Pokémon and Tekken are two things nobody would have ever thought could mesh well together, but Pokkén Tournament combines both into a surprisingly addictive and competitive game. Fans of the Pokémon series will enjoy picking one of 16 Pokémon of varying types and duking it out in a constantly shifting fighting game. The scope of the Pokémon series has always been wide, so things do feel a bit meager in comparison. However, Pokkén Tournament relies on a combination of solid controls, great visuals, and a deep fighting system to make it a solid contender on the Wii U.
The fighting system in Pokkén Tournament feels like the best parts of two different kinds of fighting games put into one. Matches are constantly shifting between two phases, a field phase and a dual phase, where move sets and actions vary depending on which of the two you are in. Moving around in field phase is more akin to games like Power Stone, where you have more on the field around you. Dual phase is more like traditional fighting games where everything is locked on a 2D plane and your move sets are different. Attacks are constantly changing the phase when they connect and make for some pretty intense matchups with constantly shifting momentum.
The visuals of Pokkén Tournament look great on the Wii U and have a lot of attention to small details. Backgrounds are lively with lots of cameos from different Pokémon from throughout the franchise and even have a few nods to the Tekken series.
The stages you fight on are all built differently with varying sizes and background eye candy that Pokémon fans will appreciate. The music in the background of each stage is on par with the soundtrack from the Tekken games, with a lot of remixes and party inspired tracks that keep the action feeling high octane in every battle.
The roster of Pokémon to choose from is rounded out well, but it feels slim and lacking Pokémon that could have been included from throughout the series. There are your staple characters like Pikachu and Charizard from the original games, as well as other types of Pokémon from later in the series, but it never feels like enough variety to keep you satisfied.
Games like Tekken Tag Tournament have huge rosters of characters to choose from, and it feels like Pokkén Tournament could have benefited from the same thing with such a wide selection of Pokémon to pick from. However, each Pokémon on the roster has many unique special moves with various effects on your opponent, similar to how the attacks in the Pokémon games can change the stats of enemies and allies.
The single player mode in Pokkén Tournament is the Ferrum League, a series of matches that play out like a tournament league in the Pokémon universe. There is a story here that ties everything together, however it loses steam very early on and changes in tone about halfway through, along with a lackluster climax towards the end. As a whole, the story in Pokkén Tournament is forgettable and lacks any kind of scope that one would find within the Pokémon universe. Some of the more story detailed sections are a bit out of place compared to the league styled matches, making them feel like they could have been a whole separate mode on their own instead of being part of Ferrum League.
What is very disappointing however is the lack of good unlockables by the end of Ferrum League. You can unlock two extra characters by playing through halfway of the single player game, but the end feels very unrewarding since you aren’t given anything for finishing it.
It would have been nice to unlock another Pokémon to use after spending so much time with Ferrum League. There should have been more of a grand finale for finishing, much in the same way as Tekken’s silly arcade finish movies or getting inducted into the Hall of Fame like in the original Pokémon games. Instead, the game leaves you on a low note and glances over the challenge you overcome.
Multiplayer is where a lot of the fun for Pokkén Tournament really shines. You can play against another person locally, but a lot of your multiplayer fun will be online. Matches in the online modes are smooth and have very few instances of lag or delayed inputs. You can play in Ranked Matchmaking and see where you stand on the Leaderboards, or simply play with those on your friend list in private matches, all of which make finding someone to play with quick and easy.
Pokkén Tournament is a great competitive fighting game that Wii U owners are going to want to have in their collection. The single player content and extras might live up to the legacy of the Pokémon or Tekken series it’s inspired by, but it does well in providing an addictively fun experience that will keep everyone coming back for another round. Pokkén Tournament caters to both Pokémon and Tekken fans by putting together some of the best parts of both series and making a great fighting game for everyone to enjoy.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Pokken Tournament on the Wii U provided by Nintendo.