ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Fantasy Violence)
Pokemon battles are nothing new. We’ve been seeing these cute little monsters battle it out for decades now. With that said, these battles have always been very abstracted. I have a difficult time imagining a pair of trained beasts patiently taking turns while they lay into each other with fireballs and water blasts. Instead, I have always imagined the battles to more like MMA bouts where both combatants fight at once; wildly slashing, bashing, and blasting at each other.
My vision was finally realized when Pokken Tournament was announced last year. I was super excited then, and that carried right through until the release of the game. I have been hungry to get in and battle it out for a long time and I can say that I was not disappointed.
First, it is important to note that Pokken Tournament was developed by some of the same people responsible for the long running Tekken series. As a result the fighting mechanics are rock solid. The buttons are responsive and the action is furious. I never felt like I was behaving randomly even when I was learning the game. This is a big deal because the Pokemon brand will certainly attract a younger audience and it is important that the game be accessible right from the outset.
At its core Pokken Tournament is fighting game just like the others that are on the market right now. The biggest thing that sets it apart from the competition is its use of different “phases.” During each match players compete for position in both a Field Phase, where they can freely roam the battlefield, and a Duel Phase, where players fight in close quarters on a 2D plane. Each match is a dance as players weave in and out of the two phases based on their preferences. Some players may prefer to “zone” out their opponents using ranged attacks while others will try to close in on their opponents to unleash devastating combos. This adds an additional layer of strategy without bogging players down with additional button presses.
The roster includes sixteen Pokemon of various elements and from different games in the primary series. Everyone who plays should be able to quickly find a character that they like. And, honestly, if they can’t decide… then they should just use Lucha Libre Pikachu. Trust me.
Family Gaming Assessment
Pokken Tournament joins Super Smash Bros for Wii U as a family friendly option for fans of the fighting game genre. It does involve one on one combat between two Pokemon, but they are all obviously cartoonish characters. If you would let your child watch an episode of Pokemon, then the basic gameplay will not be a problem.
The game does, however, involve online matches where other player’s screen names are visible. Nintendo is generally very good at keeping the really bad stuff from being visible, but it is still worth being vigilant.
Fighting games aren’t exactly known for being “simple.” Pokken Tournament is no different. Players will need to have to be coordinated enough to use just about every button on the controller. In order to be successful they will need to be able to enter complex strings of button presses. This isn’t to say that you can’t just button-mash your way to a good time, but success depends largely on your ability to string together combos.
Pokken Tournament is an excellent game. Pokemon fans and fighting game fans alike should check this one out.