The fighting game genre seems incredibly suited for a console like the Nintendo Switch, as the mobility and different ways to play makes the Switch a hit in groups and social settings — just like a good fighting game. So it’s no surprise that the third major fighting game in six months, after ARMS and Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, has come to the system, and this one is decidedly Nintendo. Bandai Namco and The Pokemon Company have joined forces in developing Pokken Tournament DX.
Pokken Tournament DX brings the popular Wii U (and Japanese arcade hit) to the Switch, meshing the Pokemon franchise with the developers of Tekken, and the end result is a solid fighter that puts the fabled pocket monsters in a whole new light. There are 21 ‘pokes’ to choose from; an increase from the 15 that shipped with the Wii U version of the game. Empoleon, Scizor, Darkrai, and Croagunk were introduced in the Japanese arcade versions, and have now made their way to the home console. A new fighter, Decidueye, from the Pokemon Sun and Moon generation, makes its debut as well, rounding out the solid cast of Pokemon.
In addition to the main fighters, there’s also a cast of support characters, grouped in sets of two, that the player can call in the heat of battle to provide assistance. Pokken Tournament DX has 32 support characters, with the new duo of Litten and Popplio being exclusive to the Switch version. These support characters become important during the player’s fighting career, as they offer either offensive and defensive bonuses when called to the field.
Pokken Tournament DX takes place in the new Ferrum region and pits fighters against each other in an extensive four-tiered, color-coded contest to see who is the best Pokemon trainer. Players fight their way up the rankings of each tier (Green, Blue, Red, and Chroma Leagues) with the top eight going head-to-head in a bracketed league championship tournament. Winning the league earns the player the right to fight one more battle to qualify for the next league. The structure works well to ease players into the gameplay mechanics of combos and blocking, training the player for the insanely difficult battles in the later tiers.
There is a wraparound story that focuses on a menacing Shadow Mewtwo and his trainer causing havoc to the tournament fighters, and the trainer will inevitably face off with the mysterious and powerful Pokemon, testing mettle against mettle. It’s by no means an easy battle, and it will test the player like no other fight.
Each battle has two phases: the Field Phase and the Duel Phase. In the field phase, both combatants can move about freely, using ranged attacks and picking and choosing when best to block and when to attack. Landing a combo shifts the battle to the duel phase, which brings the action to a more intimate, face-to-face setting. This is when the action gets intense, as players can wail on each other with power moves, grabs, and combos. Each fighter has a Synergy Gauge that fills with each attack, and a full gauge can unlock a powerful Mega Evolution, and an equally powerful Burst attack, which is devastating — and oh so beautiful to look at.
In addition to the Ferrum Leagues, players can battle in single matches, in online matches, in local and wireless multiplayer battles, and more. There are daily challenges that reward players for winning under set conditions, and a special area called “My Town” where the player can customize their trainer character and administrate over their Pokémon fighters.
The graphics in Pokken Tournament DX bring Pokemon to glorious life on the Switch. The fully rendered character models look great and the prismatic color palette used in Burst moves and Mega Evolutions are truly eye-popping. The action is fast and the Switch has no trouble processing the action — even when a battle devolves into a Mega Evolution vs. Mega Evolution visual explosion.
Pokken Tournament DX features tons of unlockable title cards for the trainer and various clothing accessories, and Ferrum League battles have mission boards that reward the player for reaching certain goals in the tourney, such as “Use Mega Burst 10 times,” “Use a grab move,” “Call your support characters X amount of times,” etc. This gives the game extended life for completists, as there is so much to do on top of just battling other trainers. The game also ships with amiibo support, and DLC can be unlocked with various codes, presumably from Nintendo.
Pokken Tournament DX is a solid fighting game that looks and plays great on the Nintendo Switch. The game uses each of the Switch’s various play modes and controller options — including the Joy-Con, and makes for a perfect party game to take on the go. The robust roster gives players plenty of options to choose from, and the online battles, both ranked and casual, provide an extended life after the Ferrum League is conquered. The Switch is perfectly suited for fighting games, and Pokken Tournament DX is yet another feather in the cap of Nintendo’s new console.
Pokken Tournament DX is available on September 22 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. This review is based off a review code provided by Nintendo.
Pokken Tournament DX brings the popular Pokemon/Tekken mashup to the Switch with new fighters and support characters, making this a true deluxe version of the hit fighting game.