Some time ago, our very own Laguna took some time to fill in the community about his first impressions with Pokkén Tournament, The Pokémon Company’s first foray into the fighting genre. Pokkén Tournament was first released to Japanese arcades, followed by a Wii U release in all regions. The game play introduces a roster of sixteen fighters, and combines elements from both the Tekken and Pokémon franchises, supposedly. With a lot of time spent on it, it has little resemblance with Tekken, sadly. It’s instead inspired by a mash of fighting games, but never stands out as a unique product. The result is an enjoyable train wreck of a game. While Pokkén Tournament is one of the most visually stunning titles to appear on the Wii U (and quite frankly, any Nintendo console to date), the game play falls short.
My biggest problem with Pokkén lies not in the game play, but in the shallowness of its roster. Out of a massive roster of over 700 Pokémon that were available to choose from, Bandai Namco only chose to have a total of 16, which pales in comparison to most fighting game rosters, which contain dozens of characters to try and learn. As was the case with EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, Bandai Namco spent a little too much of its budget into making incredible visuals and particle effects rather than add content. The visuals are outstanding for a Wii U title. The worst part about Pokkén is that its lineup has 25% of its cast introduced as redundancies; two different Pikachus and two Mewtwos appear, not as separate forms, but as separate playable characters.
I suppose we can say that the game has “more characters” in a literal sense with the addition of support characters, but the majority of them do little to enhance strategy. The useful ones add a damage blanket to the game play in an attempt to give one player an edge. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen Reshiram and Cresselia come out in my plays online. Most of the supports become predictable with some of them being far too overpowered.
With the already lackluster main roster, Pokkén further digs its own grave deeper by inflating and introducing artificial content that gets increasingly repetitive as the game proceeds. The game’s pitiful story mode, which consists of the trainer taking on the ranks of the Ferrum League, features repeated gauntlets of battles against the same sets of trainers, and with the small pool of Pokémon to fight against, wears down quickly in a lazy story complete with scripted losses against Shadow Mewtwo, who delightfully stomps through you with almost double or sometimes triple your HP.
The story mode is contrived, and never goes anywhere. The more I played Pokkén’s story, the more frustrated I get with it. It sets up this illusion that the game play is easy, and that the mechanics are relatively empty. Random NPCs will just talk to you at the end, adding zero relation to the overarching theme of the Synergy Stone problem with the Shadow Mewtwo. Players can basically smash through the story in several hours mashing the same combos repeatedly; take the game online for the first time, and the competition is taken to a whole new level. People will utterly destroy you, as you see combos that you didn’t even know existed come rolling out. Taking solace in the local multiplayer doesn’t yield much, either.
The local multiplayer is crippled by the fact that one player needs to use the Game Pad. It feels upsetting that only one player can enjoy the HD experience; the game camera is reversed for the other player. Local players who wish for the true HD experience can do so, at the expense of a second Wii U console connected over the internet.
Despite the mess that the game managed to create, it still comes out to be a competent title that I still managed to enjoy. The music is fantastic for this game, and sets a great mood to get players invested. Cue the Magikarp Festival theme. My brother and I spent countless hours randomizing our fighters and throwing down throughout the past couple of weeks, which is a good point. It’s fun to be able to make bets against him for silly conditions. The fights can be chaotic, with a degree of mindlessness to it. It definitely means that the $60 purchase was paid for; for whatever reason, nowadays, most games just end up collecting dust after a few hours. We both predict that DLC can play a part in potentially adding more characters to this dead roster, and given its presence at EVO 2016, it clearly has the potential to be the fighting game that Pokémon fans deserve.