Being the very best, like no one ever was.
Pokken Tournament DX is a spiffying up of the same game that launched on the Wii U early last year, with some additional content, extra gameplay options, and some tidying up of the graphics. As such, it brings the same kinetic, frenetic real time Pokemon battling action that series fans around the world have doubtless wanted in a game since they first discovered the anime, but to the Switch, with complete support for its spontaneous multiplayer capabilities, to boot.
This means that much of what the Wii U original (well, I say Wii U original, but before even hitting Nintendo’s previous troubled console, the game was out in arcades) did well, Pokken Tournament DX does well, too- the game still has great, thrilling Pokemon battles that are a feast for the eyes, and a joy to play due to some unusual and top notch fighting mechanics, it still boasts a surprisingly full featured suite of online functionality, and it manages to be deceptively deep, ensnaring new players with what seem to be easy pick up and play mechanics before revealing a world of depth underneath.
Along the way, a lot of the original game’s problems have been addressed by Pokken Tournament DX, too- local multiplayer, which was thoroughly compromised in the original game, has been addressed effectively with the new release (which makes sense, given that the Switch lends itself exceptionally well to inpromptu multiplayer sessions, after all), additional Pokemon have been added to the roster, and new battle types, including 3v3 battles, have been introduced to the game.
"It brings the same kinetic, frenetic real time Pokemon battling action that series fans around the world have doubtless wanted in a game since they first discovered the anime."
Consequently, Pokken Tournament DX plays out much like last year’s Wii U iteration- battles take place with a unique over-the-shoulder style camera angle, in something called the ‘Field Phase’, where you are free to move on the entire battlefield, and still free to land blows- in this phase, movement plays a bigger role, and it is easier for you to plan alternate attacks (or escape blows aimed at you by the opponent). Once you corner your quarry, the camera angle shifts to being side on, like a traditional fighting game. Movement range is now limited, but all attacks hit that much harder.
That apart, the attack triangle- counter attacks, grab attacks, and physical attacks- as well as mechanics such as Synergy (which is a gauge noting the bond between you and your Pokemon, and lets you unleash a devastating special) and Support (letting you call a partner Pokemon on the field as backup to bestow some advantage on you, and/or some disadvantage on the opposing Pokemon), are all in here, intact.
As a matter of fact, they can be a lot to keep track of- surprisingly, Pokken Tournament DX is a hugely complex game, and it doesn’t try to ease players into its mechanics, either. There’s a lot going on that can mystify even fighting game veterans if they are not familiar with Pokken. Happily, Pokken features a hell of a tutorial mode, that slowly and painstakingly walks players through the basics and intricacies of its mechanics, also having you practice everything that you learn, so that you are familiar with its depth. More traditional tutorials, including ones where you can have dummy opponents while you try combos and moves out, are also available. Pokken makes it very easy for players to come to grips with its eccentricities, that is for sure.
As previous mentioned, it also addresses the original game’s problems- the roster in the original game, while reasonably varied, was still limited to 16 Pokemon, including some unusual choices. The new game has 5 new Pokemon over the Wii U one – four from the arcade release, and one brand new (Decidueye, from last year’s Pokemon Sun/Moon). Local multiplayer was a tricky issue in the original, but it’s handled reasonably well in this year’s release, with split screen support, and even support for to players with individual Joycons. Online play seemed to hold up reasonably well, too, and that, along with the local multiplayer, should keep players returning to the game for a long time- especially with the addition of the 3v3 battles, which should mix things up even for fans of the Wii U game.
"Pokemon have never looked better, nor have they ever been rendered with this much detail. Throw in some spectacular looking attacks, as well as a general, if modest, graphical bump over the Wii U version, and you are left with a rather sharp looking game on your hands, indeed."
The one area where Pokken doesn’t represent an improvement on the Wii U original game is the single player content- it was a bit sparing in the original, and so it is here. While Pokken fares better in that regard than competing fighters like Tekken, Street Fighter, or even ARMS, next to single player content behemoths like Injustice 2 (which launched this year), or Nintendo’s own Smash Bros. series, it comes as a bit of a disappointment.
What isn’t a disappointment is how gorgeous the game looks. Pokemon have never looked better, nor have they ever been rendered with this much detail. Throw in some spectacular looking attacks, as well as a general, if modest, graphical bump over the Wii U version, and you are left with a rather sharp looking game on your hands, indeed.
The Nintendo Switch has already established itself as the console to go to for great multiplayer games- it’s only six months old, and you can already pick up ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on it. Pokken Tournament DX is another fine addition. While it is almost by necessity a bit more obtuse than the easygoing nature of the other three games, it’s not any less of a game for that, and should you get into it, will last you for a very long time to come, with some compelling, top tier gameplay.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Looks great, plays extremely well, great tutorial modes, great multiplayer options, addresses flaws in the original release
Sharp learning curve, relative scarcity of single player content
Pokken DX looks great and plays better, delivering the kind of real time action series fans have dreamed of for years, while also addressing the flaws in the Wii U release.