Pokken Tournament review

Pokken Tournament review

Pokken Tournament review

by March 15, 2016

One of the things that people like to complain about when it comes to the main Pokemon series is that fights feel slow and nothing actually hits your opponent. Pokken Tournament rectifies that by letting trainers ‘synergise’ with their Pokemon, taking on their form to kick the crap out of someone else’s treasured pet in a straight-up fighting game. You can cut a Pikachu to ribbons using Weavile’ claws as your own, or freeze the mighty Garchomp with Suicine’s Ice Beam

Fights switch back and forth between two phases; Field Mode, which allows you to run around the full arena as a 3D space; and Dual Phase, which sees you square up against your opponent in a side-on, 2.5D view like Street Fighter 5. The shift between the two styles makes for tense fights as it constantly keeps you on your toes, but it’s also overly complicated. Not only is it a change in perspective, but you’ll also need to adjust the way you play. A button combo in one phase will do something different in the other, and certain moves only work in certain phases. It’s incredibly annoying when the arena changes just before you start an attack, and it makes for very messy fighting. Any expertise you may have in other fighting games won’t help you here – you’ll be just as lost as the newcomers.

There’s also a rock/paper/scissors element at play. Grabs break through blocks, blocks cancel normal attacks, and normals override grabs. You also need to consider support Pokemon types, powerful Burst Attacks and between-round cheering (your advisor can give you a boost between rounds by filling your synergy gauge or getting a partner Pokemon ready). Each component is meant to inspire complex tactical thinking, but in practice it feels fiddly. It’s trying to do too many things at once. I felt like I was winning fights through lucky guesses and button bashing rather than skill at reading opposing Pokemon’s moves. 

But despite all that, it’s still exciting to be able to actually directly battle Pokemon. Pikachu zips across the field to unleash powerful electric tackles, and Charizard’s flamethrower feels great when it connects. While I’d like to play as even more Pokemon, each one feels unique and has strengths to suit your preferred playstyle. Even the bizarre, light-fixture-ghost-thing Chandelure feels at home in an arena, capable of keeping even the best trainers at bay by throwing various long-ranged orbs, having a low profile, and being a total bastard to fight against.