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Wii U Review – Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

ssb4

Release Date: November 28th 2014

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I intend for this to be my last game review, as I intend to retire from writing game reviews for the foreseeable future. I may as well end on a high note, with a good game in my midst. Two and a half years ago I wrote a review of the 3DS version of the latest Super Smash Bros. game, but I never really got the reason why they split the game in two, and I always wanted to play the console version, because I knew that would be the better version, and here it is.

Just like in the 3DS version, the game ditches story mode from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which is obviously an improvement considering how bad and ancillary it was, though I wish they could have brought back Melee’s adventure mode, along with the mini-games that came with it. There’s nothing resembling a story mode here, but I suppose that’s better for a fighting game than a poorly written, ill-concieved story. Plus in this game you don’t get that repetitive Smash Run either. Instead, you get Smash Tour, a Mario-Party type mode in which up to four players form a team of fighters that they pick up on the board, or it could be one player against three computers, and collect as many power-ups as you can while fighting the occasional battle. You can change the size of the board, and how many turns you spend on the board and decide whether custom characters are allowed.

The character roster is impressive. There are 47 playable characters (49 if you count all three customisable Mii Fighters, and 58 if you count the DLC characters and characters who are playable as alternate costumes for other characters). You also have the freedom to give a character an alternate moveset and unique equipment. It’s fairly arbitrary, but there is something to be said about the amount of freedom you have to customise existing characters. The Mii Fighters are a welcome addition to the roster, and offers another layer of customisation to the game, although the Miis themselves don’t look very good, and compared to some other characters, their fighting styles seem inferior. It also annoys me that I have to pay to unlock certain characters. I love the idea of bringing Roy and Mewtwo back to the roster, but the presence of a paywall ruins it for me. Also, if you want to buy them all in a single pack (complete with the stages), it takes up a good chunk of the Wii U’s memory, which is generally not as spacious compared to a PS3.

Of course one of the main reasons that the Wii U version is superior to the 3DS version is the graphics. The game sports 1080p HD graphics, and some beautiful stages. Certainly it’s a significant upgrade from the 3DS edition, but with broadly the same style, so that the two versions mingle seamlessly with each other (bearing in mind that you can connect the 3DS version to the Wii U). The game reuses plenty of stages and occasionally music from past games, but that’s fine because they’re recycling content that was good anyway, and the new content is great as well, including the new music.

The gameplay is excellent. Fighting in the Super Smash Bros. style of combat never gets old, not just because of the game’s excellent control scheme, but also because of the innovations that each new instalment brings to the table. In the Wii U edition, you have the ability to have up to 8 fighters on the same stage, but only for larger stages, and not during online play. Another thing you might notice is that the Wii U version allows you to play with the widest range of controllers I’ve ever seen. You can play with the standard Wii U Game Pad, the Wii U Pro Controller, a special “Smash Controller”, the Wii Remote (and the Nunchuck as well), the Wii Classic Controller (and the Pro version), and through a special adaptor, you can play with the GameCube controller. You can even play using your 3DS if you wanted to.

The game added two noteworthy new modes – Event Mode and Special Orders. Event Mode is kind of an episodic mode of gameplay in which one or two players can participate in themed challenges, moving along a path of progression by completing challenges, with some challenges unlocking a hidden route if you unlock a hidden character. Various events come with additional rewards if you complete them in a certain way, and it can be very challenging to claim that reward. Special Orders is a mode in which you clear challenges in order to gain rewards. This is divided into two modes. In Master Orders, you must complete one of three challenges (i.e. battles with special rules) in order to gain a reward. In Crazy Orders, you can attempt a series of orders rather than just one, and you can keep going for more rewards until you either lose (and therefore lose all your rewards), or claim victory by defeating Crazy Hand in battle.

Classic Mode is a part of the series that I feel has been improved here. Instead of it being a linear stride against an array of randomly assembled characters, as it was in the past, you can choose from a selection of icons across a board, each icon with a different opponent, or group of opponents, and the reward is decided at random. The difficulty is set at the beginning using the same system found in Kid Icarus Uprising, which is great because if you play Classic Mode at the standard difficulty setting, it can be too easy. But, to increase or lower the difficulty, you need gold, which you can earn in other modes.

