So, I suck at fighting games. I never really got into them as a kid, and now that I’m older I can appreciate the challenge and skill involved in them… but still suck at them.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl was my first real attempt to play a fighting game, simply because a friend hyped me up on the idea of all these mascots fighting each other (I had heard of the franchise before, just never played it). And boy did I suck. I ended up giving up entirely on it, eventually. Then Smash 4 came out, and it all clicked. I finally understood how to play, how to react and anticipate… and then the fighting game thirst began.
While I’m no Pokemon professor, the concept makes sense to me. Type advantages, in particular. And while Pokken doesn’t have type advantages in the traditional, Pokemon sense, it still employs, and relies heavily on, a rock-paper-scissors system. Normal attacks beat grabs, grabs beat counters, and counters beat normal attacks. And when you get that basic mechanic down, you can move onto more advanced techniques, and learning how to read your opponent to beat their chosen attack.
I may have made Pokken sound incredibly simple, it still has a lot of depth, somehow. Every character has a very different moveset, with some Pokemon being better at closing gaps, some attacking from a range easier, and some that are harder to predict (I’m looking at you, Gengar).
I personally picked Lucario as my partner Pokemon for the single player Ferrum League mode, but you can pick a multitude of many others, with some being straight up fighters (Machamp, Blaziken), some being more sneaky (Weavile, Gengar) and some even feeling like they shouldn’t be there (Braixen, Chandelure). They all have a very distinct personality that shows via animation and moveset, too.
The fights will have two different phases, which will switch after certain combos are powerful attacks are executed. Duel Phase resembles a traditional fighter, all happening on a 2D plane. Field Phase will allow you to move in 3D space, with the arena dictating where you can actually go. Each phase has a slightly different control scheme, with Field Phase having homing attacks to help close the gap, and Duel Phase having more brutal, close quarters moves to deal some, ahem, massive damage.
During the fight, you can build up your Synergy gauge, to unleash a powered up form, as well as a massive, finisher-type move. Pokemon who can Mega Evolve will do so, while every other Pokemon will just take on a move energised demeanor. Tap R + L to use it when it’s full, then again to activate your awesome, special move. You can block it if you time it right, but dammit Sceptile how much damage do you have to inflict GUH
Before each match, you can also pick two supporter Pokemon to summon during the fight. You can only pick one of those two supporters before a fight to actually summon for that round. I have a stupid inclination towards the cuter Pokemon I like, instead of more useful ones. But seeing Lapras so happily surf through the middle of a fight makes me feel like this game was worth the money.
Lastly, there’s the Advisor, Nia. During gameplay, she will give you a heads up on your support and synergy guages, and sometime a few helpful tips on ho- who am I kidding, turn it off, she won’t shut up I swear.
There’s not a huge story to write home about here, with it mostly being about you making your way through the different colour leagues in the new region of Ferrum. Each league gets harder as you progress, going in order; green, blue and red.
In between each league is a little bit of Shadow Mewtwo talk, and a fight against said Shadow Mewtwo. After the red league, you’re told they have to shut it down because Shadow Mewtwo is ruining everything, so you have to save Shadow Mewtwo. Then he’s Mewtwo, and then you unlock Mewtwo, and can play as Mewtwo. But not Shadow Mewtwo.
After that, you unlock the Chroma League, and I genuinely hope you don’t have to fight a Sceptile in that one. I’m stuck on it, so…
It’s amazing how well they mixed the classic Pokemon silhouette designs with a realistic, detailed texturing. Furry Pokemon have actual puffs of fur, reptile Pokemon have a waxy skin, and the Ghost type Pokemon look remarkably surreal, with an unnatural glow.
Beyond that, there isn’t a huge amount of art to really talk about. The arenas look cool, but you focus on them very little while in the middle of battle. The Pokemon and NPCs look kinda wooden in the background, but again, you shouldn’t really be paying much attention to them.
The avatar system, however, is very cool. I can’t help but draw parallels to Miitomo, which just came out, with the huge amount of clothes to unlock and buy with in-game money. I really hope Sun and Moon have an avatar customisation suite as cool as Pokken!
I can barely hear the music over the top of Nia stating her cheering helped, after I turned her off entirely during gameplay. SHUT UP, NIA.
So overall, if you’re a Pokemon fan, but suck at fighters, Pokken will still make sense to you. The one-beats-the-other mechanic of the game will make sense to any Pokemon fan, and given enough practice, the rest will follow naturally. Just keep at it!
If you’re a fighting game fan in general, I actually have no idea if you will like this game. But if you’re a fighting game fan and a Pokemon fan, chances are you can overlook a lot of the small things that most people don’t see, and just enjoy it as a dynamic Pokemon battle game.