Pokken Tournament DX Review

Pokken Tournament DX Review

Developed by Bandai Namco Studios
Published by Nintendo of America
Reviewed on Switch

 

Pokken Tournament DX is the latest take on a Pokémon fighting game. Pokken Tournament was initially released in Japanese arcades in 2015 and on the Wii U in March 2016. A year and a half later, Pokken Tournament DX not only includes all of the latest arcade content, but it also introduces a few modes and tweaks that round out the experience. It has the honor of being the first Pokémon game on the Switch, and it makes an incredible splash that can cater to anyone remotely interested in fighting games or the Pokémon franchise.

Pokken Tournament DXPokken Tournament DX consists of one-on-one battles in which players move around the field and use multiple techniques to deplete the opponent’s health. The game deviates from fighting game norms in ways that suit the Pokémon series. Players’ choices cause battles to alternate between a free-roaming Field Phase and a sideways Duel Phase. In Field Phase, players freely move around in order to control space and out-maneuver the opponent. Moves can fly all over the field, which resembles the Pokémon series’ antics. Duel Phase more closely resembles the frenetic pacing of a two dimensional fighting game. Each Pokémon has different moves depending on the phase, which can initially be bewildering. However, the game’s inputs are accessible, and they consist of three attacks, a jump, a block, and a support Pokémon summon. Players can press a direction and a button to unleash a special move. Many moves are dramatic takes on established special attacks, and they are quite satisfying to use. Players can also use grabs, counter moves, and over-the-top Burst Attacks in order to overwhelm the opponent. Once players get the hang of their options, the flow of combat becomes incredibly dynamic and fun.

Pokken Tournament DXThe game impressively adds new modes in addition to the original Pokken Tournament’s solo campaign, online battles, and local play. Players can complete daily challenges that consist of a short set of battles with designated Pokémon and parameters. These daily challenges provide a reason to pick up and play the game every day, and it’s fun earning cosmetic extras and stat bonuses as well. The game also adds Team Battles that follow a familiar gauntlet-like flow. Each player picks a team of three Pokemon, chooses a starting Pokemon, and then tries to knock out the other team’s members in succession. These battles thematically resemble the main Pokémon series’ battles, which is a nice touch. The campaign involves multiple Leagues, but now each League has optional achievement-driven unlocks. By performing tasks such as using specific Pokémon and performing certain battle actions, players can uncover art panels and earn rewards. Players can still customize their profiles and avatars with even more options this time around. One of the most welcome additions is a robust replay system that automatically stores replays of recent matches, and players can also save their favorites.

Pokken Tournament DXPokken Tournament DX instantly provides a full roster of characters and stages, which easily allows anyone to get into the action. Whereas its predecessor forced players to play through the single player campaign to unlock playable Pokémon, support Pokémon, and stages, DX instantly allows players to experiment with everything. Compared to the Wii U version, DX has five new playable Pokémon, another Support set, and a new stage. The result is an astounding twenty-one playable Pokémon, sixteen pairs of support Pokémon, and twenty stages. Playing around with the diverse playable and support roster is certainly part of the fun, and the combinations and possibilities are endless. The new playable Pokémon each feel unique. Scizor’s Swords Dance stock system, Empoleon’s ice sliding, Croagunk’s status manipulation flow, Darkrai’s mode switching, and Decidueye’s flight all feel fresh and exciting. Each returning Pokémon also has minor tweaks and even new moves compared to their Pokken Tournament incarnations, and it can be entertaining to discover new tactics.

Pokken Tournament DXThe experience of playing Pokken Tournament on the Wii U felt slightly constrained. Two player games required someone to play on the Game Pad while the opponent used a controller and looked at the TV. These games were also limited to 30 frames per second with a reduced resolution, and the only way to attain 60 frames per second and the regular resolution was to play with another console in LAN play or online. Pokken Tournament DX eschews these limitations in multiple ways. Players can choose to play on a single display, which maintains 60 frames per second. Another choice is a split screen mode in which both players can utilize the standard “over the shoulder” perspective in Field Mode with a lower framerate.

Pokken Tournament DXThough the game’s setting on the ocean-locked Ferrum Region is fascinating and the campaign’s structure makes sense, but the plot and characterization are a bit on the shallow side. Players seek to become the champion in each of the Ferrum League’s divisions, but their journey is occasionally interrupted by a Shadow version of a particular legendary Pokémon. The use of Shadow Pokémon seems lifted right out of Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness from more than a decade ago, and it seems a little passé today. While having randomly generated opponents is interesting, their lack of personality can dampen players’ enthusiasm during the campaign. The supporting helper character is also similarly dull, and the voiced lines sound deadpan. These aspects are relatively inconsequential but they nonetheless feel strange.

Fortunately, Pokken Tournament DX is full of colorful charm, eye-catching visual flourishes, and satisfying tunes. Each battle stage has boundaries full of Pokémon cameos, playful decor, and vivid lighting. The style and visual design create a pleasing experience that’s unique in the fighting game genre. Each Burst Attack is a cinematic lightshow that really brings its respective Pokémon to life. The upbeat stage tracks utilize an eclectic mix of instruments that includes guitar riffs, synths, and violins. Each of the stages’ tracks feels quite distinct and always suits the action.

Pokken Tournament DXPokken Tournament DX is the most spectacular platform entrance that any Pokémon fan could hope for. Despite the slight learning curve and atypical fighting game mechanics, the game’s simple button scheme ensures that anyone can get into the action. The game truly does the Pokémon franchise justice, and it’s easy to recommend it to any Switch owner who wants to have a pick up and play fighting game on the go.

 

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Vincent Lai

Vincent Lai

I'm a gaming enthusiast who enjoys a variety of platforms! I also love wisps, rainbows, and gardens!

Graphics
16out of 5
Sound
14out of 5
Story
12out of 5
Gameplay
18out of 5

Overview

With its unique take on the fighting game genre and a full-fledged cast of characters, Pokken Tournament DX is a fantastic addition to the Switch library. Its tweaks and new additions create an engaging package that caters to players of all skill levels.

3.90

3.9 out of 5
Good

Tags assigned to this article:
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