The new Pokémon
Pokkén Tournament DX grants us five new fighters. Four were annoyingly seen in arcade versions and never added in updates to the Wii U version, while only one, Decidueye, is brand new. It does feel a bit of a missed opportunity in helping promote the Wii U title rather than holding it back for the Switch version. Nonetheless, it brings the roster up to a more respectable count of 21, and it is a noticeable change, especially when playing through the story mode.
All of these fighters all have their unique traits and stand out from each other, bar perhaps Shadow Mewtwo being a more violent Mewtwo. Pikachu Libre is more varied in its attacks compared to regular Pikachu, but it does feel like a terribly missed opportunity in using a truly unique wrestling-based Pokémon in Hawlucha to simply have yet another representation of the franchise’ mascot. Of the new fighters, Croagunk is this writer’s favourite – it has a charming weirdness to its play-style and animations.
There are now 16 sets of Support Pokémon as well, including the new duo of Litten and Popplio. Unlike the original Pokkén title, all fighters and Support Pokémon are available from the very beginning. On the one hand, this is nice for people who want to get straight into using their favourite. On the other, it feels like a double-edged sword which robs the game of rewarding players that get through the story or do lots of multiplayer battles to earn something more useful than money to buy avatar customisation options.
Single Player Changes
A lot has remained the same – the tutorials are still in, for example, as is Nia, the rather talkative sidekick with a sometimes somewhat disinterested voice actor (and other NPCs that show up incredibly briefly are perhaps even worse). Thankfully the option to alter the frequency of dialogue from such characters or outright mute voiced lines has carried over. My Town is the hub for options ranging from Pokémon selection to avatar customisation. Practise Battles and Story mode round out the remaining slots on the world map that return.
One new mode is a Daily Challenge area. These battles require you to achieve victory with a fighter (or multiple in a Team Mode match) and Support chosen for you. It’s a good way to try out a fighter you may not usually pick. Rewards for successfully completing these are skill points used to make your Pokémon stronger, both for those you used and another random fighter. It’s a more tangible benefit and overall a useful one, if a bit on the small side. Overall it’s a minor but appreciated addition. It would be nice if it varied things up more, for instance requiring X Grab attacks to be performed in a set amount of time, or difficulty levels to pick from.
Another new feature are Mission Panels, exclusive to the Ferrum League (the story mode of the game). 12 challenges obscure an image, and rewards are given for completion of each panel. These vary from winning or earning gold, to making several grabs or healing a set amount of HP within the one round. You can use a ‘bonus key’ per puzzle to remove a challenge of your choosing after completing a few, although not using the key to complete it nets you a large monetary reward and sense of satisfaction.
While the story is a weak excuse plot that drags, Mission Panels are a welcome addition that makes you think in how you approach battles beyond abusing the same combos to get through it, and rewards you for experimenting with, for example, different Support Pokémon sets. Sadly the rewards of avatar items and titles do fall a bit flat, and the reward of money can only be spent on more. While the images hidden behind the panels are nice to look at, there’s a lack of functionality offered. Allowing them to be used as a background in your profile, for example, or even the title screen, would have been a better use. Nonetheless, it’s an undeniable improvement to the otherwise lacking story mode.
Let’s first talk about the advantages the Nintendo Switch offers over the Wii U. It really feels like Pokkén Tournament DX is more ‘at home’ with the Switch, being able to both be docked and displayed on your television screen, and taken with you to a friend’s place and played in handheld or tabletop mode. Split screen is maybe a little too narrow for the latter, but is still quite manageable. No lag has shown up either; it’s an entirely smooth experience, even when you get a notification mid-battle of a low battery in a Joy-Con. Speaking of controllers, two Joy-Cons in handheld mode or on the Joy-Con grip feels quite fine for players without a Pro or Pokkén Tournament controller. Sharing a pair (i.e. one Joy-Con each) is less fun on the hand and somewhat cramped. Lastly, button inputs can be customised.
Sadly no Wi-Fi battles could be attempted prior to this review (we’ll update once we have a proper test of this aspect). The set-up for online matches remains the same from the Wii U title, bar the addition of a replays setting. You can view other players’ replays and even save them (as well as your own) to re-watch later. In selecting online battles, the game gives you 10 seconds to be matched up with another player; if time runs out, you will instead fight a CPU opponent. The game also reportedly will try to match you with other players of a similar skill level, such as for the Ranked mode in online.
Team Battles is the major new mode, and it requires thought on who you choose and when to use the fighter. You pick a team of three Pokémon each and choose who you use next. Health carries over for the most part across each round, so careful use of Synergy Burst and Burst Attacks matters even more in this mode. Overall it’s a fun addition, although one of the only few new changes mode-wise to the game. Luckily it extends both to single, local and online play.