Pokkén Tournament is the latest Wii U title to make the leap to the Switch – but is this DX edition of the underrated beat-em-up a knockout?
Pokkén Tournament was one of our essential Wii U games; a unique Pokémon beat-em-up from the creators of Tekken. It’s not a crossover though – it’s exclusively a Pokémon game that sees a select roster of creatures fight each other. This isn’t in the vein of traditional RPG non-contact battles though, it’s Pokémon fighting as they would in the “real world”. Released in the final year of the Wii U‘s short lifespan, the game was destined to be a niche hit at best – so Pokkén Tournament DX is a chance for the title to be the hit it sorely deserves to be.
First off, what’s new in Pokkén Tournament DX? There are five new additions to the roster of fighters – Croagunk, Empoleon, Darkrai and Scizor all appeared in the arcade version, but make their home console debut here. Decidueye on the other hand is completely new to all versions of the game. Litten and Popplio also pop up as assist characters, added from Pokémon Sun and Moon.
New fighters are all well and good, but probably the biggest change to Pokkén is that the game does a bit more to get you hands-on with the different characters – something sorely lacking from the original. Progression is still reliant on you picking one fighter and sticking with it to level up its stats, but the addition of daily challenges and league missions will get you experimenting with the full roster of characters.
Like the Wii U original, Pokkén Tournament DX is a mixed bag graphically. The creatures themselves look the best they ever have, with Bandai Namco opting to animate them as realistic as is feasibly possible when rendering a mouse that shoots electricity from its cheeks. Instead of the clean-cut lines of the anime series, the Pokémon have fur, feathers or…whatever a ghost is made from. They also have authentic battle cries, rather than the naff sound effects GameFreak insist on continuing to use in the core series. The backgrounds however look rather basic by comparison – the polygonal pop-up people and Pokémon cheering on the fight haven’t improved in this new version at all.
There’s also a loose attempt at a story mode – it’s fairly predictable fare and the majority is text-based, which is a shame given so much effort has gone into the visuals. The addition of more cut scenes would have been welcome given the brilliant character animations, but lest we forget this is a fighting game first and foremost – not a genre typically associated with a deep narrative.
Pokkén Tournament was always destined to struggle finding an audience. The Pokémon tag will likely dissuade hardcore beat-em-up fans, whilst the Tekken tag probably won’t have core Pokémon fans champing at the bit. In truth, Pokkén Tournament DX straddles the line between the two quite well, but probably errs more on the side of Pokémon fans, offering a fighting game without the plethora of combo moves that Tekken features.
Whether Pokkén Tournament DX‘s popularity will endure to the point where it attracts a gaming tournament following will likely depend on how much Bandai Namco plan on supporting the title with DLC. Given the huge number of potential fighters that could still be added and launching the game so early on in the Switch‘s life, Pokkén Tournament DX has the potential to become the benchmark beat-em-up for Nintendo‘s latest console.