Throughout Pokken Tournament you get to play as some of the most recognizable, and unrecognizable, Pokemon. Pokken is fun and is the next logical step for Pokemon to try in the wake of their success in Smash Bros. The combat for Pokken is simple by only having two fields of battle: one where you have full control, and the other is more traditional 2D fighter where you move only left and right. In order to move into the more traditional fighter you have to activate it. I’ve typically seen that activated by one person pulling off a combo or by countering moves. This does happen during the middle of the fight which may be weird to some people. The main appeal to switching to the traditional 2D fighter is that you deal more damage while in this mode and you have access to some additional moves. For free flow and 2D Pokemon have different moves they can use, a lot of the moves transfer over between the two but each Pokemon has at least a different set of moves that switch up between the two modes. There is specific moves that each Pokemon has in the 2D and 3D mode. I like this as when it switches in free flow it’ll typically be long range attacks but in 2D mode it’ll be more close range since the battlefield narrows down since it’s not a wide area anymore.
Now as a full disclosure, I’m not very good at fighting games. I typically try them for a while, get frustrated when as I’m not good, and quit playing until a friend begs me to play again. I enjoy them, just not enough to master the gameplay. The reason I bring this up is because there’s a rock paper scissors system going on where there is counters for most things. Grabs break blocks, blocks stop most damage, counters well counter regular attacks and then there’s a counter for special Pokemon moves and regular moves. At the lower difficulty levels you can probably ignore the counters. However, against other players or more advanced settings, you'll have to learn how and when to use the right counters.
There’s a fair amount of modes for the game too. You have a fairly lengthy story mode which will teach you the basics. The first two leagues, blue and green, are very easy to get through but like every game, they get more challenging after that. The leagues are part of story mode with a total of four leagues to battle through. Each league has you battling against more opponents as well. You have a versus against an AI opponent that you can set to how hard, what map, and everything to make it as hard or easy as you’d like. You have your local versus as well.
Multiplayer is strange since one person gets the TV and one person HAS to use the Gamepad. If you bought the official Pokken Controller that means that only one person can use it. This also makes the graphics take a bit of a dip as it’s emulating for two instead of one now. I appreciate that each person gets their own screen because since it's not necessarily needed, it's nice since you don't get distracted by the other person's movements. The other thing I want to bring up is that as you go through story and online mode your Pokemon levels up and gets stronger. You earn and distribute skill points as you like which can be split into 4 categories: Attack, Defense, Synergy, and what I refer to as Team (not the actual name but I can’t recall its actual name.) Attack and defense are self explanatory, but synergy makes your attacks in synergy mode stronger, it allows you to take in less damage, and you also get to be in that mode longer. Team makes it so your supports charge faster. The reason I bring leveling up is due to the fact you can use this in multiplayer. If you don't have your Pokemon properly leveled, they won't be as strong and depending on whether you're in multiplayer or local, it could create potential issues regarding fair play. Overall, it's a small complaint, but one that can alter your mood when playing the game.
Pokken Tournament also has a feature called Support Pokemon. There’s about 30 different combinations you can choose from after unlocking them and they do various things. You can unlock 6-8 Pokemon at a time by completing each league in story mode. However, your Support Pokemon only come in pairs, and can't be switched out at any time to make a more favorable combination. Froakie and Eevee are a pair combination, meaning that you can't take Magikarp and switch it with Froakie or Eevee. You only have one of your two support Pokemon at a time but you can switch in-between rounds. They aren’t typically too broken, but they can definitely help a lot.
Online mode works pretty well and I found that I experienced almost very little lag time. Online has a ranked and unranked mode so you can practice against other online players without damaging your rank. In each mode, you earn money that you can use on various things, such as avatar items to dress your character up. I really appreciate this feature since I like to customize characters and make them my own whenever possible. I did feel that the character roster for Pokken was a little disappointing since it felt so small compared to other fighter games. 20 years ago, it would’ve felt great with Mortal Kombat but now? It feels small with just 16 Pokemon and 2 repeat Pokemon. Admittedly the two repeat Pokemon (Mewtwo, Shadow Mewtwo, Pikachu and Pikachu Libre) DO feel different enough from one another but it also would’ve been nice to have some other Pokemon instead. As of right now, Nintendo hasn't said if they'll do DLC characters. I'm really hoping Nintendo will change their mind going forward.
For the most part, aside from Pokemon Fighting, it’s fairly moral. You have Pokemon fighting each other for dominance, similar to dog fighting, but that's been Pokemon's modus operandi for the last two decades. You build up love and trust with your Pokemon only to send them into a fight to the (almost) death. To me, Pokemon has always had a strong similarity to dog fighting except that, thankfully, no one dies in the game and their wounds are healed in a matter of moments. Another moral issue that I found was Shadow Mewtwo's finishing move, a move that nearly destroys the Earth with a huge wave of energy just to finish off his opponent. I also found that with the ability to customize, there were a few skins of clothing that could be purchased that could be considered more sexual in nature. The clothing skins weren't a deal breaker, but it was worthy enough to note for those a bit more conservative.
Overall, I enjoyed the game and would definitely recommend it if you're into fighters. If you're more casual, this probably isn't the game for you since it does have its difficulties the further you get into the game. If you like Pokemon and fighters, this game might be for you!