Pokken Tournament DX Review (Switch)

Pokken Tournament DX is the most recent Wii U release to get the deluxe treatment on Switch. Much like Mario Kart 8 before it Nintendo is calling this the definitive edition of the game. I missed the game the first time around and I’m pretty new to the Pokken scene.  For someone just getting into the series I found this to be a really fun and interesting fighting game to play.

Switch_PokkenTournamentDX_gameplay_01For those of you that don’t know what Pokken Tournament is it’s a three dimensional fighter ala Tekken, and developed by the same company, Bandai Namco. Each fight consists of one of two different phases. You’ll begin the fight in confined arenas where you can move freely around during what is called the field phase. Should you do enough damage or use strong enough attacks against your opponent the phase will switch to the duel phase. This changes the camera angle to a more traditional 2D plane where you can really get up close and personal with rival Pokemon. Managing these phases will be crucial to succeeded as some Pokemon do better in the field phase where they have room to move and use ranged attacks while others will do better in the duel phase where they can utilize powerful melee attacks, grabs, and throws.

The roster consists of 21 main fighters, 16 of which were available in the Wii U version of the game, four arcade exclusive Pokemon (Croagunk, Empoleon, Darkrai, and Scizor), as well as one new Pokemon, Decidueye (introduced in Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon). The smaller roster size means that each Pokemon really feels and plays different from each other. Croagunk is very fast and agile, while a Pokemon like Charizard will lumber around the arena but can dish out and take large amounts of damage. No two characters play like another so learning each Pokemon’s strengths and weaknesses will give you a chance to find a character that really works for you.

Switch_PokkenTournamentDX_gameplay_02The single player campaign feels pretty good. You, as the trainer, enter a series of fights in an attempt to work your way up the ranks and eventually fight the league’s champion, take a test and move on to the next league. The main difference between these leagues is the name of the league itself and the difficulty level. Each league works the same way. You play a sort of round robin series of fights against opponents. The more fights you win the further up in rank you go. If you do well enough to make it into the top eight you fight in a tournament that, should you win you may take a test and advance on to the next league and more difficult fights. While the difficulty in the game increases as you progress I did find that the same basic strategies worked no matter which league I was in.

Where the game really shines in in fighting against other human controlled opponents and there are a few ways to do that. The first is local battles via the TV. Having a group of people sitting around the TV battling each other is a lot of fun. I spent an afternoon during my time with the game with three other people sitting in the living room. When one person lost a match they handed the controller off to the next person. It was fun to see who could get on a win streak and try to figure out which person might bring them down next.

You have two different ways to do this on the TV. You can fight in a traditional split screen where each person get a view of the fight from over their shoulder. This splits the screen in half and can sometimes make it hard to see. In this game there is also a single screen version where one person is closer to the screen and the other further away, similar to tennis style sports games. At first you might think this would be a disadvantage for one person, but over many hours of play I found this was really the best way to play the game as you get the best view and even if you’re the “far” character you still can move and react to what’s happening on screen with no problem.

Switch_PokkenTournamentDX_gameplay_05The control scheme for the game means whether you’re playing locally on the TV or just using the system in tabletop mode you can just hand a Joy-con to a friend and fight. Each character has a basic attack, a heavy attack and then a special attack along with a jump button. Pressing two buttons together will allow you to grab opponents to try and throw them around the arena. A meter called your Synergy Burst meter will fill up as you fight. Activating this when full will allow you to transform your Pokemon into a stronger version of themselves and even do some insane combos. These combos are flashy and over the top and a lot of fun to see when you can pull them off. You also have assist Pokemon that you choose before a battle. When you have enough of your assist meter full you can activate them. These assist characters can attack your opponent, defend you against attacks or even buff your character.

Going online will allow you to try out your skills against other players around the world. I found this mode to work very nicely. Getting into matches was smooth. It matched me with players of similar skill ability pretty quickly. If it takes some time to find an opponent you’ll go into an offline match where you can fight against computer opponents while you wait. Should a human opponent be found your offline match will be interrupted and you’ll go straight into the fight online.

Switch_PokkenTournamentDX_gameplay_06New modes mean there are new things to try out if you’re a veteran player from the Wii U. 3 on 3 battles really start to give you the feeling that you’re a real Pokemon trainer and begins to feel closer to how the mainline Pokemon games could feel. You can’t swap them out mid battle, but picking a good team that complements each other can give you an edge against other players. It also makes the fights feel very different from the one on one matches you’ll typically be playing in. There are also Daily Challenges that you can take on to earn coins to customize your avatar and level up your Pokemon. They ask you to do different things every day and can help force you into choosing Pokemon you might not be comfortable with in order to better learn the full roster of fighters.

If you played the game on Wii U there might not be enough to convince you to come back for more. The changes to the camera, new modes, and additions to the roster might, but the overall game itself hasn’t changed much from when it was released on Wii U. If you’re new to the series, interested in seeing what 3D Pokemon battles can be like, or just want something different from a more traditional 2D fighter this could be a game that gets you interested in another style of fighting game. The single player campaign might not take you very long to complete, but there are many more things here that can keep your interest. The portable nature of the Switch makes it an ideal game to own if you often get together with friends, the online play will keep you interested for a long time. There is a lot of replay value here and the game really feels right at home on the Switch.

Four Star

Review copy of the game provided by Nintendo.
Played through the single player campaign, numerous local and online fights.

Total Play time: 20 hours

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