It’s all very fun, but now for some of my criticisms. I find it baffling that they made Sheik and Zero Suit Samus playable as characters separate from their alter egos (Zelda and Samus respectively). It makes absolutely no sense, and it seems quite wasteful. After all, why would I want to play as Zero Suit Samus when I can just play as Samus? I suppose Zero Suit Samus and Sheik are faster and more nimble than their counterparts. Speaking of pointless characters, I’m disappointed that Nintendo has decided not to retire the cloned characters. Toon Link is still playable, Lucina is practically a clone of Marth, and they apparently brought back Dr. Mario, a literal clone of Mario. Why bother when Dr. Mario could just be a costume now?

My other criticism is with the game’s stage builder. I was enthusiastic when I found out that they were taking another stab at having a stage builder, implying that they’ve actually improved it. Well it’s been partially improved, but I’m disappointed with how limited it still is. You can draw the ground now, but I find that even if you’re trying to make a large stage, there’s only a small border in the stage builder you’re allowed to work with (in other words, the amount of the stage you can show on camera), which to me sounds like a con. Another problem is that the tourney feature from previous games has been relegated to the online mode. Other than those problems, this is still a fine game, and if you don’t have a Wii U already, I think it should be the first game you pick up when you do get a Wii U.

  • Score: 87%
  • Grade: A
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A change of plans – early retirement

A bit of breaking news. Last month a wrote a post saying that I plan to retire from game reviews at the beginning of 2018. Please disregard my earlier post, as I have now decided on a change of heart. Instead, my upcoming review, about Super Smash Bros. 4, will be my last game review, tendering my retirement from game reviews on Monday, 28th August 2017. I apologise for the abrupt nature of this post.

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SNES Review – Super Star Wars

super star wars

Release Date: April 22nd 1993

I’ve hunted high and low for many SNES games, this being one of them. Made well over a decade after the first Star Wars movie, the game cuts through as much of the plot as it could, focusing instead on the action, which of course was inevitable due to the need to translate the plot of the film into fast-paced action game.

The plot is loosely the same as that of the film, the story of Luke Skywalker’s journey to aid the Rebel Alliance in its struggle against the Galactic Empire, although I don’t recall the part of the film where Luke was shooting up some scorpions in the desert. In fact, you’ll notice that several part of the plot have been altered in order to suit the game. For example, instead of buying C3PO and R2D2 from the Jawas, Luke tracks them down in a Jawa sandcrawler and has to rescue them.

Given that this was before the days of voice acted video game cutscenes, the story is told through animated scenes which present abbreviated scenes from the film, with the dialogue represented in text. Of course if you’ve already seen Star Wars a million times like I’m sure most people have, you’re probably not going to care about the plot of the game, which I suppose is good in a way. The game’s version of the story inevitably won’t have the same impact as the original film, dulled by years of reinforced familiarity.

The graphics are very nice and colourful, and they flesh out the world of Star Wars very nicely for the time. The title screen looks a bit blocky for my tastes, but hey what can you do. The sprites in the game are rendered very well, given a crisp visual quality, and the soundtrack is a nice little 16-bit rendition of the familiar orchestral music of the film.

The gameplay for most of the game is a run-and-gun-style action game, much like Contra except you actually have a health bar. Throughout a given stage you can collect weapon power-ups, and the enemies drop health items almost all the time, so it’s quite easy to heal when you get damaged. At various points during the game, you’re supposed to play as different characters. In this game you can play only as Luke, Han Solo or Chewbacca depending on what point in the story you’re on. In one of the sequels to this game, you are given a few more playable characters. Not all the game’s stages are run-and-gun stages though. You occasionally go through vehicular stages, with slightly more awkward controls.

