As one of the more divisive fighting games, Pokken Tournament struggled to find a dedicated user base following its release. Some believed it to lack competitive depth, while more casual users grew bored of its shallow selection of features and characters. Meanwhile, the game continued to see updates to its arcade-based versions in Japan, but these additions and tweaks never saw release on home hardware – or at least this was the case prior to the arrival of Pokken Tournament DX on Nintendo Switch.
With the title’s second coming on a new console, many could be forgiven for thinking of this game as a simple port. Much like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, however, this is very much a definitive edition on Switch. Addressing some of the concerns pointed out in existing reviews of Pokken Tournament, the end result is a better fighting game that’ll satisfy Pokemon fans and fight aficionados alike. With that said, it’s still not without its flaws.
The most immediate improvement that’ll be a focus for fans is the addition of five new characters to the retail version of Pokken. The importance of pointing out that this is new for retail stems from the aforementioned fact that Namco Bandai has been continuously updating the arcade version of the title in Japan, adding four newcomers in the form of Empoleon, Darkrai, Croagunk, and Scizor since the game made its debut several years ago – all of which are now available to others outside of the region exclusively through DX.
All in all, this brings the final roster featured within the game to a total of 21 playable fighters, which is a nice step up from the 16 that were found in the original. Opting to forego clones, each new combatant also provides a unique arsenal in order to help address one of the largest concerns shared by many with the initial game – that being a lacklustre selection of fighters. There are sure to be a number of Pokemon that fans still will want to see join Pokken Tournament, but it’s a lot more challenging to be displeased with the beasts present this time around.
It’s important that the roster is better stocked, as the gameplay would fail to feel as fleshed out as it does if it didn’t have the variety to drive engagement. The combat still jumps back and forth between three- and two-dimensional plains, referred to as Phase Shifts in-game, and it all unfolds quite fluidly. It’s still a unique means of structuring a supposedly competitive fighter, but one that ultimately leaves uncertainty looming over the competitive viability of the product in the longterm.
Tying in heavily to the meat of the game are the Support Pokemon that allow people to further strategize for a virtual scrap through unique abilities attributed to monsters that weren’t deemed fit enough to make the cut, and all of the previous pairings return this time around. Since this is the “DX” rendition of the Poke-fighter, there is a pair of new assists that correspond with the inclusion of Decidueye, rounding out the Alola starters through Litten and Popplio. They aren’t groundbreaking, but their inclusion should help to modernize the game in the eyes of dedicated fans.
As a means of adding value, the developers have also thrown in a brand new three-on-three mode called Team Battle that allows players to jump in and select a trio of Pokemon for longer battle sessions. This option doesn’t play out like other 3-v-3 fight titles though, opting out of “tagging” and instead allowing players to pick and choose which creature to utilize in a battle on a defeat by defeat basis. Damage sustained in each round will carry through to the next battle, which makes gaining a foothold on the fight a little easier said than done.
Truth be told, it’s a fun means of rotating in characters faster for those hoping to get a feel for the full roster, and one that’s firmly based on the lore of the existing RPG series, but it’s not a major aspect of the solo experience’s Ferrum League. Instead, it sits as an option for those looking to step away from the core, albeit flakey, narrative to enjoy some multiplayer battles or change up the way they’re playing.
At its core, Pokken Tournament DX wasn’t developed in an attempt to change the way the game is played. Instead, it demonstrates a confidence in what the product was and grows it in order to give players a more rounded experience than what was featured on Wii U. New characters, modes, and the added appeal of portability raise the Switch version to new heights, while the widely accessible layout ensures that anyone can get into the Pokemon-themed experience at a moment’s notice.
There’s a wonderfulness surrounding all of this that makes dealing with the cracks in the original’s formulaic foundation a lot more bearable. While the jury is still out on whether or not the competitive scene will embrace Pokken this time around, the team at Namco Bandai can rest easy knowing that they’ve grown the game and left fans much better off as a result.
Pokken Tournament DX is available exclusively for Nintendo Switch on September 22, 2017. Game Rant was provided with a copy of the Switch game by Nintendo for review purposes.