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How has a Pokémon fighting game never happened? Nintendo’s violent little critters have been battling since 1998, and yet we’ve never been given a game where you can take full control of the melee. Well, until now. Pokkén Tournament, developed by Tekken creators Bandai Namco, may seem like a surefire thing, but transforming a relatively low-key RPG like Pokémon into a fighting game isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
Does Pokkén Tournament deliver the more hands-on Pokémon experience fans have always wanted? Does it have the goods to face off against fighting game stalwarts like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat? Let’s find out if this game has the fighting spirit…
Pokkén Tournament (Wii U)
Pokkén Tournament is a surprisingly detailed, impressive-looking game. This is the first time Nintendo’s pocket monsters have been rendered in HD, and Bandai Namco have really brought them to life with personality-packed animation and a lot of nice little touches, like the sleek fur texture that covers Pikachu or Charizard’s subtly scaly hide. The game’s arenas are also stuffed with visual Easter eggs and references to both the Pokémon and Tekken franchises.
In terms of story, well, you’re a Pokémon trainer who wants to be the very best, like no one ever was. What else were you expecting? There’s also some stuff going on with a mysterious hooded trainer and shadowy version of Mewtwo, but it doesn’t amount to much. Really, if you’re picking up a Pokémon game for its storyline, well, I’m not really sure what to tell you.
Audio-wise, Pokkén Tournament gets the job done. The music gets you properly pumped for battle, and all the Pokémon do the usual shrieking of their own names. The one blemish is the game’s very perky in-game advisor, Nia. She’s likable enough, but her various quips and “helpful” comments get very repetitive, very quickly. Thankfully her commentary can be mostly shut off.
Given the game’s title, you’d expect Pokkén Tournament to just be a kid-friendly version of Tekken with Pokémon subbed in, but that isn’t the case, as the game actually goes to some length to craft an interesting fighting system which meshes 2-D and 3-D fighting styles and RPG mechanics.