The gameplay is good, but I swear that the D-Pad is stiff. I wish you were able to sprint in the game, but it seems as if the character moves slowly, but can apparently jump quickly in the air. More annoyingly, however, is that you only get three continues. Yes, only three. Which means that if you lose all your lives and trigger the game over screen three times, you’re forced back to the title screen, and you have to start the entire game all over again, which tends to get annoying considering the game’s trial and error difficulty.

On the whole, however, Super Star Wars is a good game that at least tries to recreate the Star Wars experience, albeit limited ultimately by what the Super Nintendo was capable of, that and cartridge space. That was always a problem back in the day.

  • Score: 76%
  • Grade: B
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Announcing my retirement

Since April 2013 I have been writing honest, independent game reviews from all eras, and from a wide range of platforms, all with the desire to provide an alternative to the biased game journalism of my day. Today, I’m using my platform to declare my intention to retire from this site, effective as of next year. I intend to publish my final game review on this site on January 29th, 2018, some six months from now.

Why am I retiring? Well, I suppose the main reason is that there are rapid changes in my life that are expected to come, most notably with my university work, and let’s be realistic, I cannot expect to carry out my blogging concurrently with my academic duties forever. I’m also finally getting bored with WordPress, which I’ve been using faithfully and at no expense to myself since 2012. My other blogging efforts will be slowly phased out overtime. To be quite honest, I have felt as though this was going to finish at some time. I’m not running out of games, but I’m finding review writing to be an increasingly dreary process, especially as I’m having generally less time to play video games.

For now, I will keep writing as many game reviews as I can in the next six months. It has been my pleasure to write on this site for so long, but I’ve made myself clear as to what I want to do. In January I will retire from site, and from video game reviews in general. Whether or not I keep the site up is another matter entirely.

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NES Review – Batman: The Video Game

batman 1989

Release Date: September 14th 1990

When it comes to licensed games based on popular intellectual properties, Batman has usually been treated much better than other IP’s have, with better game developers releasing better games for Batman than, for example, Superman. In old days, the standard bearer for Batman-themed video games was Sunsoft, whose NES games were once considered state of the art, and even though aspects of the game haven’t aged well, this game is still a shining example of licensed games done right.

Although it was ostensibly made with the great Tim Burton film in mind, the plot of the game is only loosely based on the 1989 film, and was released in the West within a few months after the film. The game sees Batman travelling through the dark and seedy criminal underworld of Gothman City, as he does best, but this time he’s tougher than before. Armed to the teeth and willing to put his life on the line, he embarks on a search and destroy mission against the Joker’s thugs in a campaign to end the Joker’s criminal reign over Gotham.

Of course this differs greatly from the plot of the film, in which explored the origins of Batman and The Joker. But of course, this is a video game, and a side-scrolling action game no less. Such games demand action, and such the plot is usually a minor consideration that takes a backseat. That being said, however, the story itself is nice and simple, the perfect fit for a hard-boiled action game, and the game’s iteration of Batman, though it’s supposed to reflect Michael Keaton’s Batman, fits this direction.

The graphics for this game were very good for the time. Sure Batman might be purple in the game, but I suppose that’s better than him blending to well into the background with his black cowl. The game as a whole has this dark and stylish look going for it, perfectly matching the film it represents. The music is stylish as well, and its incredibly catchy as well. It matches the intensity and speed of the gameplay, much like Mega Man’s music does.

The gameplay is probably the best part about the game. It follows the classic side-scrolling action formula, with some elements combined from various games. For instance, Batman can jump from wall to wall, like you could in Ninja Gaiden, and it’s very simple to do. The game itself resembles game like Castlevania in terms of game design, but slightly less ludicrous. By default Batman fights enemies with his fists, but you have three other weapons – a batarang, a rifle, and a disc shooter, and you can cycle through the weapons using the Start button. My main criticism with this, however, is that all weapons share the same pool of ammo, if you run out of ammo while using one weapon, you can’t do anything other than punch, and the hit detection isn’t always reliable.

