I have waited for this game nearly all my life. As a kid, I prayed to the Nintendo gods, begging them for a game that included Pokemon battles without the turn based limitations. I was asking for a miracle, or at least that\’s what it felt like back then. Fast forward a dozen or so years, and I\’ve finally got my wish – and it\’s actually pretty damn good.
Pokken tournament hits all the high notes. The game is aimed at a younger audience, but is easily enjoyed by someone of any age. It\’s well built, engaging, and fun. It doesn\’t hurt that it was developed by the makers of Tekken, who already know a thing or two about making a great fighting game. You also can design your own kawaii anime avatar, and, through playing single player, unlock new outfits, hair, and backgrounds. Your story begins as a budding trainer, who gets shown the ropes of fighting Pokemon to Pokemon. According to the story, the player is able to enter the mind of a Pokemon, using a method that is pretty similar to Pacific Rim\’s drift compatibility.
The combat is fresh and exciting and is much more fleshed out than I expected it to be. You play in both classic 2d side by side play, and full 360 in the round play within the same match. Certain attacks will have your play switched from one to the other. There are combos, counters, grabs, finishers, and everything else you would expect in a fully realized fighting game. You can also call in support Pokemon to boost your stats, attack your opponent, or give your opponent a nasty debuff. While fighting, you also gain synergy, and when your synergy gauge is full, you can mega evolve and use a beefed up move set for a short amount of time. The controls are easy to understand, even though there is a lot going on within one match. It never seems like they\’ve tried to add too much, but it does take some getting used to at first.
The main storyline isn\’t the games most shining piece. Don\’t get me wrong, it\’s entertaining, but it\’s not as engaging as I had hoped. As a new Pokemon trainer, you are encouraged to enter a grueling tournament and fight to be the very best, like no one ever was. While your at the tournament, a mysterious mewtwo and it’s trainer shows up and starts wrecking everything, and you end up fighting them and learning their secrets. The tournament gameplay is fun, but the actual storyline almost feels like an afterthought in the game.
Where the game really shines is in its local and online multiplayer. I was so happy when they announced couch co op was available with this game, it\’s something that I really love having the option for but is showing up in fewer and fewer games. The only criticism I have is that matchmaking is sometimes a bit skewed – in the game you end up being able to level up your Pokemon and add bonus points to attack, defense, synergy, etc – and so sometimes you can get matched up with a Pokemon who has a few levels on you. At the core of it, if you have the skill to win the fight you can still be victorious, but it\’s an unfair advantage for either yourself or your opponent. Other than that, the Pokemon themselves are pretty fairly balanced, all of them with a different play style and move set that fits their character.
Another notable mention of the game is its graphics. At first I was pretty concerned about seeing the fur strands on my favorite cartoon characters, but they actually did a great job of merging the cartoon look of these characters with a more realistic look. The game actually looks amazing for Wii U, even down to the stages. Certain stages will have Pokemon interacting in the background, and some stages even have seasons, where its winter one fight (with Pokemon who would thrive in that environment) and then fall the next. There was a lot of effort that went into the look of this game. It\’s hard to refresh classic characters and ideas in a new way, but this game made it look easy.
Overall, I was really pleased with this game. It\’s a super fun, button mash inducing, high adrenaline arcade fighter. It doesn\’t try to be anything that it\’s not. It\’s simple, well built, and a thrill to play. If you like Pokemon and Tekken, this is the marriage of the century.