Pokken Tournament is a fun action\fighting game that was originally released in Japan as an arcade game. A year later it was released for the Wii U. Now you get to enjoy Pokken Tournament DX for the Nintendo Switch; this being the definitive version of the game, it comes equipped with all of the content from the 2 previous versions with a few more characters added in. Not to mention the ability to play Pokken Tournament anywhere in portable mode on the Switch. Let’s see how this fun, fast paced fighting game holds up on Nintendo’s newest console.

You might already know that Pokken is a spinoff of the Tekken series, so you’ll notice a lot of similarities between the two games. However there are a few differences as well, like playing with Pokémon for one. Pokken Tournament is what the Pokémon Stadium series should have been. While I always enjoyed playing those games back in the day, the lack of freedom to move and defend, or counter attack was frustrating. This time around you’re able to move around freely in the arena. You can execute chains of attacks and combos that are really cool to watch and equally satisfying to achieve. It’s one of those games that you can have fun playing even if you don’t really know what you’re doing, or what’s going on.

For example, my girlfriend Patty really dislikes Pokémon. She makes playful jabs at me all the time about my love for the series. But when I made her sit down and try out multiplayer with me, she couldn’t deny that it was a fun experience. We had a good time going back and forth, trying out the different attacks and support Pokémon abilities. This is definitely my favorite part of the game. There are 3 modes you can play in local multiplayer. Basic battle, extra battle and my personal favorite, team battle. A basic battle is one with the normal set of rules. Extra battle is played with special items that will raise your stats throughout the match. In team battle you and your opponent choose 3 Pokémon to fight with. This reminds me a lot of the battles from the Gameboy Pokémon games. When you KO your opponent they will send out their next Pokémon and your HP will stay the same. Take down all 3 with at least one Pokémon left standing and you’re the winner.

You can customize a few things in the options section of multiplayer. For example you can choose to play in split screen mode or full screen mode. I thought playing in Split screen would help players see their character more easily, but I really didn’t like how it looked. It compresses the display down for both players quite a bit and makes it harder to see what’s going on. But who knows you might like it better than I did. Playing in full screen worked just fine for me and my player 2 though.

What makes these battles so exciting is the synergy gauge, the phase system, and the combos you can achieve if done correctly. I have a friend that I played with, and all he does is button mash (it’s very annoying in games like Smash Bros). This time around he had to actually pay attention and strategize a bit. The synergy gauge will slowly fill up during battle. Once full you can press L & R  together to transform your Pokémon to its maximum power. This only lasts for a short time, but it allows you to get in some nice hits and even use a special attack if you press L & R again while transformed. It’s pretty awesome to watch if you hit your opponent just right.

The phase system is a little more complicated to explain. There is field phase and duel phase, both are used during a match and both have their advantages. When starting a match you will begin in field phase. This allows you to view the arena in full 3D and take advantage of the space given, letting you run around wherever you please. Duel phase is activated when special attacks are used. This changes the players view to a more 2D look and you can only move back and forth (like a traditional fighting game). Allowing you to use different moves and combos until you switch back to field phase. It sounds complicated but once you get used to it, it’s pretty useful.

There is a pretty long tutorial for people who don’t know how to play, or if you want to learn some more technical details about the game and the Pokémon’s abilities. Its a nice touch but the little helper (Nia) that explains everything can get pretty annoying. She’s always popping up and saying random things that really arent necessary. I mean, I know someone out there will enjoy her character but I could have done without most of what she said, so it would have been nice to skip that.

There is a lot of customization when it comes to Pokken Tournament. You get to create an avatar, buy clothes\accessories (earned from winning matches) and you can choose your main Pokémon from the league battles. Each time you battle with a Pokémon, you acquire skill points that you can use to upgrade your Pokémon’s attack, defense and other stats. You can also customize the controls and settings as well. There’s even a neat feature where you can watch replays from your previous battles. This is a fun way to show off your skills and take some good screenshots.  

Aside from tutorials and multiplayer mode, you can choose to play the main game, which is the Ferrum League. You’ll take your main Pokémon, and battle through 4 different leagues: Green, Blue, Red, and Chroma. Starting out in the Ferrum League is fairly easy, and you’ll notice yourself climbing the ranks pretty quickly. I went through the Green league in a snap, with perfect health every time. But as you progress the difficulty rises just a bit. Not to much but enough to add some challenge to the game. This is a good opportunity to level up your Pokémon and gain some skill points. Aside from the main game, you can also choose from practice mode, VS CPU mode, online multiplayer (I didn’t have a chance to play this, as the game was not out yet), wireless multiplayer, “my town” (profile and options) and the daily challenge. The daily challenge has you complete a set task each day with a different Pokémon. This mode also allows you to gain skill points for the Pokémon you play with, which is great for people who don’t often change their main Pokémon.

You’ll be happy to know that Pokken Tournament looks pretty cool on the Switch. There’s not too much of an upgrade from the Wii U version but I like the smooth, bright, detailed graphics and how realistic the Pokémon look and feel. This also holds up in portable mode as well. I think a lot of players will really enjoy being able to play Pokken Tournament on the go; it’s one of the best features about the DX version in my opinion. The DX version of the game also includes more characters than the previous versions. There are 21 to choose from this time around, including newcomers Darkrai, Empoleon, Scizor, Croagunk, and Decidueye. As well as 16 sets of support Pokémon. These will help you out once your support gauge is full. Some of them will attack your opponent while others will raise your speed or other stats, they can be very helpful in a pinch. But it would be even cooler if you could play as those Pokémon.

There’s over 300 freaking Pokémon nowadays, yet we only have 21 to choose from here? Kind of odd if you ask me. Yes, there is the possibility of DLC. but who knows what it will include, when it will come out, or if it will be free. This was my biggest disappointment when it came to Pokken Tournament DX. After you beat the main game there is a feeling of “what next”. Multiplayer is awesome but it can only go so far, plus it’s difficult sometimes to find someone else with a Switch or a (reliable) place to play online while in portable mode. Those are really my only complaints with the game. So hopefully we’ll see some new content in the future.

Overall I had a really fun time with Pokken Tournament DX. I never got around to buying the Wii U version so I can appreciate all that the game has to offer. While the main game doesn’t last very long this is definitely a game that you will come back to over time, even if it’s just to play when friends are over. If you do own the Wii U version I can say it’s still worth checking out for portable mode alone. Most of the time when I take my Switch out of the house, it’s hard to find a good game that I can play for short spurts, but Pokken is perfect for that. If you’re a Pokémon fan or you enjoy fighting games in general I highly recommend picking this one up. Pokken Tournament DX releases today in stores and on the Nintendo Switch eShop for $59.99.