Gotta Fight ‘Em All.
In many a similar way to the exemplary port of the Wii U’s Mario Kart 8, wrapped up in a complimented version as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the Nintendo’s new hardware hotness has once more been handed a AAA re-definition, and the very first from the Pokemon/Pocket Monsters franchise. In what was already a unique, addictive and easy-to-approach title, Pokken Tournament DX expands on the initial vision of bringing the anime-driven battle sequences to life, with worthy additions to the character roster, new modes for both solo and multiplayer flavours, and an overhauled replay system to boot. While the daunting flurry of battle mechanics are still present, Pokken Tournament DX hits hard as a fun and addictive hybrid fighter outside of the mainline Pokemon series.
For the uninitiated, the premise behind Pokken Tournament DX is quite simple from the forefront – pick a Pokemon character, and battle through a one-on-one, fight ‘til you faint to take victory. The unique spotlight behind Pokken is found precisely in its title – Pokken Tournament DX is an amalgamation of two fighting forces from Bandai Namco and The Pokemon Company: the legendary long-standing series in Tekken, and the cult-classic franchise in Pokemon. While many a page are taken from the battling mechanic book stashed away in the Tekken library, the Pokken Tournament titles evidently take influence from classic titles in the Street Fighter series and even remind me occasionally of my playing experience with Gundam-style fighters.
With a battle-fighter hybrid at the onset, the Ferrum League presents itself as the main solo adventure in Pokken Tournament DX, giving you a slew of rankings and leagues to battle through on your way to the very top. Before your first trainer encounter, though, you’ll be placed into an introductory tutorial, where the many mechanics and techniques are explained. One of the key mechanics of Pokken Tournament DX is the multi-phase mechanic, whereby the battle can switch between two separate phases -the Field Phase, which plots your character in an arena battler stance, with space to position yourself offensively or defensively, and the Duel Phase, which flips the battle into a two-dimensional dance to the death. While the tutorial is extremely thorough and demonstrates the techniques and moves within each phase, some techniques are not given an interactive demonstration. This left me struggling to keep afloat with the barrage of demonstrations at times, and I simply had to revisit some of the more advanced techniques to implement it into my battles. While the tutorials are incredibly detailed, more interactivity and practical challenges in the Tutorial Mode may have handled the steep initial learning curve a little easier.
Putting your foot forward first in the Green League with ambition to reach the Iron League, you’ll fight your way through a slew of ambitious AI trainers to test your skills. While you’ll need to combine a vicious combo of attacks to ‘be the very best, like no one ever was’, making consistent use of Pokken Tournament DX’s Synergy Burst and Support Pokemon mechanics will make your path to greatness a reality. With the introduction of fan-favourite Pokemon Litten and Popplio in this Switch-flavoured port, you’re given even more choices in your battle rollout. Synergy Burst quickly becomes the key to a win or loss in battle, with a simple L + R to enter Synergy mode, and a further trigger press to unleash your character’s special move. I found in almost every battle, my technique of hitting a quick combo followed by Shadow Mewtwo’s Synergy Burst move plummeted my opponents into oblivion and kept me with an undefeated battle record for some time.
Amongst your climb up the trainer ladder, Pokken Tournament DX introduces a Daily Challenge Mode, where you’re given a short burst of battles for extra reward and experience points. In my lengthy playthrough, I found myself visiting the Daily Challenge hub as my first stop before anything else for couch sessions, or leaving it just before power-off on my car trips, as the battles are perfectly compressed into a two to three-minute session per day. It’s a nice addition, and definitely a reason to revisit your trainer hub routinely.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Multiplayer and Online features weren’t available for testing. However, we’d like to note the new additions that arrive in Pokken Tournament DX, including local and online private group matches, as well as a new Replay Theatre to review every Multiplayer battle, move-by-move. We look forward to testing these features upon release on September 22.
Graphics and Sound
While Pokken Tournament DX doesn’t shine quite as well as its triple-A Switch port counterpart Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Bandai Namco’s reinvigorated Poke-Fighter scales incredibly well in both Docked and Handheld modes on the Nintendo Switch. Despite scaling to 720p in both modes, Pokken Tournament DX runs at a cool 60 frames per second across each play style (30 frames per second in local split-screen), which is critical in any competitive fighting title. Character models are scarily present on screen, and Synergy Burst moves are gargantuan. As a common sceptic from a visual perspective on ported titles, Pokken Tournament DX really does appear just as clean in Handheld mode on the Switch as it once did on a full-size screen on the Wii U, which is compliments to Bandai Namco on their ported title.
The scenes and sounds of Pokken Tournament DX mould great atmosphere in every battle you partake in, and instinctively create build-up to special moves and struggles amidst the action. At the end of a 1st or tied battle, cheering and jeers from your support give you the sense of a comeback on either side of the tape, and keep the pressure on your every fight. Voice acting is aplenty in Pokken Tournament DX, with narration throughout battles and the Ferrum League mode.
Appealing to both the uninitiated trainer and Pokken elite, Pokken Tournament DX presents an unchanged game core – and that’s okay. With a slew of minor improvements, character roster additions, a new Replay Theater, and a Daily Challenge mode to compliment its single player offering, Pokken Tournament DX is the definitive version of a still-young entry into the hybrid fighting genre. With great performance in both Docked and Handheld modes, and a mass-variety of Multiplayer options to compliment its portable hardware, Pokken Tournament DX might just jostle its way to the top of your lunchtime playlist.