I want to thank Nintendo UK for supplying us a copy of the game. We wish them a good launch and hope this game is a success for them.
Back in a time where we knew of the Switch only as the NX and the Wii U was entering its twilight years, Bandai Namco released it’s arcade Pokemon crossover, Pokken Tournament to quite a bit of success. It definitely did better than they expected and they showed us continued support with new Pokemon coming to the arcade. I played Pokken back then thanks to a friend and ultimately came to a conclusion: ‘I bet this game gets ported to the NX, I’m gonna wait.’ A year and a half later my prediction came true and a deluxe port with all the arcades extra features and more has landed on the Switch. I’ve had the chance to beat the game on Wii U, play it at arcades in Japan and finally play through the game on the Switch so which version of the game is the definitive edition? Which one did I get the most synergy with? Let’s find out.
So, I’ve decided to skip over an in-depth analysis of the story because it is identical to the Wii U version. In fact, the gameplay, in general, is exactly the same as on the Wii U from the different phase shifts to the way supports and synergy work. If you really want a detailed look then take a read at TheAnvil’s original Pokken Tournament review and then come back, as I would largely just be repeating what he said there. A brief story synopsis anyway is that there is a Pokemon Tournament, a strange black Mewtwo begins attacking people and you must fight your way through the ranks and become the champion so you can take it down. Simple and easy, like most fighting games. Now let’s talk about what is new, starting with the Pokemon.
While the arcade version of Pokken saw a lot of updates with new critters to fight as, the Wii U version got nothing. So, four of the five new Pokemon have actually been available for a while but I imagine this is the first time for many that they get the chance to play them so let’s go over their styles. We will start with Scizor as I chose him to be my main Pokemon [and so he’ll appear a lot in the footage for this review. Prepare to know him inside and out by the end of this]. Scizor is a fast and heavy hitting bug-type who snips and Ora Ora’s his opponents in quick succession. He has a short glide in mid-air and some great area attacks. His main gimmick is Sword Dance which allows him to store up to four swords behind his back that allow for strong follow-up attacks to his Poke Moves. These are very useful and one of the reasons he’s my favourite.
Darkrai is next and he is on the other end of the spectrum. I didn’t like using him as his whole gimmick is about setting up traps and luring foes into being blasted by them. He has some ok ranged attacks and his synergy burst is easy to land but overall he is not for beginners. Empoleon is a fighter I do like but one that ultimately wasn’t very good. He’s a HM slave with some powerful attacks but he is very slow and I found the lag between moves to be a pain when fighting better Pokemon. Now Croagunk is a fun one. I initially did not like him but after some time I realized how enjoyable his moveset is. He is essentially the joke character of the game. A lot of his moves are random in the amount of power the distribute and he even has the chance of debuffing himself instead of applying buffs. However his poison strike is pretty good, he has a lot of speed and his animations are just goofy, but they brought a smile to my face.
The final Pokemon added to the roster is entirely new and that is Decidueye, the only playable Gen 7 Pokemon. Decidueye at first glance seems very powerful. He has ranged attacks and can fly. His feet deal considerable damage as well. But in the end, while definitely on the higher spectrum of viable characters he has enough weakness’, like his lag, that keep him from being broken. Decidueye is joined by both Litten and Popplio who come in the form of assist Pokemon. All the assist Pokemon are available from the get-go this time and these two are quite good considering some of the later choices. Popplio provides a stat buff and Litten an attack, but in the latter’s case, the attack is far stronger the lower your health and can easily bring about a comeback if done right. These three come with a new stage on a beach based on Alola and that does it for all the Gen 7 representation.
