PJN in JPN: Hands-on with Pokkén Tournament

With Pokkén Tournament having launched a week ago, I figured it was time for me to try this new arcade game and see how it played. For the trip I also recruited a fellow Pokémon fan and friend to come with me since I knew I’d need an extra pair of hands for filming. We stopped in the Taito Station arcade near Shinjuku station hoping that they would have the new machines. Luckily we saw signs advertising the game right away. There were four game stations and they were all occupied when we got there, but there was a helpful row of stools for those waiting to play.There was also a free pamphlet explaining the game controls and battle techniques which we read while waiting. Please keep in mind for the rest of the article that I’m not familiar with fighting games and casual Super Smash Bros. play is about the extent of my dabbles in the genre.

Out of the eight playable Pokémon (Pikachu, Lucario, Gardevoir, Machamp, Charizard, Weavile, Suicune, and Gengar) I decided to start with the speed-based fighter Weavile. Controls were pretty basic with more advanced combos available. You had a weak attack, strong attack, character attack, jump, block, guard and the option to call in a support Pokémon or use a Burst Attack when their respective gauges filled. Moving around the circular arena wasn’t too difficult, especially with Weavile and its impressive agility. For the first game I absolutely did not know how to do anything. Shamefully, I will admit it was just blind button mashing. Unsurprisingly, I quickly lost two matches to my opponent who was using Suicune.

The controller is incredibly simple in design, featuring a directional pad on the left side, four buttons on the right, a start button in the middle and a left and right trigger on the back. It doesn’t look too pretty, but it gets the job done while playing. I would have preferred an analog stick, but perhaps fighting aficionados would rather have the simple d-pad. Not something I can really comment on and I welcome your feedback on that point below in the comments.

For my second set of matches I chose Gengar who had considerably less mobility, but more interesting attacks. Mega Gengar is also accessible as your Burst Attack and packs more of a punch. There’s also a fun finisher which has him swallowing up an opponent that I unfortunately didn’t get in the video. I really enjoyed pulling off the move in which he stunned the opponent and jumped into the ground in order to pop up behind them and attack. Gengar’s mischievous personality shone through in the moves that he was given and in his fighting style.

IMG_1103I enjoyed the differences in how both Weavile and Gengar played and it definitely made me want to play more in order to really get a feel for how all of the fighters differed and which one might feel the best for me. After the battle you’ll get a score of your performance and also some currency, which I assume can be used to unlock items to customize your experience if you use the passport card.

Matchmaking was quick for each of my battles. The first time I was paired with another player somewhere in Japan, but for the second battle it exceeded the 10 second maximum for opponent searching and paired me with a CPU. While watching others play I saw a similar mixture of both player battles and CPU sparring.

Graphically speaking, the game looks very good. The fighters are well animated and the level of detail is pretty superb. Although we’ve been able to duke it out in Super Smash Bros. as a small number of Pokémon, it is fun to see them take to the ring and face off in something other than a turn-based battle. The game does an excellent job of making these fights look very appealing to watch and satisfying to play. Nintendo and Bandai Namco should have made these shareable online, because I’m sure pro-players would be very fun to watch. We’re in an era of game streaming and it is sometimes baffling to see companies miss big opportunities for free advertising. This game especially opens the franchise to new players who may not traditionally like Pokémon games because of their RPG focus.


Overall, I had a lot of fun getting to try out the game and the fact that it only cost ¥100 per game ($0.80 USD) which consisted of 2 or 3 matches was also a good price. To those who thought, “Wow, this game would be perfect for the Wii U!”: it would be. I have no doubt a wide release on Nintendo’s console would garner a lot of fans for the title. It is a lot closer to the battles we have long seen in the anime with quick dodges and well-timed blocks being able to turn the tide of battle. I didn’t go in expecting much, but I left satisfied with the experience. Using a special card you could save your game data and also customize your trainer icon. Before playing I scoffed at the $4 price tag, but Pokkén Tournament may be getting more of my patronage in the weeks to come and being able to save my data might just be worth the extra cash.

After playing we went downstairs to the UFO catchers and I tried my luck with the one Pokémon-themed machine and, after spending ¥300 yen for 3 tries, I got one of the towels! Yay! If only it had been the Unbound Hoopa one though 🙁 Special shout-out to Adrian for coming at such short notice and helping me out!

<3 PJ

FEATURED DISCUSSION: Who’s interested in an online Pokémon League?!