You gotta fight for your right to Poké
Pokemon has built itself up to be quite the brand. Gamers know well of the monster-battling, collecting, and trading of the series's mainline games. However, that's always been turn-based. We haven't had a full-fledged fighter that pits Pokemon against Pokemon unless you have a Pokemon-themed match in Super Smash Bros. Regardless, the development body behind the immensely popular Tekken series and The Pokemon Company have teamed up together to present Pokken Tournament, a 3D fighter with plenty of depth to bring to fans of both Pokemon and fighting games. Though lacking in combatants and slightly less in overall content, this fighter is definitely worth checking out.
Right away, the biggest complaint I have towards Pokken Tournament is that with over 700 Pokemon to choose from, really only a few dozen are truly spotlighted, whether they be playable combatants or utilized in a support fashion. Obviously asking for all 700 or so Pokemon to be featured in the game would be a herculean and quite impossible task, but still, when you have 700 Pokemon to choose from, and your roster has two Pikachus and two Mewtwos (though with different costumes and move sets), you're not really using the amount of available Pokemon to the best of your ability. Still, each Pokemon that is playable in the game has their own feel to them in both controls and the types of moves they can unleash on opponents. This is terrific, as you definitely need to get used to and learn each character if you want to succeed in battle.
|Ka-me-ha-me-- wait. Wrong source material.|
|Use a support Pokemon like Snivy to possibly turn a losing battle into a winning one.|
Pokken Tournament features a two phase battle system that frequently changes when you or your opponent connect with a devastating attack or combo. At the start of battle, the perspective is in a full view, allowing 360 degree movement. When a certain attack is made, that view changes to a side one, essentially emulating a 2D fighter, putting you and your opponent on the same plane. For this reason, two players battles locally are done with one player using one of the compatible controllers for the game (the specifically-made-for-Pokken Horii controller, the Wii U Pro Controller, the Wii Classic Controller, the Wii Remote by its lonesome, and the Wii Remote + Nunchuk) and using the TV screen for their perspective on the battle while the other uses the Wii U GamePad and its screen to see their side of the combat zone.
As the best two-out-of-three battles rage on, your Pokemon's Synergy Gauge gathers power. When full, you can press both shoulder buttons in to become considerably faster and more powerful for a limited amount of time. While in this souped up form, you can perform a Synergy Burst that is a move that if it connects, it unleashes a massive blow or series of blows to your opponent's HP.
|Blaziken's exerting so much heat with his Synergy Burst that I'm surprised the snow hasn't completely evaporated.|
|Meet my Pokemon trainer, Phil Gotem. Ash Ketchum, eat your heart out.|
|The combat in Pokken Tournament is highly satisfying and full of depth.|
When the single player content isn't enough for you (I didn't even mention the super helpful training dojo, which teaches you the ins and outs of battle and helps you piece together destructive combos), there's always the online that allows you to partake in either friendly or ranked matches against players across the globe. While there's a total lack of a party system, ability to chat, or spectator mode, the actual netcode is nearly flawless, offering a smooth experience in nearly every match I played. Only on one occasion did the frame-rate stutter, which is mighty impressive.
|My Gengar doesn't seem to stand a ghost of a chance against the AI's Chandelure.|
|Go get 'em, Phil Gotem! Make that Machamp eat wall!|
As someone who is a casual fighting game fan, I found a lot to enjoy with Pokken Tournament, even long after I had completed the single player. With so many titles to unlock, Pokemon to learn the intricacies of and level up, and online battles to partake in, I see myself playing Pokken Tournament for a long time. It definitely feels like the type of fighter that a professional team who knows the genre well would make, and the lovely attention to detail shows that this same team is enamored by the source material and respects it. Pokken Tournament gets a hearty recommendation from yours truly. It's a game that despite lacking in overall combatants, offers something for the professional fighting game fan to the novice, and everyone in between.
[SPC Says: B+]