Originating in the strange neon-lit wonderlands of the Japanese arcade scene, Pokken Tournament is an unlikely blend of two well-loved franchises – monster collectathon Pokemon and bruising battler Tekken. Now arriving on the Wii U, Bandai Namco have produced a refreshingly enjoyable beat ‘em up that translates perfectly to the home.
Although historically perhaps their target markets have been rather different, truthfully the blend makes quite a lot of sense – after all Pokémon are noted for their battling ability, it is simply presented in a different context. Here Pikachu, Charizard and company fight it out in real time as opposed to their traditional turn-based combat, and it’s immediately a lot of fun as you rumble around the arenas trying to figure out your chosen Pokémon’s attacks.
Players can perform various techniques taken directly from the Pokémon series, with familiar special moves specific to each character and Mega Evolutions that can be performed once your synergy metre has been filled. There’s also a tag team element reminiscent of the Tekken Tournament staple, which allows players to call upon reinforcements during a bout, lending a tactical edge to battle that will please fans of both series.
In single player mode, new trainers will head into the Ferrum Region and rank up through four different leagues, Red, Blue, Green and Chroma. Initially players will find themselves breezing through fights, but after a while the element of competition creeps in and a more refined technique is required to advance. A neat levelling system rewards players with XP even if they lose, so you never feel as if progression is stalled even when the opposition proves tough.
Of course battling with a human opponent is where the real meat of the game is to be had, and both button mashers and input aesthetes will find joy in the two player competitions. Designed to be action based rather than a purely technical fighter, there’s enough depth here to keep both camps entertained. The only slight downside is a framerate downgrade in local mode, due to each player having to have their own separate screen due to the shifts in perspective that occur mid-bout.
For those players migrating from the Pokémon RPGs who are new to fighting games, the opportunity to train outside of ranking competition is welcome – in fact the training mode is one of the best presented aspects of the game, with not only the moves themselves outlined for you, but the effects of each move, allowing players to quickly build up tactics to take on specific opponents or counter specific move combinations.
With sixteen different Pokemon to choose from, it’s not the largest fighting roster around, but it does contain several Wii U exclusive characters such as Mewtwo and Garchomp, and counting another thirty ‘assist characters’, there’s enough variety to keep players going. There’s even a custom pad available for those wanting the exact arcade experience, although the gamepad and Wii pro pad are more than adequate.
Aesthetically, the game is big and bold, with detail-laden arenas and smooth camerawork, and there’s a well-designed feel to the various menus. Customising your trainer and equipping the various random bits of clothing that you win is a nice distraction, and the Pokemon series’ humour shows through in the conversations between rival trainers, which often crosses the line into amusingly nonsensical banter.
Perhaps surprisingly, Pokken Tournament proves an instantly exciting amalgamation – so often when these mashups are devised, they fall short of the standards of the parent series, whereas here the strong points of both combine to make a potent combination. There’s just enough Tekken to lend gravitas to what could have been a novelty spin-off, and the colourful cast of pocket monsters makes each bout fun and fresh. For those Wii U owners looking for a different set of combatants to take into battle, Pokken Tournament makes a serious contender.
[Source : The Independent]