burn bright but fast. Unless there’s some serious patching done, Pokken Tournament probably doesn’t have the legs to last with the heavy hitters. We might see a few Pokken Tournaments in eSports, but I doubt that it will take off like Nintendo’s biggest fighting franchise, Super Smash Brothers. There’s a great amount of time and effort put into this game, and it’s noticeable. Pokken Tournament could have been potentially terrible, so the fact that it’s not immaculate is understandable. The game is tons of fun and you will most likely spend plenty of time with it, but don’t expect to see an active community in five years.