Developer: Bandai NAMCO Entertainment, Inc.
Category: Fighting, Action
Format Played: Nintendo Switch
Released: September 22, 2017
Copy supplied by publisher
At their core, Pokemon games are fun because of the challenge of actually raising Pokemon and the thrill of seeing how they stack up in battle. It’s for these reasons that I find myself so impressed with Pokken Tournament DX, the new and improved version of the Wii U game released back in 2016. This time around, Nintendo tacked on a “DX” at the end of the title, added 5 new characters (Croagunk, Darkrai, Decidueye, Empoleon and Scizor), a 3-vs-3 mode, a daily challenge mode, ranked online battles, and split-screen co-op play. That’s a decent amount of new content but is it enough to consider a double dip if you’ve already played Pokken Tournament on the Wii U?
Of the new Pokemon, for whatever reason, I gravitated to Empoieon. He may be slower than most, but his attacks are strong and his special is pretty awesome. Having said that, I will admit that Scizor is probably the best ‘new’ addition to the game. He’s fast, strong and hard to hit – the perfect combo. That said, no one compares to Charizard, who is by far my favorite. His combos and specials are incredibly powerful and they chain together effortlessly; not to mention, for a big guy, he’s actually pretty quick on his feet! But, if you’re not one for a flying dragon that breathes fire, there are 20 other Pokemon to choose from and much like we saw in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe — another expanded Switch port released earlier this year — all characters are playable from the get-go. In my opinion, this was a smart decision on Bandai NAMCO’s part, as I’d rather get to leveling up Pokemon I see myself using for battles, rather than wasting time raising scrubs. Sorry, Chandelure!
I’m also a big fan of the new 3 vs. 3 mode, which allows you to pick three Pokemon to enter battle with. It reminded me of playing Pokemon Stadium back in the day, only way better, as you actually get to control your Pokemon this time around. My only point of criticism of this mode is that you’re unable to switch out your Pokemon during battle, something that’s always made playing Marvel vs CAPCOM such a blast. While I hope Nintendo hears my cry and tweaks this one aspect, 3 vs. 3 is still one of the best new features DX brings to the table.
Now for the negatives. I found the story to be completely irrelevant, although to be fair, when playing a fighting game, I’m not really expecting a strong narrative. I did enjoy how many different modes there were, but it’s just too bad their wasn’t more diversity among the battles and challenges. It all felt a little one note. Luckily for Nintendo, that one note is pretty spectacular. As far as the fighting is concerned, I’d rather play Pokken Tournament DX than Injustice 2 — a fighting game, ironically enough, that features a surprisingly compelling story mode — which is saying a lot. Pokken Tournament may not have the story that Injustice does, but the fighting dynamic is much more entertaining.
While playing, you’ll probably spend the most time jumping between My Town and Ferrum League. My Town is basically your home base. You can change your settings, customize your avatar, and select your Pokemon partner. In the Ferrum League, your journey as a trainer begins. You’ll battle through the various leagues, starting with the Green, followed by Blue, Red, Chroma and concluding with Iron. Once you conquer the Iron League, give yourself a pat on the back! It’s no picnic. Ferrum League may start out on the easy side, but by the time you hit the Red League, things will begin to get difficult. They’re aren’t many surprises, so if I were you, I’d choose a few Pokemon that you enjoy fighting with and level them up. Unless you want to unlock all the Tiles Settings, in that case, you’ll need to go HAM with all 21 Pokemon. It’s the only way to get it done.
When it comes to the daily challenges, at first I thought they were a fun addition, but after a few days, I realized they’re nothing more than a basic one-on-one battle with a random Pokemon. I do like that that you get skill points for clearing the challenges, unlocking Titles in the process, but you’ll often have to use a character you don’t typically play with, so the skill points feel pointless. One thing I would love to see Nintendo add is more challenges with higher levels of difficulties. It would make for a more challenging mode and something players could look forward to.
I found the split-screen co-op to be a lot of fun, but I just wish the frame rate held as steady as it does when playing the single player modes. Pokken Tournament DX looks so great on the Switch because it runs at 60 frames per second, docked or in hand. Unfortunately, when you play split-screen, it drops to 30 fps. It’s not a huge deal, but if you don’t like the graphics in split-screen, it’s probably best to take turns or tell your buddy to hurry up and buy his own Switch.
While I wish there were more elements to game, Pokken Tournament DX is by far the best fighter to be released on the Switch thus far. Other than the spilt-screen co-op, the graphics are quite stunning – whether in docked or portable mode. The 5 new Pokemon, 3 vs 3, and the ranked online battles are all great additions. I also can’t believe the amount of unlockable avatar customization that’s available – the possibilities are seemingly endless. In my opinion, Pokken Tournament DX is not only the best fighter on the Switch, it’s also the best I’ve played in years, including Injustice. Honestly, if you’re getting tired of games like Mario Kart 8 or Breath of the Wild, give this game a whirl. I highly recommend it to all Pokemon fans and anyone looking for an entertaining fighter to play online or with friends.