The game itself is not for casual gamers. Indeed, this is a very difficult game, much many other NES games were back in the day, but in this game, you don’t get any extra lives. Apparently there were supposed to be 1UP icons in the game, but for some reason they were scrapped, so if die three times it’s pretty much game over for you. Of course you can continue forever, which is all well and good, but whenever you do, you’re left with the same amount of ammo you had the last time to died, so if you had no ammo, then that’s too bad because you’re left with only your fists and your wits until you acquire more ammo. Another problem I have is that health power-ups are a bit too infrequent. If you’re to die or take damage a lot, at the very least there should be some more health power-ups.

Other than that, it’s a fine game. It’s a testament to the dark stylishness of Tim Burton’s incarnation of Batman, and if you like a good challenge then you’ll certainly find it in this game. If you’re an inexperienced gamer, however, this game will surely give you a rough ride, but if you’ve read this you should probably have figured that out, so try not to get too salty if you play the game and you find yourself losing a lot.

  • Score: 81%
  • Grade: B
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Wii U Review – Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

tokyo mirage sessions fe

Release Date: June 24th 2016

At first I was somewhat sceptical of the game, but then after reading more about it I decided that I wanted to try the game for myself. The truth is I had wanted to get Tokyo Mirage Sessions along with the Wii U, and when I did, I found myself treated to a JRPG experience unlike any other I’ve seen. In fact, in spite of its somewhat shaky premise, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is arguably one of the most original role-playing games of the current decade, and if you disagree, then at least allow me to make my case.

For starters, let’s look at the plot. The game’s story is set in Tokyo, which is being invaded by mysterious alien entities called Mirages, who arrive in our dimension from a dimension called the Idolasphere to harvest a type of energy called Performa from humans, and are responsible for a number of disappearances, including an incident that took place five years ago. A group of teenagers led by Itsuki Aoi become allied with friendly Mirages, all of whom based on characters from the Fire Emblem series, and become Mirage Masters. Working under the banner of the talent agency Fortuna Entertainment, the Mirage Masters investigate the Idolasphere and work to find out why they are coming here, and how they can drive them away for good.

Before I go on, here’s a bit of back story. The game was originally supposed to be a full-on crossover between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, both RPG franchises being popular in Japan. In fact, in 2013, a game called Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem was announced for the Wii U, with the trailer featuring art of characters from both franchises, but it was evidently scrapped as we had heard nothing of the project for two years, until finally a trailer for Genei Ibunroku #FE, later translated as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. The end result is a game that is more or less a Persona-style RPG in which some Fire Emblem characters appear as Mirages in the game, standing in as Personas, with the narrative incorporating elements from the Fire Emblem series.

I know there are probably some SMT fans (and maybe some Fire Emblem fans) who might have gotten pissy at the fact that they have been robbed of the opportunity to play an actual SMT/FE crossover, and even worse, the fact that the plot revolves around idols. But the truth is that a full-on crossover (as Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem) was never going to happen. The idea simply doesn’t make any sense because the two franchises don’t gel together very well, at least not on their on, but the developers promised an SMT/FE crossover. So instead of a gimmicky crossover that might have fallen flat on its ass, we get a somewhat silly RPG that, for better or worse, was at least workable for the developers.

As for the story itself, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I’m not too big a fan of the idol aspect of the game, but then again, I’m not a big fan of musicals, and even then, the idol part of the game isn’t cancerous. Besides, the “Idol Emblem” moniker that some have given the game is still disingenuous because it’s not just about idols. Rather, it appears to be a take on the broader Japanese entertainment industry, encompassing modelling, TV, acting and film-making. The main flaw I have with the story is the amount of cutscenes you have to wade through in order to advance the plot, including some of the song and dance scenes.

