Pokkén Tournament was a game I really wanted to like on the Wii U, and despite putting several dozen hours into it, I can’t say it was everything I dreamed of from the concept alone. Now that it’s getting a second chance with more characters and features on the Switch, I’ve gotta admit that I’m ready to jump back into the arena. This year’s E3 let me do just that, and with the Joy-Con no less. Compared to the specifically designed Pokkén controllers, or even the Wii U GamePad, it’s a different tactile experience — one I was pleasantly surprised with. My time playing while using the Joy-Cons might have been just what I needed to push this from a “maybe” to a “must-have.”

While the core game hasn’t changed, the ability to take the game anywhere and pop the Joy-Cons off adds a sense of community and connection that mimics the world of Pokémon fairly well. Its reveal trailer went for this angle, and after having a few matches myself it wasn’t too far off. The Joy-Con’s lack of a D-pad for a game that was designed with one in mind is a bit concerning, but I didn’t run into any trouble with respect to playing as I remembered. While I didn’t pick up any of my old favorites to see how they felt with the new controller, the game was unmistakably Pokkén. This isn’t about to be the new competitive standard as far as control goes, but depending how mobile you are it may end up your most used means. Along for the ride are the post-launch Pokémon added to the arcade version: Darkrai, Scizor, Empoleon and Croagunk. They aren’t the only new faces though, as Gen VII’s getting a little love this time around, too.

As soon as I saw Decidueye’s design I knew was destined for great things. It’s the same kind of feeling that I had from Greninja’s reveal: I immediately felt that it’s a Pokémon people will want to see more of and that Pokémon trainers the world over would gravitate towards. Just as the ninja frog made his way to Smash, our archer owl has landed in the Nintendo Switch touchup of Pokkén Tournament and has brought along a few other Alolan touches to give fans something to get excited about. I managed to play as the Arrow Quill Pokémon for a few rounds at this year’s E3 and I can safely say that just as its design and abilities would leave you to believe, its addition is a real bullseye.

With the amount of time I had, I wasn’t able to go through its whole moveset, but seeing the final form of Rowlet in motion just felt right. It’s able to glide around the stage and its walking animation is nearly exactly what I envisioned. As for attacks, the star of the show are its signature archery skills, and its ability to kick up gusts of wind and strike with its wings and long legs was another standout feature. Litten and Popplio got a little love as well, making their way to the game as support Pokémon to be called on when ready.

An Alolan beachfront stage was also in the game, which had plenty of sights to behold in the background, like a Sandygast admiring a large-scale version of itself made by vacationers, or what looked to be a statue honoring Alolan Exeggutor. It more than earns its place alongside the rest of the stages in the game already and perfectly captures what makes Alola special.

Pokkén Tournament DX isn’t about to shake up the world or make you a believer if vanilla Pokkén rubbed you the wrong way. That said, if you felt that something was missing from the first release, or you just want another go at the title, then this game’s for you. With new ways to play and new Pokémon to use in battles, the familiar shiny and new feel again in the game, making this the perfect pickup for fighting fans and Pokémon lovers alike. Doubly so for those unafraid to take their systems on the go and make some new friends.

This isn’t about to take over the world like Pokémon GO did, but if there’s one thing we learned from the mobile phenomenon it’s that Pokémon fans and trainers are everywhere, and once your eyes meet, there’s only one thing left to do.

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Written by Ricky Berg

When he isn’t writing for Nintendo Wire, Ricky’s anticipating the next Kirby, Fire Emblem, or if the stars ever align, Mother 3 to be released. Till then he’ll have the warm comfort of Super Smash Bros. to keep him going.

Ricky Berg