Review: Pokken Tournament DX gets a second chance at life
More features, more characters, and the perfect console to play it on
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
In March of 2016, I got to review Pokken Tournament for the Wii U, and for the most part, I really enjoyed it! It was one of those "easy to pick up, difficult to master" situations, something that appealed to me since I was never really a huge fan of the fighting genre.
What Pokken Tournament did was shift the now familiar turn-based formula and allowed players to duke it out with some of their favorite Pokemon in real-time, and it was a blast. But there were shortcomings. The Pokemon roster was certainly questionable and somewhat low. The online, while functional, was unfortunately on a somewhat dying and never popular console. With the new DX version, much like Mario Kart 8 DX before it, breathes new life into the game with some sweet new additions like 5 more characters, and all previous characters unlocked from the start, some new modes, but most importantly, a home on a thriving console.
Shifting your perspective
Mechanically, the game remains identical from its Wii U predecessor. You choose one of 21 different Pokemon with two assist Pokemon that you can call out during your battle. The flow of battle revolves around constantly shifting perspectives from Field Phase and Duel Phase. Field Phase allows you to freely move around the battlefield, however, Duel Phase shifts that perspective where both fighters move back and forth on a 2D plane. Depending on the perspective you're on, you'll have different moves available to you. Naturally, during the Field Phase, your moves are more suited to damaging wider areas, whereas the Duel Phase turns your moves into straight-up offensive abilities that strictly focus on your opponent.
This constant back and forth keeps battles extremely interesting, since you always have to change up your strategy depending on which phase you're on.
So what's new?
A large portion of the game remains identical to the Wii U version before it. The biggest addition is the inclusion of five brand new fighters: Decidueye, Scizor, Croagunk, Darkrai, and Empoleon. All five of these fit in so well, that I almost don't remember them not being there in the first place. Pokken Tournament's low roster count at least meant that each fighter would be extremely varied (with perhaps the inclusion of Luchador Pikachu and Shadow Mewtwo). That trend continues in DX as well, as all five fighters feel fresh and diverse.
There's also an all-new Team-Battle Mode which is not only an extremely fun new mode but given that standard Pokemon battles play out in teams of multiple monsters, thematically it just makes sense. You pick three Pokemon and duke it out against another team of three.
Daily Challenges are welcome and certainly provide some incentive for checking in on the game on a daily basis, they're certainly not that challenging, at least not from what I've experienced so far.
For those wishing to master the game on a more technical level, have some sweet new options such as a replay feature that can also display all your button inputs as they happen, allowing you to study past games and see what moves worked and what didn't.
Perhaps the biggest and best addition is the ability to play multiplayer on a single screen. The Wii U version allowed you to play against another player, but one player had to be on the Gamepad, while the other player's on the TV. It certainly wasn't the most elegant solution. In the DX version, two players can now duke it out using a single Joycon, and it all happens on the same screen.
There are two options to multiplayer. By default, the screen displays both players, with P1 being in the forefront and P2 in the background. At first, I thought it would give P1 a certain advantage but that hasn't really been the case in my trials. The second mode splits the screen in half, and then within those halves shows a smaller screen. While this seemingly makes more sense so that both players are spotlighted on their own respective sides, there are two downsides. First and foremost, the framerate takes a big dip, and it's certainly noticeable going from the smooth 60fps the game naturally plays in. The second is that both screens are now much smaller, and if you're playing in Tabletop mode... well just be ready to sit extremely close so you can see everything well.
Much like Mario Kart 8 DX before it, this re-release is certainly the "definitive" edition of this game. It is largely the same as the Wii U game before it, so if you're itching to buy it to experience a ton of new content, you'll most likely be disappointed. With that said, if you loved the first game and want to experience the game again with a much more thriving community of Switch owners, then Pokken Tournament DX should certainly be on your radar.
It certainly would have benefitted from a bigger roster, especially since the number of Pokemon now reaches beyond 700, and I still would have liked to see some sort of comprehensive story mode. But what's offered, coupled with the Switch's versatile nature to play at home on your big screen or pretty much battle anyone, anywhere in portable mode, make it a very compelling purchase.