Will POKKEN TOURNAMENT Be Super Effective?

The WiiU hasn’t completely failed as a system, it’s just contending with a bigger version of the problem the original Wii faced upon launch. Many developers were unaware of how to fully utilize the unique mechanics the system offered, and thus the Wii didn’t enjoy third party support for a long time despite its record sales. The reason why many haven’t purchased a WiiU is because it simply has so few games. This, coupled with the loss of interest tied to the shameless money grab that were Amiibos, has driven Nintendo to take a bit of a gamble by expanding the intellectual property that they own and that fans are familiar with.

pokken tournament amiibo

Perfect for decorating the area around the couch at your parent’s house

Though it claims to be an arcade fighter, POKKEN TOURNAMENT’s main purpose is to spice up the WiiU’s catalog, if not the Nintendo name all together. Developed by Namco Bandai, the guys who brought us a plethora of fighting games, POKKEN TOURNAMENT pits fan’s favorite Pokemon against each other in a real time fighting setting complete with blocks, aerial combos, and appropriate special moves. Pokemon have fought in real time before in SUPER SMASH BROS and POKEMON RUMBLE, but much of the charm and cuteness was played up so that the novelty of playing as a Pokemon didn’t wear out. How much fun would SMASH actually be if the Pokemon included were all brooding emo kids like Mewtwo or Lucario? POKKEN, however, is a separate beast with a separate goal. Of course, several snags come up when transforming this beloved franchise into what many hope to be a turning point in the gaming world.

Call me a nostalgic geezer but what I see here in POKKEN TOURNAMENT simply wasn’t what Pokemon used to be about.

The first comparison would be to the TEKKEN series, which was also developed by Namco Bandai. But where TEKKEN’s strategies lay in high-mid-low attacks in arena based combat, POKKEN looks to borrow much more from anime style fighters like the NARUTO NINJA STORM series, focusing on fast paced fluidity of movement and wider areas. In truth, people just aren’t used to seeing Pokemon interact with each other so quickly on a three dimensional plane. Character models drown in the uncanny valley, as Machamp’s rippling biceps and Gardevoir’s sensual curves reawaken your worst rule 34-fueled dreams. I’ll be honest and say a lot of it is just plain disturbing. I mean, what would be the point in trying to convince a kid that their Pokemon has “fainted” after a POKKEN match?

Several depths of Pokemon tactics are also simply stripped away. The meat and potatoes of crafting a fun fighting game lay with characters that are both balanced and diverse. Important qualities of Pokemon like varying speed, attack/defense, special attack/defense stats, and weaknesses fly right in the face of this. A fire type Blaziken defeating the legendary water type Suicune by setting it ablaze doesn’t feel right, especially when rendered in real time 3D gameplay. Moreover, the role of trainers look to be diminished to that of offscreen coaching complete with futuristic headset. This cuts deeper into the hearts of fans more than anything else. Having your one favorite Pokemon duke it out with a challenging opponent was always a bit of a risk, but special items like berries and healing sprays kept my beloved Poke egg-turned Togepi-turned Togetic from keeling over. That added so much more value to one’s six battle-ready Pokemon. Even though he might as well have been made of paper, you want Magikarp to get a few splashes in so that you don’t have to stuff him with rare candies to turn him into the devastating Gyarados (and don’t even get me started on Metapod).

pokken tournament metapod-used-harden-but-it-failed

We’ve all been there

Another valuable aspect of Pokemon that must be cut for POKKEN is the budgeting of moves. Everyone knows the story. Why do I want Gastly to learn “Mean Look”? It doesn’t really do anything…and then BOOM! A wild Abra appears and you got nothing to keep it from teleporting because you made Gastly forget “Mean Look” in favor of “Lick” or some other move. TMs and HMs made this even more fantastically complex. Developers knew that even if you and a friend had the exact same six Pokemon battling each other, there was a chance that you might see a move you hadn’t seen before. This, of course, does not mix well with the formula POKKEN wishes to establish. Aside from “Mean Look” and other non-attack moves having even less notable significance, there’s no doubt that Gengar will definitely have “Shadow Ball”, “Hypnosis”, “Dream Eater”, “Curse”, AND “Lick” at his disposal, just a button combo away.

pokken tournament gengar lick

The search results for “Gengar lick” took me to dark places

Mega evolutions seem to be a big thing in much of the gameplay of POKKEN. It’s too bad that they were almost entirely useless when introduced in X and Y, making an appearance almost exclusively in predetermined matches. In reality, mega stones were merely fan service items that added nothing real to the games other than a more badass looking Charizard. Sadly, those involved in giving us these games are taking on a similar viewpoint, amping up Pokemon’s edge factor more than anything else.

pokken tournament edgelord

At least certain fans will be serviced

I won’t say that I will completely avoid POKKEN TOURNAMENT once it’s released in the states. In fact, I plan on playing it thoroughly to see if any of these arguments still hold weight. But stretching a formula to this degree might be more than a little troubling, especially for those who grew up with the franchise. Call me a nostalgic geezer, but what I see here in POKKEN TOURNAMENT simply wasn’t what Pokemon used to be about.

Mr. Alexander Ignacio Larios used to own a Sega Dreamcast. Follow him on Last.fm at: http://www.last.fm/user/KeroseneBath. on RateYourMusic at: https://rateyourmusic.com/~KeroseneBath. on Letterboxd at: http://letterboxd.com/Phallixander/.

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