Eric Kelly On March 30, 2016 at 9:06 pm

Pokken_Tournament_logoRemember the 90’s when weird arena based fighting games all came out of the woodwork? After games like Ballz, Wargods, Zero Divide, Destrega, Virtual On, Power Stone 1 and 2, and Battle Arena Toshinden, the genre saw a massive exodus. With only Dead or Alive and Soul Caliber remaining as the bastion of the sub-genre. Now in 2016, there is a new game that revives the idea of the weird arena fighter. Bandai Namco and the Pokémon Company have teamed up to make Pokkén Tournament. The result is a much better game than any of those examples, even if it’s a bit lacking in features.

The game is set up like basic tournament style fighting game, with your Pokémon trainer using some AR VR tech to synchronize with their Pokémon in battle, fighting as one. But since your trainer only is just starting out, they have to battle other trainers to rank the top 8 ranks before they can even participate in tournaments. Winning the tournament will let your trainer take the League Promotion Test, to eventually reach the final league and become the Grandmaster.

There’s a nice training mode that acclimates players into how the game plays, which is a good thing, as it doesn’t play like most fighters. Gameplay starts out like a 3D arena based fighter, with movement being handled somewhat like The Legend of Zelda’s Z-targeting. You don’t have free 360 degrees of movement, and pressing left and right will have you strafing around your opponent for the most part. There also a long range attack button, but depending on the Pokémon, it might function as a secondary short or mid range attack button. To further help close the gap between your opponents, there is a homing attack button. Combo attacks with this button will make the game switch into duel mode phase, which plays a lot more like Tekken, taken from the game’s play-on-words title. This mode let’s players execute combos that will inflict even more damage than they would in Field Phase, although you can knock the game back into that phase if you want.

Unlike Tekken, the game lacks the combo focused special moves. Instead going for a much simpler directional based attack system: The level of complexity is high though, as the game includes guard breaks and an attack weakness triangle. Grabs beat counter attacks, counter attacks beat normal attacks, and normal attacks beat grabs. But in addition to this, you can activate a sync burst, which boosts your Pokémon’s attack and defense temporarily. Before the bursts wears off, you can unleash a super attack to inflict massive damage. The meter normally fills up with damage given and taken, but you can pick up power ups in field mode to increase the meter faster. Of course you might want to use your support Pokémon if you are having trouble, and they all have many effects like healing or disrupting an opponent’s attacks.

The single player mode is a bit lacking in that it lacks a story to go with it, and mainly exists for training for multiplayer play or unlocking characters or accessories. Players can play competitively locally or online, but if you play locally, one person can play on the game pad while another can use the Pro Controller. There’s also a special controller made by Horii that works only for this game to use as well. Online is likely the biggest missed opportunity in this game, as the mode is set-up like a quick matching service, with no lobby or tournament options. There are ranked matches for leaderboard purposes, but that’s it. At least the online play seems well done. The net-code seems stable, and I experienced next to no lag, even from people in other countries. Although that might be because the connection strength might entirely based on the ‘host’ of the match.
Pokkén Tournament is a fun game that’s simple enough for genre newcomers to understand, but deep enough that there a nice layer of complexity to go with it. It’s only real flaws are the lack of features. An actual and well done story mode is missing, and the online lacks the things that are industry standard. There are also only a handful of fighters, while keeping the roster small means that there aren’t any clones, even with unlockable characters it’s still a tiny amount. There’s also no means of mixing the support Pokémon, as you can only choose between pre-selected sets. Nia, your Pokémon adviser, also has an incredibly dry voice actor in English, with the only remedy being turning the voice acting language to Japanese, or turning it off. Graphics and music are also decent for the console, and the game runs at 60 frames. If you like either Pokémon or fighters, this is a game that’s worth checking out. Maybe if successful, a much improved follow-up can come out. But for what it does, it’s not too shabby.


It’s a simple to play, but deeply complex fighter while still being accessible for new players of the genre.


The characters look great and the games runs at 60 frames.


The music sounds decent, but the English voice acting for Nia is absolutely terrible.


A fun fighting game featuring Pokémon that could be a bit better if it didn’t feel like it lacked content. A good first attempt by Bandai Namco and the Pokémon Company.

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