Pokkén Tournament DX Review (Nintendo Switch)

Initial Release: 22 September 2017

Upholding the high standard of AAA games released on the Switch thus far, Pokkén Tournament DX is another strong marketing choice made by the bods over at Nintendo.

Last week brought the much-anticipated release of Pokkén Tournament DX for the Nintendo Switch, an update of 2016’s Pokkén Tournament for the WiiU. The game functions as a delicate blend of the fighting games we know and love, nodding to developer Bandai Namco’s Tekken and Nintendo’s Pokémon. The game’s release has certainly encapsulated the rapid growth Nintendo games – and gameplay – have made in the single year since the original title, with the Switch once again demonstrating its flexibility and appeal.

The core of the game, for those who haven’t played either version, is that this region has developed a unique tournament style to challenge and rank their trainers, in which the trainer and their Pokémon must use a pairing headset to generate Synergy and fight together as one. As you climb the ranks together against various Pokémon and arenas, you can distribute skill points across key statistics to beef up your ‘mon, as well as unlocking new styles for your trainer icon. The only technical flaw of the main game is the complicated mechanics – the move sets and combos are so varied and dynamic that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content.

One of the greatest appeals of the game on either platform has to be its aesthetic. Maintaining the art-style and classical characteristics of the original Nintendo sprites, Pokkén adds some real grit and dimension to the fighters and their battles. Seeing iconic moves mixed with typical fight battle moves in such an intelligent and challenging way makes this game incredibly addictive and playable.

The same can be said for the music, in that it encapsulates the upbeat adventure of Pokémon games and amalgamates it with the high-octane atmospherics of the classic fighting games we know and love. The arenas also intelligently blend their scenery and aesthetics with the functionality and stylings of Tekken. Whilst the variety isn’t huge, the shape and size of the arenas can really affect your approach and style of fighting as you progress through the game and encounter more difficult opponents.

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It’s really charming – and poignant – to see the presentation of new Pokémon technology in this game. Many fans of fighting games will have that one fighter-of-choice; the Pikachu to their Ash, if you will. The idea that you can choose your partner and level, progress and ascend the league tables together really adds depth to the fighting game mindset. Or at least it does if you’re a huge nerd for Pokémon.

New to the game on the Switch, however, are eight support characters, five playable characters and a selection of game modes designed to maximise gameplay and utilise the infamous versatility of the Switch. The first of these is the Daily Challenge, in which you are assigned one of the many Pokémon in battle. Whilst the use of the word ‘challenge’ may be a bit of an overstatement, it’s a fun little way to engage with and explore Pokémon other than your main fighting partner. It is, however, a fun little pastime for a quick burst of gaming.

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Also premiering on the Switch are the three-on-three matches, which are probably the closest thing to the traditional Pokémon fighting style, though you still can’t tag-team in RPG fashion. It’s great to get to play a variety of fighters in this mode – even if their fighting techniques are alien to you, dabbling in and out of these characters really adds another dynamic of challenge to the game. One slight disappointment comes from the split screen mode, which causes some serious lag problems and thus doesn’t really add much to an otherwise well-balanced game – a great shame, seeing as it doesn’t utilise the key benefits of the Switch as a console.

It feels as though the move to the portable-enabled console and the addition of unique new modes has really strengthened the Pokémon-feel in the game. Whilst it’s still clearly not built like the typical RPG games, the ability to pick up, quick battle and share fights with friends feels much more akin to the brand than playing it on the WiiU. Much to the amazement of fans, the game somehow still comes out around 480MB smaller than the WiiU version,  despite the fact that each of the new characters premieres with unique moves, sounds and animations, not to mention the variety of new modes and mechanics. There’s definitely been some crafty compression accomplished here by Bandai Namco! 

Barring the unfortunate case of frame-rate difficulty, the game is a fantastic step-up from last year’s original title. It’s thoughtfully composed, paying homage to two great yet stylistically different game dynasties (as well as many others throughout gaming history), technically innovative and aesthetically pleasing throughout. The narrative campaign and events throughout the tournaments give a compelling reason to progress in the game, and really encourage immersion in a genre which can sometimes feel alienating.

Upholding the high standard of AAA games to be released on the Switch thus far, Pokkén Tournament DX is another strong marketing choice made by the bods over at Nintendo.  

Verdict: 8.5/10

We were provided with a copy of the game by Nintendo

Written by: Josie Watson

The more it sounds like I dislike something, the more I probably like it. English student at QMUL. Obnoxiously DC and Queen of Disney.

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