Developer: Bandai Namco
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Action & Platformer
Release Date: 22nd of September, 2017 (Worldwide)
When it comes to revisiting games I’ve already reviewed before, no one comes more seasoned to that task than me, as I’ve done quite a bit of it this last year, but since this time around the game in question is Pokkén Tournament DX, of course I had to get stuck into it once again.
While there are many great franchises and video game series’ out there that are great at pulling people back in, no matter hard they try to grow out of it, for me, Pokémon is that series. It has this unnatural way of drawing me in and making me fall in love with its worlds and monsters all over again, even when it’s a simple case of me playing a Pokémon game I hadn’t played in year and Pokkén Tournament DX, really is no exception.
As a game that is already available to play as an arcade title in Japan or an awesome alternative fighting game to Smash Bros on Wii U, Pokkén Tournament was a Pokémon game like players had never seen before. Developed by Bandai Namco, Pokkén Tournament felt a lot like the love child of Mewtwo and Ryu, which was then raised by Chuck Norris, with a couple of Dragon Ball elements thrown in for good measure and in my mind, it was the game that gave fans a true taste of what a Pokémon battle is really like.
I know any Pokémon player anywhere, has pictured intense battles in their minds, even back when we were playing Red and Blue/Green, but with Pokkén Tournament, we no longer had to picture it as intense battles would play out before our very eyes, with certain Pokémon looking their utmost finest thanks to HD visuals and now 18 months after it came to Wii U after originally releasing in 2015, Pokkén Tournament is back once more and instead of it being a sequel, it’s a full on enhanced port of the Wii U game.
Would things have been better if it was a proper sequel like Splatoon 2? Maybe but since not everyone got the Wii U version, even though they had a Wii U, there were a lot of people who never played Pokkén the first time round, so if they do get it for Switch, at least they are getting the most enhanced version to date, which really is a cut above the other current incarnations, so with that in mind, let’s talk about what’s new. Firstly, 6 new fighters are added to the roster, which does consist of those who were already available for the arcade game, but it also has the Gen 7 Pokémon Decidueye, who is an absolutely ninja. I kid you not, Decidueye is a formidable fighter who can lay the smack down on most Pokémon in no time at all.
However it’s not just new fighters, there’s new support Pokémon in the form of Litten and Popplio, there are online group matches, online replay sharing and a new Team Battle format. With Team Battle, players can go 3-on-3 against CPU or an actual persion, which is great fun as battles become even more engaging than ever before but there’s also Daily Challenges. Not only does this new feature act as a great way to reward you with Skill points, but it actually forces you to come out of your comfort zone and try fighters you normally wouldn’t use in a number of scenarios, such as Team Battles and 1-on-1 battles with certain Support Pokémon. And if you think that’s one great addition as it definitely gives the game some longevity the Wii U one lacked as it was good for about a month and then got a little stale, there’s another new feature you need to know about.
As well as Daily Challenges, there are also Mission Panels for you to fill out by completing Missions when playing through the various difficulties of the Ferrum League and the missions themselves can cover a whole range of things like winning a certain number of battles, winning so many matches with Lucario, using a specific Support Pokémon a set number of times. As for what happens when you complete a panel, well you get to start on another one and just in case that is not a good enough reason to complete the missions, completing missions will earn you prizes like Titles, clothes and Poké Gold and if you complete the top line, you can of course get a Bonus Key that can be used to skip a mission, or you can keep hold of it and sell it for 400,000 Poké Gold when the panel is completed.
By no means is completing panels a necessity, but it is something else to do for the players who need more than just straight up battles and daily challenging and if you’re curious as to the just how well these battles run, when playing in single player, Pokkén Tournament DX is capable of pulling of 60 FPS only to drop to 30 FPS when battling against a friend due to split screen. Now granted that’s pretty much all the new stuff covered instead of giving you a link to go elsewhere to read up on all the old stuff, I’m covering Pokkén Tournament DX in its entirety so if you never played Pokkén the first time round, this review will soon clue you in. So where better to start than with the game’s open and story? (Not that it needs one, but it does have one.)
Pokkén Tournament begins as any game does, opening cut-scene meant to impress and cause you to desire playing the game more so, but the game is like the start of any Pokémon game. You are an aspiring Trainer in an all new region, Ferrum, except here in Ferrum, things are done differently. There is no catching them all, but merely fighting with the ones you have available from the start (which is all of Support Pokémon and fighters and them, including Shadow Mewtwo.) Holding your hand during your introduction into this new world of Pokémon, dominated by leagues and Synergy Bursts, is Nia, a fellow Trainer who will be by your side for the whole duration of the game as there is no getting rid of her, but you can at least silence her in My Town.