I began to notice this game plays on additions of one. Every major mode has one new feature and that is it. I think all the additions are needed but it ultimately doesn’t increase the amount of content up by much, so if Pokken Tournament felt like it was a bit bare bones there might not be enough new stuff here to fix that. In my opinion, all the new content is great and we can start with the 3-on-3 battle mode. This mode reminds me a lot of the classic Pokemon Stadium games. Here players pick three Pokemon from the roster and then choose which order they want to send them out in. The choices are decided by button presses so you can keep it a secret and make teams that help to cover each other’s weaknesses. My only issue with the mode is how it lacks in smoothness, effectively ending the round when your Pokemon dies and sending you back to the support screen instead of swapping you out automatically like other fighters. You also can’t tag out a character mid-match so once you pick a fighter you have to stick with it. It is a fun mode that allows players to try out more Pokemon but it could’ve been a bit better.
Trying out new Pokemon was something the first game did not support very well. Once you pick a main Pokemon for the story mode you never need to change again and it is the same thing here. The developers clearly knew this was an issue which is why they implemented the daily challenges. This new mode gives you a set challenge every day where the game forces a certain Pokemon loadout on you and asks you to fulfill the requirements. These challenges can be a little easy but they come with a good reward of giving players skill points for numerous Pokemon so that everyone can be leveled up together. I like this mode although I wish there was more than just the one challenge a day, like a type of mission mode.
Oh wait, there is a mission mode. Unfortunately, this new mode is limited to the story and it doesn’t require you change up your main Pokemon enough. Reminiscent to the challenge system in Super Smash Bros., each league in the games Ferrum mode has 16 panels for you to break. These missions range from using specific support Pokemon to winning matches in specific ways and you unlock new titles and clothing options for completing them. It is also a welcome addition to this game although I would’ve liked to see it expanded as well. Maybe a panel for each Pokemon specifically or make it not exclusive to the league.
The last new feature is in the Online mode. Finally, Pokken allows you to host and set up your own online matches with a group of friends. It was sorely missing from the first game so I’m glad a convenience feature like that is here. It is an improvement to the game and that is what most of Pokken Tournament Deluxe’s new features are. The gameplay is still exactly the same with no new additions but instead the games other areas have been refined. More content, more motivation for trying out said content and more ways to enjoy with friends. I would have preferred a few more modes, maybe a survival mode and definitely a separate arcade mode from the Ferrum league, but in the end what we do have here is an improvement.
The presentation is very similar to its Wii U original in terms of sound and visual aesthetic. The only new song is for the new stage and it retains the same artstyle as before. However, on a technical level, there are definitely some big improvements. I’m not the best person to talk to about frame-rate and visual quality but I do remember how poor it was with local multiplayer on the Wii U, especially with the gamepad. Unless you set-up a LAN match Pokken was near to unplayable and thankfully that is no longer the case with this Deluxe edition. Local multiplayer is vastly improved and the ability to use just one joy-con means that couch gaming has never been easier for this title.
That was all while docked. Undocked the game still looks stunning on the Switch’s screen with no frame-issues while in single player mode. The same can be said for the multiplayer while undocked but only if you chose the single screen option/ Pokken allows players to do multiplayer with both a single-screen and a split-screen where the camera is behind both players. In the split-screen mode the frame can sometimes drop, although it isn’t frequent. Still, for a fighting game I wouldn’t recommend this mode and thankfully it is just an option.
Pokken Tournament Deluxe’s local multiplayer issues were probably my biggest gripe with the title back on Wii U so I am thrilled to say they have fixed that all this time around. It makes the game a ton better and I would recommend just for that. Thankfully for us the game also comes with new fighters and new content across all modes. This is definitely the definitive way to play Pokken and if you decided not to get it on the Wii U then I would suggest picking it up here, whether you are a fighting game fan or just a Pokemon fan. Now, if you already got the Wii U version of this it is a harder choice. I think the improvements make this the better game and if you wanted to play this game a lot with friends then I would recommend the upgrade. Everything outside of avatar customization is unlocked from the start so you can instantly jump in. But, if you are more in this title for the single-player there is very little reason to upgrade. You might be worth waiting for a sequel or seeing if this title gets post-release support before investing once more.