I love Pokkén Tournament. This is the game that Pokémon fans have been waiting for since the series first launched (well, aside from an MMO, at least). We finally have the chance to make our pet-slaves fight in a way that goes beyond the simple turn-based action of the main series and even beyond the simple but chaotic combat of the Smash Bros. series. Now we have real-time Pokémon battles, and in HD no less. Each fight is like stepping into the world of Pokémon and experiencing it firsthand, and it is amazing. It feels so satisfying to land a thousand punches with Machamp, or steal your opponent’s health with Gengar, or body slam a paralyzed Charizard with Pikachu Libre. The key to the game’s success is its combat; the controls are simple enough for newcomers to the genre while deep enough to remain entertaining to more advanced players. Instead of having to memorize long strings of combos, players must learn to properly utilize a power triangle of grapples, counters, and regular attacks in order to win. While not providing anything revolutionary to the fighting genre, Pokkén Tournament absolutely delivers on its promise of providing a fun and fully-fleshed Pokémon fighting game.
That being said, I do have 2 major problems with the game. The first is that there are only 2 unlockable characters (Mewtwo and Shadow Mewtwo), and the game requires you to go through a repetitive string of battles in the single player in order to unlock them both. We’re talking about well over a hundred battles facing the same 14 Pokémon over and over again, the only difference being variations in difficulty. The game’s single player starts you off at the bottom of each of the 5 “leagues”and requires you to make your way to the top 8 contestants before you can enter a tournament and then challenge the league champion. If you lose any battles while working your way up, you can end up making no progress or even going backwards, forcing you to endure more repetitive battles. Not to mention that each league adds more trainers, with the lowest of the 5 having 40 opponents and the highest having 100. This means that completing the single player could require going through more than 300 battles with NPCs. That’s just too much for a game with such a minimalist story and such a small roster.
That brings me to the other problem I have with the game: the number of available fighters. While Pokkén Tournament does do a good job of avoiding clone characters (even Shadow Mewtwo and Pikachu Libre, who should have just been alternate costumes, play different than their counterparts), a roster of 16 is just too small for a franchise that has 721 Pokémon as of its latest entry. The developers obviously couldn’t put every pocket monster in a single fighting game, but with no current plans for DLC, it looks like this could be all the Pokémon we’ll be able to fight as. That said, Nintendo has shown interest in fan feedback before when it comes to adding DLC characters (looking at you, Smash Bros.), so here’s a few of my picks for Pokkén Tournament DLC:
Heracross: Heracross’s horn would give it a completely unique playing style. Imagine being able rush in, scoop up your opponent, and launch them into the air to set them up for a combo. A grapple-heavy playstyle would work well to bring out this Pokémon’s design. Also, Pokkén Tournament is completely devoid of bug types, making Heracross a perfect addition.
Aegislash: Why Chandelure made it into the final roster I’ll never know. Pokémon designed after objects are some of the least liked in the franchise, but if you wanted to include one in a fighting game, why not choose the one based on an actual weapon? Aegislash’s “stance change” ability could add a whole new level to combat, requiring players to quickly switch between an offensive and defensive playing style.
Hawlucha: “Although its body is small, its proficient fighting skills enable it to keep up with big bruisers like Machamp and Hariyama.” Why not put this Pokémon’s Pokédex entry to the test? Hawlucha would make a great speed-type, swooping in and out of combat in a hit-and-run playstyle. Its synergy attack could also act similarly to Pikachu Libre’s, with a hilariously small bird body-slamming a creature ten times its size.
Hitmontop: Of all Tyrogue’s evolutions, I think Hitmontop would be the most interesting. No other Pokémon moves in the same way, allowing it to stand out in both the field phase and duel phase of battles. Like Machamp’s rapid-fire punches, Hitmontop would be able to dish out a huge number of kicks by spinning, allowing for a playstyle that focuses more on quantity than quality of attacks.
Serperior: You know what’s better than a four-legged fighter like Suicune? A fighter with no legs at all! I chose Serperior out of the snake Pokémon (others including Arbok and Seviper) because of Chadelure’s status as the only generation 5 Pokémon currently in the game. Serperior’s playstyle could involve wrapping up opponents for grapples or tripping them up with its tail. You know, snakey stuff.
Blastoise: I know there’s already a lot of generation 1 Pokémon in the game, but I feel like Blastoise might be the best option to add out of all the starter Pokémon (I would have selected Greninja, but as it’s already in Smash Bros. I figured it probably already stood a good chance of becoming DLC). Aside from objectively being the best of the Kanto starters, Blastoise’s design could give it a unique playstyle. It could use its cannons to attack at long range while relying more on its defensive shell during close range battles, creating a strategy of breaking away from opponents.
Absol: I was pretty confused when I heard Suicune made the final cut. Of all the quadruped Pokémon, why Suicune? While it is a fairly important legendary, its design didn’t seem especially well-suited for an actual fighting game like Pokkén. Absol seems like a much better choice due to the weapon literally sticking out of its head. Attacks could focus on rushing forward with a headbutt and then going into a combo of slices. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Absol’s glorious mega-form in HD?
There are plenty of other Pokémon I’d love to see added to the game, but listing them all would take forever. The point is that Pokkén Tournament is a solid game that deserves to remain relevant, and the best way to keep it relevant it to add in more characters from a franchise that has captured the hearts of players for 20 years.