Pokkén Tournament DX (Switch) Review
2016 marked the console debut of a crossover that many people had only dreamed of up until that point. That crossover was Pokkén. A very literal hybrid of both Pokémon and Tekken. Fans had been begging for a Pokémon fighting game for years, yearning for the chance to experience battles like the ones that they grew up watching on TV through the animated series. However, the biggest problem at the end of the day was that the install base for the Wii U was rather small, and so many people never had the chance to experience the game for themselves. In light of that, the publishers over at the Pokémon Company and Bandai Namco have decided to port the game over to the brand new Nintendo Switch, and to put it bluntly, a game like Pokkén on this particular system feels like a match made in heaven.
If you’re unfamiliar with the original release, let me fill you in real quick. Pokkén Tournament DX isn’t quite your typical fighting game. Each battle consists of two spontaneously shifting phases, “Duel Phase” and “Field Phase”. Duel Phase is your traditional style of fighting, taking place on a locked 2D plane. Field Phase is the polar opposite, allowing you to run around the arena in all 3 dimensions. As you battle, certain attacks force you to shift between these two phases, so the key to victory lies in the ability to reflexively adapt to the situation. In my personal experience, I’ve really loved this feature of the game both in the Wii U release and on the Switch. It adds variety to the strategies that a player might use by forcing them to shift between styles, while also allowing cornered players the chance to escape and have some breathing room rather than being immediately pummeled and discouraged. For the record, by players, I mean me. That happens to me a lot. Phase Shifting is a blessing.
There are a few new additions to this edition of the game, with the most notable being the inclusion of 5 brand new characters to the roster. 4 of these Pokémon — Scizor, Croagunk, Empoleon and Darkrai — have already been present in the Japanese arcade version for a while now, but Decidueye from Sun and Moon is exclusively new to the Switch port. While each Pokémon offers their own creative and unique moveset, if you’re someone who already bought the original and none of these Pokémon appeal to you personally, there won’t be much else for you here. Aside from a couple of other minor activities, The bulk of the game is largely unchanged (including the disappointingly poor voice-over).
Other original features include Daily Challenges and Mission Panels. I like these a lot, let me tell you why. All the stages, secret characters, and support Pokémon sets are unlocked for you right from the very beginning of the game. What this means is that while you’re proceeding through the Arcade Mode, there’s not as much when it comes to a sense of progression. The Mission Panels are an extra feature added to the Arcade Mode, which essentially gives you little tasks to complete, such as using a certain support set a certain number of times or landing a high damage combo. Upon completing these tasks, you uncover the corresponding pieces of a 3×4 sized board, gradually uncovering a fancy image – while also getting bonus accessories to customise your character. If you’re anything like me and you’re obsessed with making your character really pretty, completing the Mission Panels can feel incredibly rewarding, all while getting in more practice and becoming a better player along the way.
Daily Challenges are, well… challenges that the game provides you on a daily basis. Similarly to Mission Panels, you get assigned a different Pokémon every day to complete various tasks, and you’re rewarded for your efforts here too. However, unlike Mission Panels, the Daily Challenges invite you to come out of your comfort zone a little more. It’s very easy to become attached to a single Pokémon throughout the course of your time with Pokkén, to the point where there are probably Pokémon you may have never even considered touching. With the inclusion of the Daily Challenges, you’ll be trying Pokémon you never even thought you would before. It really works! Since these challenges are rather short, they’re perfect fodder for public travel or any moment you have a bit of spare time in the day to knock out something short. By trying out different Pokémon each day, you might find yourself discovering a play style you really like, or alternatively, you could get to know other Pokémon’s movesets in order to counter them later on. While someone might argue that this is something you can already do of your own accord in Single Player or Training Mode, giving you more of an incentive to do so goes a long way – especially when it comes to making the game a little more accessible to newcomers to the fighting genre.
Most fighting games are designed with arcade sticks in mind. You see it anywhere. When you visit your local arcade, every fighting game you’ll notice will have the traditional arcade stick control scheme. Pokkén is a weird exception to this rule. Rather than take the path that most games in the genre have, Pokkén was designed with console controllers in mind. What this means for DX, is that no matter which controller you decide to use, combat will feel really fluid. I had my doubts about playing with just a single Joy-Con, so imagine my reaction when I barely felt any difference from using the Pro Controller or the Joy-Con Grip. That’s what I meant when I said Pokkén was such a fit for this system. Having the ability to take Pokkén to a friend’s place, play tabletop mode, and not be compromised is a wonderful feeling. On top of that, the game is streamlined enough that even people who have never even touched the game before can button mash and have a great time. Plus, the game lets you choose between sharing a screen or split screen! A really neat touch.
The Online Mode runs as smooth as butter. In the few matches I played, I experienced not even a single hint of any delay. That means that this time around, blaming the input lag for all my losses wasn’t an option! Oh well! The system for playing with friends is identical to the original game. If you want to join in with someone who might be on your Friend List… you kinda can’t. Pokkén instead relies on a code based system. You type in the code that you and your friends would have agreed on, and locate each other that way. While it isn’t a big deal, it’s unfortunate considering Splatoon 2 had a system that let you pull up a list to see which of your friends were free to play, allowing you to join them immediately. On top of the code system, something like that for Pokkén would have been welcome.
If you’ve never played Pokkén, I implore you to try out the free demo available on the eShop before buying the game. It really is a situation where you need to love the core gameplay to really enjoy the game. That might sound obvious, but Pokkén is such an odd outlier of a fighting game that there’s a good chance that you might not like the vibes that the game has, and if you don’t enjoy those vibes, there’s nothing else the game offers that will interest you in the slightest. If you’ve played Pokkén before, only get this game if you absolutely love it. It needs to be a game that you’ve been craving to play on your Switch, a game that you know you’ll play for hours and hours on top of your playtime for the original. Otherwise, the price tag makes this a tough one to swallow. There isn’t nearly enough new content to justify purchasing this release at the same price the Wii U version launched at. Seriously, buyer’s regret is the last thing you’d want considering how many games have been coming out this year.
Pokkén Tournament DX is really good. It was good on the Wii U, and it’s still good on the Switch. While I would’ve appreciated if the developers put more effort into giving DX a little more meat on its bones, there’s no denying that what’s already here is great fun. If you’ve never given this game a go, now’s the perfect time to check it out.
Very accessible for a fighting game
New characters are creative and fun
Control scheme translates really well to the Switch
Lacks content to justify second purchase
Lost online matchmaking potential