The Pokemon series has eluded the fighting game genre for some time now, though each game has an abundance of little pocket monsters ready and willing to do battle at their trainer’s command. The [obvious] core aspect that has kept the series from the fighting game genre is the usage of turn-based style battles. But, what might it be like if we were able to control the Pokemon ourselves, with instinctual combos we’ve memorized and mastered, and duke it out within the confines of a battle arena? With the upcoming release of Pokkén Tournament, we now have the answer to that question – alright, maybe it’s a tad bit obscure of a question, but it’s still a valid one!
Pokken Tournament gives you the ability to tear another Pokemon a new one. Outstanding.
There is a lot to enjoy and a lot to be frustrated within Pokkén Tournament. So, let’s start with what might frustrate a player. To begin, the audio cues, voice-overs, and music are less than desirable. In fact, the voice-over work in this game is downright atrocious. More than likely, people interested in this title aren’t expecting top-notch voice acting and incredible amounts of captivating story-telling; they’re interested for the competitive fighting of Pokémon. However, I found it hard to listen to even the tutorials – which were incredibly helpful, as far as teaching the game – let alone the rest of the dialogue sprinkled throughout the title. If it weren’t for the option to turn the advisor comments off, I might have played this game with the sound turned off entirely. Though the audio cues during the battles are fine, the music is forgettable, and the voice-overs are annoying. When I play an arcade fighter, I expect repetitive compositions that don’t stick out amongst the gameplay while still managing to be fun. Pokkén Tournament, unfortunately, falls flat in this aspect.
Another aspect of this title revolves around the stages available to fight in. Each stage boasts different characteristics and/or Synergy bonuses, offering a minor amount of strategy before even starting a match. This was a nice little addition to the gameplay, but it was tarnished by the somewhat bland level designs. I would say about 1/3 of the stages didn’t have a whole lot going on in the background. In fact, a perfect example of this can be found in Old Ferrum Town: there are Pokémon wreaking havoc upon each other in the center of town, throwing fireballs and dodging electricity, drop kicking, punching, and countering… all while there is some dude sitting on a bench uninterested in the fight (not moving), some others in the background who are mildly entertained (tiny amount of movement), and other Pokémon watching on as their peers tear each other apart (again, tiny amount of movement). Many stages feel added on, almost as a way to create a larger amount to choose from. Now, there are some stages that I truly enjoyed, such as Haunted Mansion and Phos Volcano, but I was hoping to see some spectacular set pieces to highlight the colorful world of Pokémon.