Nintendo’s Pokken Tournament is like salted caramel. A mixture of two very different things that, somehow, works. But it has the danger of being an acquired taste.
Pokken Tournament has a lot going for it. The game is an amazing hybrid of two very distinct franchises.
Traditional Pokémon battles are methodical, strategic, and involve play-counterplay interactions. Tekken, on the other hand, is a fast-paced beat-’em-up. Because of its unique meshing of these two styles, there’s quite a bit to discuss about Pokken Tournament.
- Good sized roster with room for potential DLC
- Beautiful presentation of levels and Pokemon
- Unique for a Pokemon game and for a fighting game
- Lots of depth for play and strategy
- Very start and stop
- Poorly thought-out single player story
- Doubling up in roster with two Pikachu and two Mewtwo
- Annoying advisor
I want to clarify those last two points a little bit because I know they will be the source of much contention. One of the by-products of mixing the Pokemon formula with Tekken is that the game stops to let you pick a support Pokemon.
It’s going to be a great feature for online play but when you’re powering through the single player leagues, it becomes tedious. Especially for players who can skip through the menus by mashing A.
The single player mode consists of various leagues. Players take on five random opponents and move up the ranks until the top eight. After this, players can enter a tournament. Winning the tournament allows them to challenge a boss and move up to the next league.
Your in-game advisor, Nia, makes quite a point about how exclusive the higher leagues are but they somehow seem to have more members. Not a big deal but it’s perplexing and mildly annoying.
The Learning Curve and Depth of Battle
One thing I did notice about Pokken Tournament is there is quite an extensive learning curve. Because of how unique and deep this game is, it mandates five tutorials. And you really ought to do them. Players will find themselves needing to play through quite a few matches before they develop a feel for the controls and dynamics of the battle. Once you do, it’s a fairly easy to understand game.
Like Pokemon battling, the game is simple to play and enjoy but there’s a lot more to find under the rug. At its core, the game revolves around play/counter-play mechanics of attack triangles.
These are not too unfamiliar for fighting game veterans: counter attacks beat normal attacks, normal attacks beat throws, and throws beat counter attacks. Games between more talented players will undoubtedly centre around these interplays. Poking, weaving, and parrying one another’s attacks.
To aid this, Pokken Tournament encourages players to stick with the same Pokemon for the single player mode. Instead of choosing a fighter for each league, you choose a partner at the outset (which can be changed at any point) and automatically play as it in each match. As you progress, your Pokemon will level up and increase its statistics. Mercifully, it looks as if these bonuses can be disabled in local or online matches.
Of the 16 Pokemon available to play, they are divided into four categories. Pokemon can be either Standard, Technical, Power, or Speed. A Standard type is an all-rounder at most parts in the battle; Technicals play a little bit on the unusual side with feinting out techniques; Speed and Power are more obvious. Speed Pokemon are exceptionally quick to get around the map and pummel with fast, albeit weak, attacks, and Power Pokemon lumber around but shave huge amounts of HP off with each attack.
Having characters with like attributes is not uncommon for fighting games. It’s a nice and simple way to divide up the roster. Pokken Tournament takes it a step further and pushes these attributes to their limit. Power Pokemon are exceedingly damaging, particularly to Pokemon with low HP pools.
In addition to these types, each Pokemon has different sized HP pools and speed of Synergy Burst (super) gauge acquisition. This differentiation further separates the roster and makes your choice of Pokemon partner a little bit more meaningful than “I like Gengar” or “Speed types are more my style.”
The game doesn’t start when the announcer calls “Fight.” Pokken Tournament has players choose a set of support Pokemon and a cheer skill for their advisor. Building a strategy around these effects is critical for success.
Cheer skills can lower your support cooldowns or raise your Synergy Burst gauge. Support Pokemon have a wider range of effects with some providing benefits to you during a fight, some launching attacks, and others playing the disruptive role.
My partner Pokemon is the technical Gardevoir. I like to choose support sets that have one Pokemon to accentuate my strengths and another to cover my weakness. For instance, one support set features the attacking Mismagius and the disruptive Ninetales. Mismagius’ forward charge attack lets me set up for some devastating combos during the Duel Phase. And Ninetales’ attack-reducing wall allows for me to create space should I find myself under pressure from a Speed Pokemon.
Finding the right support combination will take some time. Experiment with different styles of play and as many of the support sets as you can. Refining your surrounding strategies will make the battles much easier.