While Pokken may be a portmanteau word of “Pokémon” and “Tekken”, the actual game Pokkén Tournament is anything but a mixture of the two.
When it comes down to it, Tekken is a complex fighting game filled with numerous combos that tend to result in your juggling your opponent in the air as long as possible (or, if you’re me, vice versa). Pokkén is nothing like this.
Pokkén is a rather simple fighter — and by that I mean that the attacks and combos are incredibly easy to do.
The four face buttons on the arcade’s SNES-like controller correspond to light attack, strong attack, jump, and special attack. The control pad’s shoulder buttons summon your support pokémon and guard, respectively. What each of these attacks do varies from pokémon to pokémon — as well as if you are near to or far away from your opponent. By tapping the same button several times in a row, your pokémon will go immediately into an auto-combo. In other words, there are no fancy command inputs in Pokkén. There are a few more advanced moves, however.
By pressing the light attack and jump at the same time, you grab and throw; by pressing strong and special attack, you do a special charge attack that simultaneously blocks. Lastly, by pressing both shoulder buttons you enter burst mode. Press them again and you’ll do your pokémon’s ultimate attack.
The game itself describes this as a Paper, Scissors, Rock-style battle system. Normal and special attacks can be blocked — by both normal guard and the charged guard attack. However, guarding can be defeated by throws. Yet, at the same time, normal attacks always beat a grab — completing the triangle.
Because all the moves are easy to perform, Pokkén is more of a cerebral fighter than a button masher. You guard and watch — learning your opponent’s patterns. Then you use the Paper, Scissors, Rock-style system to punish them.
Of course, while the types of attacks are all the same, the pokémon — and their various attacks and combos — are not. There are four types of pokémon in the game: normal, power, speed, and technique. Normal are pokémon like Pikachu — those of average speed and power. The big pokémon like Charizard fall under the power category. Right now, there is only one speed pokémon, Weavile, but he is both faster and has a longer melee range than the others. The final type, technique, are pokémon that have odd abilities, like Gengar and his penchant for becoming invisible.
While I only spent an hour or so playing Pokkén at the arcade, I have to say it grew on me. At first, I found the fighting to be almost painfully simple; but once I took the game online and realised I didn’t have to worry about if I could pull off the correct input for a shoryuken at a split second’s notice, I really started to enjoy it — especially against people who were clearly button mashing.
Pokkén is, at its heart, a fighting game for fans of Pokémon — and one designed to be accessible to the franchise’s fans, gamers or no.