Available on Wii U
At its core Pokémon has always been a fighting game, albeit a turn-based one. Mapping Pokémon onto a traditional 3D fighting game makes perfect sense. Pokkén Tournament on Wii U has intuitive controls and a perfect difficulty ramp that successfully let Pikachu and company brawl in glorious HD.
Pokkén Tournament is structured like a typical fighting game. You select from a roster of a little over a dozen fighters and fight one-on-one with opponents.
Executing moves is similar to Super Smash Bros. Simple combos fire off various flashy attacks. Each fight is structured around two phases – a bigger 3D Field phase and a more intimate side-by-side Duel Phase. Knowing when to close in and when to back off is an interesting strategy. Different pokémon excel at different techniques.
There are currently over 700 existing pokémon, so chances are your favorites may not be here. The roster plays it relatively safe by drawing in two or three characters from each generation, including the usual popular choices like Pikachu, Charizard, and Mewtwo (all of whom appear in Super Smash Bros).
Pokkén also includes a few more exotic choices like Suicune and Chandelure. There is a fun mix of styles and aesthetics. Different pokémon use leaf, ice, fire, or electric powers and nicely slot into different fighting game play styles, such as speedy, powerful, and zone control.
Dozens of other pokémon are represented as Supports. Supports come in pairs and can be equipped before a battle, offering a variety of attacks or effects when their gauge fills up. It’s a neat way of including more characters, though I would’ve preferred the chance to mix and match them.
The Single Player
Pokkén Tournament has a fun bracket-style campaign that nicely evokes the classic league matchups of the main series. You begin on the lowest rung of D league and work your way up. Opponents start off incredibly easy, giving you ample opportunity to improve your skills with your favorite fighter.
Pokémon gain experience and level up after battling. Gaining levels helps you improve Attack, Defense, Synergy, or Supports. It’s a neat way of acknowledging Pokémon’s RPG roots. But it also forces you to stick with one character at a time as you make your way up the league ranks, rather than diversify.
A robust training mode lets you run through all of a character’s moves, and later try out some specific combos. It’s incredibly helpful and another fun way to help ease Pokémon into the fighting game genre.
The usual local and online competitive modes are here. The Wii U takes full advantage of the Gamepad for local play. One player use the small built-in screen. I was very impressed on the technical side with no load times, instant match searching, and consistently smooth frame rates.
Online multiplayer is shockingly bare bones compared to other modern fighting games. Only the minimum Ranked and Friendly matches available. It may be all you need, but don’t expect the same amount of content or options as a Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter Game.
Pokkén Tournament is rated E for Everyone, with a descriptor for Fantasy Violence. The crux of the game is cartoon characters fighting each other, but there’s no blood or physical damage.
While Pokkén Tournament lacks the advanced features and expanded campaign stories of most modern fighting games, it succeeds on transitioning fun pokémon characters into a fighting game formula. Numerous aesthetic unlockables and a leveling system help make each fight matter. And the training modes are some of the best I’ve seen. Pokémon fans wanting to play an easy to pick up brawler will delight in seeing beloved pokémon on the big screen.