The writing is sort of typical for JRPG’s, but it’s not bad at all. In fact, I’d say one of the game’s bigger strengths is the character writing. One thing I like is that the protagonist isn’t silent like in the actual Shin Megami Tensei games. I know there was a point to it in the original games, but it’s nice to finally have the protagonist be given his own personality, even if it is that of a typical anime protagonist. The other characters were enjoyable as well, and I find it pretty hard to dislike them either way. It’s worth noting that the Western version of the game was released with the Japanese voice track (subtitled of course), and I think I know the reason why. I think the reason the game wasn’t dubbed in English was because they wrote so many songs and put them in cutscenes so frequently that it might have been too much work for the developers to dub the game in English. That being said, I actually like the Japanese voice track, and I can’t help but think that the English voice acting, had they managed to dub the game in English, might have been much worse.

If I must be blunt, the game looks and sounds great. The graphics don’t look too different to a PS3 era game, but they still look great. The game’s overall aesthetic (the menu is mostly green and black) is very stylish, and the character design is quite well done. I also really like the enemy design, which takes Fire Emblem tropes to the kind of surreal dimension that you would expect in the Persona games. Most of the in-game music is so catchy that it’s difficult for me to get bored of it. Of course the vocal songs aren’t my cup of tea but you can usually skip them if you really can’t stand it, but it’s not bad. It may be J-pop but I fail to see how that makes it bad. In fact, I dare say that listening to the game’s J-pop numbers is actually better than sitting for the trash we get on BBC Radio 1.

Now onto the gameplay, which is the area in which I think Tokyo Mirage Sessions truly stands out. The game alternates between real world interaction and the exploration of dungeons through the Idolasphere. While you’re in a dungeon, enemy encounters are initiated when you make contact the enemy, either by running into it or striking it first, then running into it. After you strike an enemy you can either engage it in battle or walk past it to avoid battle. The basic combat system is loosely based on Persona’s battle system, but with many differences. For starters, the game uses a turn system similar to Final Fantasy X, in which there is a timeline showing whose turn is next in a given round. Another difference is that there are four kinds of physical attack – swords, lances, axes and bows – just like in the Fire Emblem games.

The main feature in Tokyo Mirage Sessions’ combat is that if you target an enemy’s weakness, you can trigger Session Attacks, a special combination attack that can be extended depending on how many characters participate in it. At first only the three characters selected in the main cast can participate, but eventually all the other party members can learn a passive skill that allows party members who aren’t in the main cast to participate in sessions, generating longer combos. If another cast member has a session skill that links to the last attack used, he or she will immediately follow with a session attack, which may then trigger another attack until everyone who can perform in a session has already done so, and during these sessions, they build up a special meter and eventually earn SP (though only a maximum of 3), which you can use to perform Special Performance moves. These powerful moves are unlocked via side stories, and can be used in battle to give you a tactical advantage, or save your party from the brink of defeat. If you clear enough of the side stories, you gain access to special Duo Arts, which are triggered during sessions that can bypass elemental resistances and extend the length of your session combo. Additionally, you can get certain ad-lib skills, which can randomly activate after performing a certain skill, and if it does it automatically triggers a session combo.

With all those spicy features, the combat is certainly the best part about the game, and it gets better. Even though the game only lets you learn six combat skills, this is mitigated by the fact that you have six separate slots for passive skills (which raise stats and offer other effects), and six separate slots for session skills (which chain session attacks together). In addition to that, you can gain an additional slot for combat and passive skills later in the game, and the special performance and ad-lib skills can be used regardless of these limitations. This is a good upgrade from the more limited repertoire that the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games give you. Another good feature is that instead of learning skills by level-up, you instead learn skills from your weapons. After battle, you’ll notice a blue gauge next to a character’s EXP gauge. That’s your weapon’s mastery gauge, and whenever it fills up, you can learn a new skill. Of course you can only learn four skills from it, so every time your equipped weapon maxes out, you have to either upgrade your weapon, or equip a new one.

