Pokken Tournament DX Review

By Blair Nokes on September 22, 2017

Pokken Tournament had the unfortunate timing in releasing towards the end of the Wii U's lifecycle. Despite its overall popularity from fighting game and Pokémon fans alike, the realization that Nintendo was shifting focus onto their then unreleased successor in their hardware line meant there would most likely be no support for the game going forward for Wii U owners. Nintendo were quick to announce the rerelease of Pokken Tournament for their newest console, the Nintendo Switch during one of their earlier Nintendo Directs. Pokken Tournament DX is an enhanced version of last year's release, similar to other rereleases of fighting games, like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Aside from offering the visual upgrades thanks to the Switch's vastly improved hardware, the DX version also has a host of new additions and features to hopefully entice fans to double-dip, or new players to join in the fray.

One of the biggest benefits of this port to the Switch - and a feature that is likely to be highlighted with almost every Switch release - is the portability. Being able to take the Switch on the go, and battle locally is a wonderful feature and a testament to the Switch's brilliance. Like most Switch titles, the game can be played with a variety of controllers; not only that, but those without any additional controllers can still use each Joycon as its own controller.

As I mentioned in my last review, the gameplay can be surprisingly deep. At its core, it's a four button fighter with two planes: Field and Duel. Field phase is when the game moves about a 3D arena; this comes in hand for your Pokémon's projectile or homing attacks. Executing those can transition you into the duel phase, which shifts to a 2D perspective like a traditional fighting game. While you can execute combos in Field phase, it feels more at home in this phase, as each attack has four additional moves with directional input, and you may slip up with the camera moving about.

The character roster in the Wii U version consisted of 15 Pokémon, however there were 4 notable omissions between it and the Arcade version. Scizor, Darkrai, Empoleon and Croagunk were absent and are now thankfully included in Pokken Tournament DX. On top of that, the Switch has an exclusive Pokémon from the recent Sun/Moon series - Decidueye. While I am certainly appreciative of the fact that we have been given a boost in the character count this time around - something I was rather critical about with the Wii U version - I still feel that 20 Pokémon, from a franchise that has 802 Pokémon still feels rather minimal on its own, and even more so when you stack it up next to other Fighting Games. Instead, 20% of the roster consists of repeated characters; Mewtwo and Pikachu both have two different versions, which granted, play significantly differently from their counterpart (and I also have a personal preference with Pikachu Libre), but still factoring all of these omissions from the gargantuan Pokédex and their limited number of slots for their roster seems rather odd that they would rather spend duplicating Pokémon instead of using different ones altogether.

Furthermore, Pokémon prides itself on the various types of Pokémon that exist in their worlds - Fighting being one of them. That's why it came as a bit of a surprise to see that very few of these Pokémon were actually Fighting-type. It seemed that more of a conscious effort was placed in using popular mascots - which is perfectly viable and understandable as familiar faces sell more, but it would have been nice to see some staples like Hitmonlee, Hitmonchan, Hawlucha, or Poliwrath. On top of that, deliberately using middle-tier evolutions for some Pokémon with 3 forms seemed odd. Braxien could have easily been Delphox, and Toxicroak would have made more sense than Croagunk. Perhaps going forward, we may see some more characters via DLC, which at this point I would be all for, and is a business strategy almost every fighting game employs nowadays.

Before each match you have the option of selecting paired partner Pokémon to act as your assists. In the Wii U version, most of these were unlockable, but thankfully the DX version offers them all right out of the box, and has included two new partners: Litten and Popplio (the other starters from Sun/Moon). They all have different support strategies: buffing, debuffing, defensive or attack maneuvers. It really does depend on what you need situationally, however I've been partial to using the new additions, mainly because Popplio offers a second jump and a temporary boost in power.

Brand new modes and features have been included in the DX version. Team Battle mode lets you pick three Pokemon and battle it out to be the first to defeat all your opponent’s Pokémon. Daily Challenges are a neat way to spice things up with conditional requirements in order to complete each challenge, the first one I encountered was to simply beat a wave of Pokémon with Sceptile.

You can battle players online in ranked or friendly matches, to really test your skills outside of the predictable AI you face offline. One tremendous feat they offered right off the bat is a penalizing system for rage-quitters, or those who exit a match, mid-match, out of frustration. Players who choose to quit midmatch will lose a portion of their in-game currency. A good penalty system in place to ensure a smooth and fair community. Group Match mode has also been added as a way for players to find similar skilled players in battle rooms before testing yourself with the ranked community. Testing the online's performance for stability yielded very positive results. I was never waiting for long to find a player, and during matches that gameplay was exceptionally smooth, with no slowdown.

Like the Wii U version, the visuals for Pokkén Tournament DX are great. One notable boost is that the resolution for the Switch has slightly improved from 960x720 to full 1280x720. One thing that has been boasted is that the resolution remains the same either docked or undocked. That to me is a little strange, especially when other far more graphically intensive games like Breath of the Wild were able to receive a boost in resolution while docked. That being said, it is still impressive that both resolution and framerate take no hits in either mode, ensuring a solid gameplay performance throughout. The Pokémon themselves have good detail to their models, and the attacks look and feel very polished.

Final Thoughts

Pokken Tournament DX continues on with the Switch's incredible Launch Year roster, serving as a much needed port for a great game that many may have missed out on. The gameplay is fun, with a decent amount of depth to it, the online feels smooth and visual performances are smooth, showing no dips in framerate between handheld and docked mode, and with online battles. I do wish that the Pokémon roster will see an improvement over time, as 20 is not only low by Fighting Game standards, but paltry compared to the number of Pokémon that actually exist in the franchise. Trickier to recommend to those who already owned this game on the Switch, as it's close to a full priced game, but to any who happened to miss out on it I would highly recommend it. It's a blast playing by yourself, and even more so with friends either on or offline.

Pokken Tournament DX was reviewed using a Switch Physical Copy provided by The Pokémon Company / Bandai Namco Entertainment. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
New Pokémon to improve the roster. Each Pokémon feel vastly different from one another.
The fighting system is very well done, and offers a good depth to it for those looking to improve their combos.
Solid framerate throughout, regardless of it being online or offline.
The new features are great and improve the longevity of the game, especially with the Daily Challenges.
While the addition of the new characters is welcome, the overall roster is still very small.
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