As you would expect, Nia is a font of knowledge as there is almost nothing she doesn’t know, which is a good thing since it means she’s qualified to tell you all you need to know about Ferrum, online battles, mission panels and getting promoted when playing through the league. She’s also rather knowledgeable on battles and just as soon as she id done with talking you through most things, she’s rather eager to send you over to the dojo so you can learn the basics before tackling the Green League and attempting to attain C League. For attempting the and how yofull of all kinds of knowledge, which as well as coming in handy to explain all of Ferrum to you, which includes the league system and Old Ferrum town, she even knows quite a bit about battling. Nia will encourage you to head over to the training dojo so you can learn the basics before you make way for the Green League and begin your efforts of reaching C Rank.
Attending the dojo is not necessary, as you can go straight into battle, or you can press the X button to bring up the System Menu screen, where things like Special Codes can be entered, instructions are available and amiibo use can be accessed and just like with the Wii U game, only 5 can be used a day and they will unlock things like Poké Gold, clothing items and Titles. For the advancement of the game’s story though, playing through the League is actually a necessity, as the higher you ascend, winning matches left, right and centre, including Tournaments and Promotion Matches, the more and more you will encounter the mysterious and very powerful Shadow Mewtwo who becomes even more powerful every time you encounter him, as you try to figure out the mystery surrounding his shadowy state.
By no means is it the best plot line in the world, but it’s a fighting game and it doesn’t feel totally half-baked so that’s something at least and the battles really are something else. Granted every battle takes place on a predetermined stage, battles are fought in two phases, Field and Duel. In field, players can move all over the battlefield, dealing attacks from afar and up close, but just as soon as phases swap and its Duel time, that’s when things heat up hotter than Charizard’s flames and that’s hot. Moves and combos change and the attacks are more powerful than ever, but while it is all well and good to wail into your opponents with all four of Machamp’s arms, combos aren’t the only thing you need to learn in order to win.
You’ll also need to learn as to when to defend yourself and when to go for a grab when an opponent is defending themselves, a well-timed grab can really deal a tremendous amount of damage, but so can a correctly-timed counter attack, but even if you master those things, to be a true master of Pokkén, you will need to master them with all Pokémon fighters, as knowing the ins and outs of each fighter is the best way to know how to fight them when battling competitively against another player or just against CPU as you advance through the league. But for the players who wish to not be that serious about Pokkén, you can always relay on using Support Pokémon instead, which when charged, can be activated to deal damage to an opponent, affect them in some way and even recover your life, it all depends on their ability and even if you don’t want to rely on them, you can count on your opponents using them whenever possible, becomes when it comes to Pokkén Pokémon Battling, anything goes is the rule all trainers need to abide by if they wish to be a Pokkén Master.
Because of that rule, normal battling isn’t enough as the Trainers of Ferrum like to take it to the next level by activating Synergy Mode. Synergy Mode is a lot like Mega evolution as it is a way of empowering Pokémon even further, as those who can Mega evolve, can when in Synergy Mode, only they’re a lot stronger, as are those who can’t Mega Evolve, but during such Super Saiyan state, when prompted to, your chosen Pokémon partner (which can be changed any time in My Town, as can your Trainer’s clothing attire and Title of which there are many to unlock and appearance,) can let lose a move so devastating that it makes Goku’s Kamehameha look like a gentle prod.
Even if you do everything right though, all 1-on-1 battles require two wins in order to win the battle, so even if you win one round, you still have to win a second one to seal your victory, but win or lose, your Pokémon partner will gain experience and can level up and whey they do, Skill points will be earned that can then be allocated to strengthen things like Attack, Defence, Synergy and Strength. But sometimes, even a Master Pokkén Trainer can still fall short in battle if they don’t use the right Cheer Skill that suits their style best and with a fair few available, it is essential you try out a few of them to see what works best for you, your partner and your preferred Support Pokémon set.
Still although Pokkén Tournament DX can be a very serious game with intense battles, it can also be a very fun game played with friends. Sure you’ve got to fight them, but at least you can settle once and for all who the true Pokémon Master is and who is the wannabe. Only while Pokkén Tournament DX is just about worth its asking price, it is not a cheap game. It’s rather costly in fact, but if you need Pokémon on Switch and don’t mind buying a fighting game more expensive and content packed than ARMS, than right now Pokkén Tournament DX is your only option. But if you don’t want Pokkén, ARMS or Ultra Street Fighter: The Final Challengers II, don’t forget that as well as Pokkén Tournament DX releasing this month, so does Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and it releases the very next day!
It may not have be the fighting game on Switch we wanted it to be as a lot of us really wanted a port of Smash for Switch to be out by now, or at least announced, but Pokkén Tournament DX, with the assistance of ARMS, does help to fill the hole in our hearts, whilst outright being the best possible version of Pokkén Tournament ever. However even with the new features and content, while it will be relevant a lot longer than its predecessors, there will come a time Pokkén Tournament DX will become less interesting, but being the only HD Pokémon game the Switch currently has, stale or not, fans will find themselves flocking back to it because Pokémon isn’t just a temporary fix, it’s a lifelong addiction and it comes in many forms.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*Review Key Provided by Nintendo