Which brings me to another feature that you’ll be familiar with. In a place called Bloom Palace, you can create new weapons through a process called a Unity ritual, in which you can strengthen your characters by giving them new weapons or granting them new abilities by combining certain items and Performa. Through Carnage Unity, you use Performa obtained from enemies to create new weapons for each character. Through Radiant Unity, you use Performa obtained from within you, either by story progression, side stories, or increasing your characters’ stage rank (which is raised by doing well in battle and/or performing sessions), to create Radiant Skills, which are permanent skills that are separate from all other skills, and can often grant passive effects. You can also change a character’s job class at Bloom Palace, provided that you have at least one Master Seal (a feature that came directly from Fire Emblem). What I like most about the unity feature is that it means you’re no longer forced to buy you’re own weapons, and the only real limit is the amount of required items you have.

The game is full is great ideas, but I do have some criticisms. For one, since you have to read text messages during the story, you cannot play the game without the Wii U GamePad, so if you find the GamePad to be uncomfortable, there’s nothing you can do about it. My other complaint is that there are so many in-battle animation scenes. You can skip most of them by pressing B, but you can’t skip the session animations, which often drag on for a long period of time. Said sessions might also make battles with regular enemies redundant because the last enemy on the field doesn’t die until the entire session is completed, resulting in frequent overkills.

On the whole, in spite of the game’s somewhat goofy concept, Tokyo Mirage Sessions is good game with good ideas. Ultimately it’s a game created for Western fans, which would explain why the game underperformed in Japan. For people who love Japanese games, and for those who are serious about playing JRPG’s in general, this game is a must. If any game should spur you into buying a Wii U, this ought to be one of them.

  • Score: 80%
  • Grade: B
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Wii U Review – Pokkén Tournament

pokken tournament

Release Date: March 18th 2016

I have some good news as of late. Last month, I finally managed to get my hands on a Nintendo Wii U. I had waited five years until I could actually buy one, and as one could expect I’ve been having fun with it. Today’s game was one of the first games I wanted to get for the Wii U, and it’s certainly nice that I finally got to play it. Now if only I had a second Wii U controller for multiplayer, which would have been especially good considering that, as a fighting game, it’s pretty much meant for multiplayer.

What is Pokkén? Well it’s basically a Pokémon fighting game based on Tekken-style gameplay. It debuted in Japanese arcades in 2015 before eventually making its way to the Wii U last year, and there will also be an enhanced port of game called Pokkén Tournament DX for the Nintendo Switch later this year. Believe it or not, this game actually has a plot. The game is set in a new region named Ferrum, where, after you create your in-game avatar, you are guided by a woman named Nia who shows you the basics of gameplay, and you’re an up and coming challenger in the Ferrum League.

However, as you go up the ranks, you are interrupted by a mysterious, black-skinned incarnation of Mewtwo, named “Shadow Mewtwo” for your convenience (which, unfortunately, never made it to Pokémon Sun and Moon). It is revealed that the Shadow Mewtwo draws its power from the “Shadow Synergy Stone” embedded in its right shoulder, but it also corrupted Mewtwo and turned it into a mean-spirited Pokémon that must fight constantly in order to gain greater power. In order to defeat Mewtwo and return it to its peaceful state, the player is eventually tasked with restoring a special brooch that has the power to purify the stone attached to Mewtwo’s body, and defeating Mewtwo so that it can be used.

If I’m going to be perfectly honest, the plot seems rather vestigial. This is the kind of curse that plagues most fighting games, and even the best fighting games have this problem. There isn’t really much plot anyway, as the game is advanced by you defeating other Pokémon in the Ferrum League until you can reach the top of the league. The characters aren’t that special either, and more times than not, it seemed as if the game didn’t need many characters. But since the Pokémon need to be in sync with their trainers, it’s no wonder there are as many minor human characters as there are. As far as playable characters are concerned, you get a good range of playable Pokémon, and as a seasoned Pokémon fan I found it quite difficult to choose at the beginning of the game.

Now onto the positives. The game has the best graphics of any Pokémon game I’ve seen so far, and is probably the first HD Pokémon game I’ve played. The graphics are of such high quality that you could see the hairs on Pikachu’s body. Until the next Pokémon game for Nintendo Switch, this game has perhaps the most well-rendered Pokémon you can possibly find. The music is also pretty good, and it fits the idea of music that’s supposed to get you pumped up, which is what you ought to expect in a fighting game.

