Pokkén Tournament DX Switch Review

Nintendo are keeping the momentum going with the Switch by smartly mixing up the release schedule with brand new games and enhanced ports of existing Wii U or indie titles to sustain a great catalogue. We have already seen how successful it has been with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and indie titles are also enjoying success on the console. Now Nintendo is back with their next enhanced port from Wii U to Switch with Pokkén Tournament DX, a game that did well on Wii U, selling over a million copies on a platform that currently consist of about 13.5 million users, but will no doubt find a new audience on Nintendo’s hybrid system.

For existing fans, the biggest question for them is that if I already own the game on Wii U and I now have a Switch, should I pick it up Pokkén Tournament DX? It depends on how you value the extras thrown into this DX version. This is obvious the best version of the game, thanks to the new content, and you can now take it on the go to have the exact same experience as before – a train, plane, bus, and of course, the cosy toilet seat are just a few places of interest waiting to experience some Pokkén action. The biggest addition is the inclusion of five new Pokémon – Darkrai, Decidueye, Empoleon, Scizor, and my new favourite Croagunk, the poison fighting type first introduced in Diamond and Pearl, who is a cheeky, comical frog full of himself, while being a speedy trickster with some ninja moves that wouldn’t be out of place as a character in the Naruto series.

All the new characters are inventive, making them distinct enough to add to the game that they don’t feel like replicas of the existing 16 fighters. Scizor is a good demonstration of this, as he has the ability to stock up swords that hover behind him, used in combos so that they lead to more damaging combo enders. New Pokémon are also available for supporting the main stars, adding another two to the roaster, bringing that total up to 32 Pokémon across 16 groups, as support Pokémon come together in pairs.

Similar to the approach for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Pokkén Tournament DX has also received new gameplay types, mechanics and social features. Team Battle is a twist on the standard combat that opts to let the player pick three Pokémon before the start of the battle. Players can then pick their start order relevant to the shortcut key attached, so their opponent cannot tell what order the line up is (same as The King of Fighters series), then the battles are fought until the first person loses all their Pokémon. Synergy and health are passed across rounds, with the winner of a round gaining a slight heal on their Pokémon ‘s health – akin to how most fighting games have done this type of single round character battles.

For new single player content, daily challenges are included that offer a one per day task. From the few I experienced, these were fairly straightforward challenges that revolved around been given a preselected Pokémon and supports, then asked to win so many fights to earn the reward, which was usually extra skill points, profile tags and coins. One thing to note is that the game alerts that challenges performed on Sunday are easier than the rest of the week, so I guess the day of rest is a good time to get some freebie rewards.

The main bulk of single player content is the tournament, making your way from the bottom ranks of Green league and eventually become the champion of Iron. Added to this in DX are mission panels, sort of league tasks that can only be performed in the colour league they are part of (green panel can only be unlocked in green league), which can be annoying, as the league is often defeated before finishing the panel, meaning you need to do some free battles in the same league, even after becoming the champ and moving up. All this builds on top of the already many fashion items for your 2D customised avatar (who is rather limited in the beginning with a few simple options of skin colour, hair and sex), and profile titles to unlock from either using an amiibo or beating the required task to unlock them.

Last change for offline comes in the form of local multiplayer. The Wii U had to make some sacrifices in this area, with multiplayer on a single Wii U system resulting in a downgrade from 60fps to 30fps to make up for the extra rendering for player two’s perspective, who used the gamepad for their display. That concept is somewhat still present in this game, but now it’s called splitscreen, where the display window is shrunk down, with black borders appearing at the top and bottom, but each player can see the gameplay from their perspective on the TV, but once again drops the frame rate to 30fps. The developers didn’t leave it at that, because if player two can cope with the skewed view of the camera constantly following player one, then they can opt to play single screen, keeping the frame rate at 60fps in exchange for the handicap for player two. It’s a nice to have feature, and of course, if other people have a Switch, then they can play through wireless connections for the full 60fps experience with their own character view without any of the handicaps.

Online gains nice quality of life features, although, the newly added group matches is something I could not test, since hardly anyone was online during the review period. The concept behind group matches is to allow people to come together who fall under a similar grouping. Maybe you are a beginner and want to find other beginners? Then set the group to newbies and create the lobby for others to join the group and battle it out. I can see this being handy for friends who want to create their sectioned off area and see who is the best through the group member rankings. Lastly, replays are now available to download and upload, allowing to study those top players or check some of your best matches or learn from mistakes by watching matches that did not go well. As for actual online play, from the limited experience I had, again, down to low online player count, it seems a similar experience to the Wii U game, which was decent enough when connected to people within the same region, but it was no benchmark setter – don’t be expecting Killer Instinct quality netcode here. This means stepping outside of your region will most likely introduced delay to the actions appearing on screen.

Bringing Pokkén Tournament to the switch allows the game to be rebirthed with new players, which will make finding games online much easier than it is on the Wii U. For the hardcore fans, the choice has probably chosen you and you’ll snap this up and get playing. For new people looking to take their first step into the world of Pokkén , then you will be happy to know there is a good tutorial that lasts just under an hour that will go through all the basic and advance techniques, the game even offers a few combo examples to let novices have an idea with what works within the game’s combat engine. It has to be a accessible game, because there are plenty of Pokémon players who simply aren’t all that into learning the depths of a fighting game, but Pokkén allows those people to pick up a pad and pull off some simple combos that look cool without much training, while more experience players will hit the lab to find those most ideal combos. It’s an interesting balance that is helped with the easy understandable rock-paper-scissor system, where normal attacks beat grabs, grabs beat counters and counters beat normals.

For those newcomers, one thing to note about Pokkén Tournament DX Is its unique combat that includes two styles – field phase and duel phase. Buttons make up range attacks, auto combos and special moves during the field phase, an open 3D environment within some walls that focus on ranged attacks, while performing certain combo strings will switch the combat to duel phase, something more inline with 2D fighting games. In this duel phase, the buttons change to light, heavy and special attacks, and the the camera is moved to a side perspective while movement is limited to left and right. There is no other fighting game like this, and so this gives the game a very distinct momentum as switching phases happens often.

Pokkén Tournament on the Wii U was a pleasant looking fighter with beautiful looking character models that captured their handheld counter parts well to bring them into HD. On the Switch, performance is solid across both docked and portable mode, with both playing at 60fps, but image quality, while better than the Wii U version, still isn’t as clear as one might hope. The game does not seem to have received the boost in resolution that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gained, so the image is outputting at 1280×720 – the Wii U resolution was 960×720 – which leads to the softer image that appears blurred. This also seems to be the same issue when playing portable mode, with the image softness once again being visible on the smaller display, a sacrifice no doubt made to keep the frame rate running at a solid 60fps.

Arms has already hit Nintendo’s hybrid system, a title that offers a truly unique fighting game experience, but Pokkén Tournament DX manages to also standout for bringing its own incomparable type of fighting gameplay. Sure, it’s not a brand new title, and only the people that truly loved the original release will be wanting to part cash for the full price of this enhanced port, but just like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Pokkén Tournament DX gives chance for the many people who did not pick a Wii U to grab this refreshing fighting game for some hype Pokémon matches at home or on the go. Simply put, Pokkén Tournament DX is a bloody good fighting game that more people should try, no matter if you are a casual or hardcore fighting player or a Pokémon fan, the experience here allows for all types of players to enjoy Pokkén Tournament DX‘s distinct fighting while adding another great game to their Switch catalogue.

8 out of 10