FINALLY the Pokémon game we’ve all dreamed about 15 years ago. Typical of a Nintendo, this is a game for everyone, but it’s also for fighting game enthusiasts. And if you’re a big fan of the Pokémon series, you’ll be floored to see your favorite Pocket Monsters and their well-known turn based moves come to life in colorful fast paced battles. This is no simple cash in (cough) unlike Ubisoft’s TMNT-Smashup (cough). The gameplay is definitely solid enough for being played in top competitive national tournaments like EVO and CEO-which in fact it will be.
This is a new type of fighting game, mashing up two types of gameplay, one being a 3rd person free roaming game like Naruto Ninja Storm, the other a 2D fighter like Street Fighter. I can best equate the 3rd person field phase is a game of dodgeball; you want to get the ball in the middle of the gym (there’s a ball equivalent in the game that spawns on the map that you can get), but you don’t want to get hit. Getting hit will initiate the 2D dual phase, in whoever initiated its favor. The Dual phase is where most of the damage will take place. When enough damage is dealt or a strong enough hit has been landed, both fighters launch back into the field phase till some tags another and the dynamic cycle goes on and on.
Your move set is consistent, while varying a bit depending on what phase you’re in. Either way it’s all fairly intuitive. Like every good fighting game worth their salt, this game is heavily dependent on reading your opponent. In Pokkén, knowing what your opponent will do boils down to its rock paper scissor element aka “Attack Triangle” where attacks trump grabs, grabs trump counters and counters trumping attacks- simple as that; no high-lows which might make your fighting game elitist scoff. This game’s about being accessible to anyone, and at the same time having the depth to satisfy seasoned vets.
Fights are usually super quick, lasting less than a minute. Damage output for each character can be crazy, with one combo from each character, potentially taking up to more than half a life bar. Because of this, the tables can be turned at any moment during the fight making that whole minute super tense.
Combos and moves are easy to learn. No 15 command strings, no need for hour upon hour long practice sessions trying to get frame perfect links. As expected from Nintendo, It’s about hopping on, having fun off the bat and hopefully having you want to invest time to get better. The game’s fun even if you might not have much idea of what’s going on for the most part, but if button mashing is all you want, this game or any fighting game might not be worth the price tag. BUT, the learning curve in Pokkén is reasonable enough for anyone to get a grasp on it quickly, especially with simple and in depth tutorials to teach you everything you need from simple movement and blocking, to effective and essential combos.
There are 30 support Pokémon. Each with their own unique aid to bring to the fight. Along with the 16, excluding two variations of existing Pokémon, making it 14 unique playable Pokémon there’s a total of 44, ranging from all generations, not counting the ton of other Pokémon populating the various stage backgrounds. Not much considering that there is currently 718 Pokémon, but this game is about quality, not quantity.
My favorite thing about Pokkén is the 3rd person view in the field phase along with the HUD. It’s an amazing homage to the tradition view from the flagship turn based Pokémon gameplay. It’s like seeing your classic Pokémon fights come alive like you’ve never seen before, but always thought it would look like. With that said, the game looks soo crispy. The Namco Bandai team’s visual fidelity, a staple of the Tekken series is present in all of its HD glory-although the human models within the stage backgrounds are a bit stiff, which can be overlook that with how BUMPN the soundtrack is.
Dude – Bro, wait for the drop!
There’s a small story line sandwiched between the single player mode involving a dark Mewtwo. There’s (solid) online play which, along with the local play will be the primary source of replay value. You can Level up your Pokémon with a cap of 100, just like the flagship games. But what’s really cool, is after the fact you can redistribute your stats to however you want indefinitely. Your stats ranging from Attack, Defense, Special, etc. You can also customize your avatar with thousands of options to give yourself and your opponents some personality.
I do wish there were more characters. I get it though, as being a first Pokémon game of its kind I’m sure the Pokkén team didn’t want to invest all their time cramming a bunch of characters for a game that might not be well received rather than making the game as solid as can be. That’s not a huge issue though, as it’s apparent that a lot of time was definitely spent making the cast unique all in their own way. This game has a ton of potential, and I really hope it does well. I’m sure it’ll be a blast for us older gen 1 fans and the kids we might have who’ve taking up the mantle of aspiring Pokémon league masters. I highly recommend it-if not to buy, then find someone who has a copy and play it. I think the Pokkén team did a great job with the game, as I am hooked and I know will be playing for hours to come- I’m even playing it in between the process of writing the review as I can’t put down the controller.