The gameplay is pretty straightforward, your aim being to knock out your opponent before you get knocked out first. However, it plays unlike any other fighting game I’ve seen, and this is where the interesting part comes in. In battle certain moves cause the combatants to shift between two phases of battle. There is the “Field Phase”, which is the default phase in which a fight begins. In the field phase you move freely in a 3D arena, providing you with a good opportunity to use ranged attacks and perhaps trap your opponent. The other phase is what’s called the “Duel Phase”, which is more in line with traditional Tekken-style gameplay. Here, you’re locked in a 2D arena and the only thing you can do is beat up your opponent until you shift back to field phase. To switch between the two phases, you have to land a certain attack on the opponent. The control scheme also changes with the phases, as certain moves can only be used in either the field or duel phases.

Speaking of controls, I think this game has a better control scheme than most fighting games, even with the clunky Wii U gamepad taken into account. For one, you jump with one of the face buttons instead of the up button, which always made no sense whatsoever. Also, you don’t have to perform complex, asinine button combos in order to perform your more powerful skills. It’s also quite easy to get used to your partner Pokémon after the tutorial phase, which was well-designed. My main problem, however, is that each Pokémon has a different control scheme, and if you only use your main Pokémon throughout the whole game, which it’s likely you will, it’s a bit disorienting when you decide to play as a different Pokémon. However, you can always check on their skill set and how to use it in the pause menu if you really must, and the game gives you plenty of opportunities to practice.

The playable Pokémon all have different battle styles that you may or may not notice. The “Standard” Pokémon don’t have any real weaknesses. Power-oriented Pokémon are usually slower, but they are very strong. Speed-oriented Pokémon are fast, but they are weaker, and they tend not to thrive once backed against the end of the arena, and Technique-oriented Pokémon have low HP, but an array of special techniques. Most of them are all available from the beginning, except of course for Mewtwo, which requires finishing the story in order to unlock. If you know what to do and you’ve got a good strategy for your Pokémon, then you can easily deal with any opponent as long as you don’t get careless. You can also call on the aid of non-playable support Pokémon, which carry a range of different effects. Many of them deal some form of damage to the opponent, but others either temporarily enhance your fighter’s stats, or temporarily weaken the enemy’s.

It’s also worth noting that in Pokkén Tournament, the type chart in all the normal Pokémon games doesn’t apply here. This means that Pokémon who would normally be mismatched due to one Pokémon having a type advantage over another could now fight each other on an equal playing field. Instead of the type chart, however, you have the attack triangle. Normal attacks are beaten by counterattacks, counterattacks are beaten by grab attacks, and grab attacks are beaten by normal attacks. If you can master this system, you can outmanoeuvre your opponents attacks quite well, and gain the upper hand.

The final thing to mention is the Synergy gauge. To fill it up, you need to either land successful attacks, be hit by your opponent, or collect power crystals that appear during field phase (alternatively, Nia or your support Pokémon can help fill your Synergy gauge). If it’s completely full, you can press the L and R buttons at the same time, you enter Burst Mode, in which you recover a bit of HP, and gain boosted strength and defence until the gauge runs out. While in Burst mode, you also have access a Pokémon’s unique Burst Attack, a very powerful attack that can turn the tide of the battle in your favour. If you use it once, you can’t use it again until you get out Burst Mode, but you can use it again if you manage to activate Burst Mode again.

In all honesty, I think Pokkén is a refreshing change compared to the average fighting game. It adds a layer of strategy to the usual style of gameplay, and it guarantees that you’re on a fair playing field with your opponent by virtue of the fact that you don’t need to master gimmicky combos in order to get good at this game. My only real problem with Pokkén is that it can get repetitive after a while, and it’s even more redundant once you’ve beaten the Ferrum league champion. I suppose you can always play online, if anyone’s still around that is. On the whole, however, it’s a surprisingly good game, the kind that you’ll want to keep playing for a while if you still have a Wii U.

  • Score: 75%
  • Grade: B