Pokemon spinoffs have always been a mixed bag of results.
Some have been smashing successes — Pokemon Snap and the Pokemon Stadium series — while others have been downright bad. I’m looking at you Hey You, Pikachu! Of course, that doesn’t stop Nintendo or The Pokemon Company from trying different things, and Pokken Tournament is one of those different things.
The concept is pretty simple: take the beloved Pokemon universe and transform it into a fighting game a la the Tekken — get it? — series.
The game features a roster of 16 Pokemon that represent the various generations of the series. There are classic favorites like Pikachu — even a Lucha Libre Pikachu! — and Gengar as well as new-school creatures like Braixen and Weavile. While a larger roster would’ve been nice to see, the offerings in Pokken Tournament provide players with more than enough matchups to enjoy. There are also 30 support Pokemon that are put in groups of two to help you with your battles.
[RELATED: Every character in Pokken Tournament]
Though many would expect a fighting game to be a simple pick up and play affair, Pokken Tournament’s deep control and fighting mechanics make that virtually impossible if you plan on having any sort of success. If you’ve never played a fighting game before, but want to jump into Pokken Tournament simply because you’re a fan of the series, you are going to want to spend as much time as possible in the game’s tutorial and training sections. And even if you consider yourself to be a skill fighting game player, you are probably going to want to spend time in the training area.
Still, even with the complex game mechanics, the game’s single player modes do a nice job of easing players into the think of things rather than just throwing them straight to the wolves, or Charizards in this case.
There are two main phases during battles, the field phase and duel phase. The field phase allows players to run around in any which way as well as perform both ranged and melee attacks. Duel phase, on the other hand, is more along the lines of your typical fighting game. These two phases are interchanged throughout a fight based on the moves pulled off by players. It’s a nice twist that helps separate Pokken Tournament from other fighting franchises.
The main single player mode isn’t a compelling story — I won’t spoil details of it here — but it’s still fun, especially knowing that the game takes some of the classic RPG elements of the series, like leveling up your Pokemon, and adds them to Pokken Tournament. The biggest plus to the single player content of the game is how it helps you learn more of the way the game works, and guides you towards mastering your craft.
Visually, the 3D models of the Pokemon look great and the various stages in the game look good. If anything, the look of the game just has me wanting a console version of the tradition Pokemon franchise even more than I already do.
The online options went live prior to the games release, and there were very few hiccups to deal with when searching for matches or playing them. It’s a nice thing to see, especially in a game where strong connections are key to success. If an opponent isn’t found within 10 seconds of your search, players are thrown into a small fight to practice while they wait. It’s a nice little touch that helps you get ready for the upcoming match.
Pokken Tournament is one of the few Pokemon spinoffs that just works. Whether your a fan of Pokemon games, fighting games or both, Pokken Tournament offers enough to get you started while also wanting to come back for more. The single player mode may be lacking in depth and a solid story, but the stable online experience and the unique feeling that each Pokemon offers in battle should entertain any player.
Pokken Tournament was reviewed on a pre-released digital version of the game supplied by Nintendo.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Nintendo