Pokémon and fighting games were my bread and butter back during high school. Somehow that never led to me thinking the two should mix in any big way, and yet I’d go on to put plenty of hours into the Wii U version of Pokkén. I even managed to play it in Japanese arcades and Pokémon Centers and see it played at places like EVO and the Pokémon World Championships, adding a new layer of appreciation to a game that I thoroughly enjoyed. Now it’s made its way to the Nintendo Switch with a handful of new fighters and features to try and coax you into going another round. Nothing about the core experience and gameplay has been taken away, but the additions present are more of the same. It doesn’t push the envelope in any big ways (not that it ever claimed to), but I’m glad Pokkén’s found a new and more complete home on the Switch.

The battle is on

Anyone who missed out on the first go, Pokkén Tournament’s system revolves around two distinct battle phases. Field phase is played in a 3D space, emphasizing things like mobility and projectile attacks in order to close the gap between you and your opponent while you start dealing damage. After a particularly strong impact, the action will shift to Dual phase. This locks the camera and presents the game in a 2D space, where combos and mixups become the name of the game before eventually shifting again under the same parameters. All of this is supplemented by how distinct and unique the fighters are from each other, the presence of superpowered Burst states, and the ability to call on additional support Pokémon. Every part comes together nicely, the highlight being the overall presentation and just how well done the battle Pokémon all are.

decidueye pokken tournament

The most obvious addition to DX is five new playable Pokémon compared to the Wii U version. Darkrai, Scizor, Croagunk and Empoleon were all added to the arcade version over the last year but never made it to console ’til now. The star of the show though is Decidueye, representing Sun & Moon along with a new pair of support Pokémon in Litten and Popplio. Each of these five new battle Pokémon are just as fantastic in terms of animation and characterization as the rest of the cast, and offer new gameplay possibilities. Between them all, I’ve put the most time into Decidueye, who brings strong projectiles as well as a mid-air float for cancels and greater combo ability. Croagunk is the odd one out, having been an assist Pokémon already, but makes up for it with a clear focus on humor with its animations and its own, unique capabilities as a fighter. Setting aside personal preferences and wishes, they’re fine additions and complement the existing roster well.

Features and new additions

Once I’d gotten the hang of these, I dove into the Ferrum League again, finding it to be exactly as I remembered. The only real addition there was Mission Panels, a set of objectives meant to give me some kind of focus during my fights. These ranged from using a named support Pokémon, winning a number of battles or landing certain kinds of attacks. They did spur me on to go a few more battles than I otherwise would have, and likewise, encouraged more variety in my approach to fighting. The same could be said of Daily Challenges, another new feature which gives you a new task with a set Pokémon each day for in game rewards. They don’t shake things up and what story was present in the original version is still here, but they drive you to play more and play differently.

Rounding out the new additions is Team Battle, a new mode that’s my new favorite way to play Pokkén. You’ll choose three battle Pokémon to use in sequence against your opponent’s three choices. When a Pokémon’s knocked out the next in line will switch it while the one that’s still fighting will keep its HP and meter. It’s the closest things get to traditional Pokémon battles and can create some great comeback moments when playing with friends. Local multiplayer itself is easier than ever, thanks to the Switch’s design — and while controllers designed specifically for Pokkén exist, the Joy-Cons get the job done when it comes to locking eyes and kicking off a battle anywhere you like.

Make your mark

Pokkén Tournament DX builds off of the existing title to become the definitive version of one of the best Pokémon spinoffs. There’s just something great about seeing these Pokémon fully come alive with battling like it’s meant to be. With a fighting system that carries the action and makes the game enjoyable to both play and watch, made better by Team Battles, it’s my go to way to play Pokémon with friends. If you weren’t a fan of the original, this new addition may not win you over, but for those who missed it the first time around or just want to revisit its battles, it’s time to turn those caps around and make your mark in the world of Pokkén Tournament.

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8.5
  • Five brand new fighters on top of the existing battle Pokémon, giving fans more to play with
  • Team Battle is enjoyable and makes the experience that much more “Pokémon”
  • Missions and Daily Challenges incentivize trying new things for in game rewards in otherwise familiar modes
  • Multiplayer enhanced by the Switch’s latent design
  • Enhanced port of an existing game, doesn’t push the envelope or offer a new campaign
  • Not much here to win over anyone who wasn’t impressed by the original game

System: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: September 22, 2017

Categories: Fighting, Action

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Bandai Namco

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

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