Pokken Tournament, exclusive to the Wii U (and arcades… which still exist in Japan, I guess) is a game that’s just simple fun. It’s essentially Tekken, but all the fighters are Pokemon. Rather than play as the trainer, you exist in Pokken as a trainer but control the fighting Pokemon. It’s basically the game most of us had dreamed of since Pokemon Stadium was a thing. The only issue is that Pokken Tournament isn’t great. It’s close, but not quite there.
The game features 16 playable characters. Some of your favorites show up-- Pikachu, Charizard, Garchomp, and my fighter Gengar all make the cut. You’ve got some deeper cuts into the realm of Pokemon such as Machamp and Lucario. And inexplicably we also get Chandelure instead of really anyone more popular or interesting. Herein lies the game’s biggest weakness. We only have 16 Pokemon to use as fighters when there are 721 current Pokemon running around. I understand the limitations in programming these characters into the game. I am not asking for all 721. It would’ve been nice to see an even 20. I suspect we will get some DLC with a few more characters.
The other weakness lies in the Pokemon choices. Essentially 14 of these characters are bipedal fighters, one stands on four legs, and one floats. I’d like to see more varied fighter looks considering the great visual range of our Pocket Monsters. Maybe in Pokken Tournament 2 on Nintendo NX?
I honestly couldn’t care about creating my trainer and adding costumes that are available via an unlocking system using Amiibos and in game currency. This is not my type of addition. If I was programming, I’d cut this out and add a fighter or two. Some people love it. It exists. So there’s that.
The other major flaw is Advisor Nia. Nia is a helpful woman who tells you how to play the game. Pokemon is a series designed for a younger audience that even old people like me enjoy, so I allow some childish silliness and plenty of simplicity. This simplicity is one of the things that makes Pokemon a joyful experience while many game series are, quite frankly, dark and dreary. It also means that we are stuck with an annoying person telling us how to play the game. All. The. Damn. Time. Nia is constantly bombarding you with tips, pointers, and random things while fighting. Maybe you can turn her off and I haven’t found it yet? Either way, dumb her for Pokken 2.
Still, at its core this is a fun Tekken-esque game. Fights take place in a 3-D field that can move into 2-D for varied movies and combos. You pick from 6 static assisting fighters in the form of 2 pairs. When you fill up your meter, they come in and attack or assist. It’s classic fighting game stuff. They didn’t reinvent the wheel but that isn’t the aim. The aim, I believe, is to create a party game. The whole package feels more akin to Mario Kart or Smash Bros. than it does Street Fighter V. For me, that’s great. The cost of entry is low. I can jump in, mash some buttons, learn a few tricks, and play against friends. It’s perfect for someone like me who generally steers towards simple games that can be picked up and played for an hour after work. That isn’t to say it can’t be competitive: it can be brutally cutthroat. It’s just designed for the casual gamer as much as it is the hardcore fighting game expert.
The big question: Do I recommend it? Absolutely. If you have a Wii U, pick it up and have fun. Invite some friends over and have a tournament in the living room… You know, just like us old people used to do. Human interaction can be fun, I promise! If you don’t have a Wii U, then you’re missing out. Not a perfect game but a move into the right direction. Now, imagine if there was an open world Pokemon RPG with a combat system like this on the Nintendo NX…