Game Review: Pokkén Tournament DX – Exciting Pokémon Action Made Portable

Photo courtesy of The Pokémon Company Developed by Bandai Namco, Pokkén Tournament started its life as a Japanese arcade game. Released in 2015, it was followed by a successful Wii U version released early last year. Pokkén Tournament DX brings all of the Pokémon fighting action to the portable Nintendo Switch with a few added enhancements. Photo courtesy of The Pokémon Company Pokkén Tournament DX is an endearing, colorful fighting game where trainers have their Pokémon fight in one versus one matches. Though made somewhat in the style of Tekken, it is less technical and handles movement a little differently. Pokkén Tournament DX has two distinct movement phases: field phase, and duel phase. Field phase is more freeform than more traditional fighting games - opponents can run freely around the arena and attack their opponent at a distance, or close the gap to come in and attack up close. Duel phase plays like a more traditional side-scrolling fighting game. Fighters move between these phases by successfully landing (or being hit with) certain attacks. This makes fights dynamic and adds strategic elements as some Pokémon fight better at a distance, while others are best as up-close brawlers. Photo courtesy of The Pokémon Company If this sounds complicated, your assistant Nia helps out during battles by cheering you on and giving out pointers. Nia also points out things like low health, or completion of cooldown timers – like if your support Pokémon is available. There are a lot of different Pokémon to match your playstyle with 21 playable Pokémon and 32 support Pokémon that you can call upon to lend aid in battles. These support Pokémon can heal you, attack and/or debuff your enemies, or help fill your Synergy gauge. Photo courtesy of The Pokémon Company If you own Pokkén Tournament on Wii U, there are a few reasons to get DX. Added were four Pokémon that appeared exclusively in the arcade version: Darkai, Scizor, Croagunk, and Empoleon. The owl-like Decidueye is entirely exclusive to the DX version. Also exclusive to DX are 3v3 team battles, friend exclusive group matches and ranked online play. The Wii U version will not get any of these new characters or modes, making DX the definitive version going forward.  While these additions alone might not be enough to convince you to fork over another 60 dollars, the Nintendo Switch’s portability is a perfect match for Pokkén Tournament DX and makes the price tag a little more palatable. This portability means you can play with others on the go, using the Joy Cons as player 1 and player 2, or if you know someone else with a Switch and a copy of the game, you can battle each other wirelessly. Photo courtesy of The Pokémon Company If you aren’t into battling others, or just want to practice, there are plenty of things to do solo. There is a pretty comprehensive tutorial that helps you familiarize yourself with how Pokkén Tournament DX works, a practice mode, and a “story” mode called the Ferrum Leagues. While participating in the Farrum Leagues there is a bit of an exposition, mainly about battling your way up through the ranks against other trainers and their Pokémon.  There is a side story with Shadow Mewtwo, but the main focus is grinding through League battles until you can qualify for the tournament. If you win the tournament, you can fight a match to get promoted to the next league. It can feel like a grind, but it helped me better understand the unique nature of Pokkén Tournament’s battles. You can also earn money to spend on customizing your trainer’s anime-style avatar, or unlock items such as titles to display to other players in multiplayer. Photo courtesy of The Pokémon Company Pokkén Tournament DX is easy to pick up and has a skill ceiling high enough to dedicate some serious time into learning its intricacies. Despite the DX version’s additions, its accessibility to new players and portability are its strongest features. Pokkén Tournament DX is now available on Nintendo Switch.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.