This Nintendo Switch Game Is THE Ultimate Way to Battle Pokémon

After nearly 20 years of turn-based RPG Pokémon battles, a fighting game-style Pokémon brawler was an obvious next step. It came in the form of Pokkén Tournament in arcades in 2015, and later on the Nintendo Wii U in 2016.

A new definitive edition of the game, Pokkén Tournament DX, releases on the Nintendo Switch on Sep. 22. Does it come packed with enough new features to make the upgrade worthwhile? I played it myself to put it to the test.

Before DX, I'd only played a Wii U demo of the original Pokkén Tournament. I definitely had some fun and enjoyed seeing familiar characters in a 3D fighting arena, but I had a hard team discerning what made it different from other fighting games. Initially, the gameplay didn't stick with me or compel me to purchase the game.

Pokkén Tournament DX: Pikachu Libre Win

(via The Pokémon Company)

Just a few moments into Pokkén Tournament DX, I had an entirely different experience. This wasn't due to a new DX feature, but instead because I dived straight into the game's training mode. While it can feel a little handholdy at times, it also does a great job highlighting everything that makes Pokkén Tournament different from other fighting games you've played in the past.

One unique feature is that the battle swaps between a long-range "field" phase and a close-quarters "duel" phase when certain moves are executed. In the field phase you can move freely about in the arena, whereas in duel phase, the battle reverts to a more classic fighting game situation where players can only move left or right on a single plane. Certain characters have the advantage at a distance, while others get the upper hand in close combat, so you must pay attention to the shifting phases to come out on top.

Pokkén Tournament DX: phase shift with Pikachu and Suicune

(via The Pokémon Company)

During the fight, players can also fill up a Synergy Gauge with every normal attack they land. When it fills, you can pull off a powerful and stylish Synergy burst attack, your health is slightly replenished and your attacks are enhanced until the gauge depletes again.

Pokkén Tournament DX: Pikachu Libre Synergy burst

(via The Pokémon Company)

You can also summon Support Pokémon during battle to aid you. While some deal damage to your opponent, other heal you or buff your skills, or even negatively affect the stats of the fighter you're facing.

Pokkén Tournament DX: Support Pokémon Selection screen

(via The Pokémon Company)

Historically, a Pokémon type matchup system has been integral to battle. Water has beaten fire, fire has beaten grass and grass has beaten water in a complex rock-paper-scissors system balancing 18 types. Here, type matchups are thrown out the window for pure amounts of damage dealt.

But that doesn't mean the rock-paper-scissors element of Pokémon is entirely gone. For example, a standard attack can overcome a powerful grapple attack, and while a counter attack will best a standard attack, it will fall short against a grapple. To win, you must pay attention to your opponent and use the right kind of attacks at the right moment.

Pokkén Tournament DX: Machamp fighting Suicune

(via The Pokémon Company)

Or, you can just push buttons at random and blast your way through the game. Pokkén Tournament feels like it was designed for anyone to pick up and play. The combos are easy to pull off, usually combining a simple direction and button press, and the Ferrum League tournament mode in the game can feel too easy in the beginning. I made it through the entire first league without a single loss.

Pokkén Tournament DX: Blue Tournament ranking

(via The Pokémon Company)


The challenge only ramps up in later stages of the game, and it takes a moment to get there. To be truly challenged from the start, you'll want to go online and fight other players from around the world.

Players also have their own customizable character avatars and can buy more personalization options with in-game currency as the game progresses. You'll also be guided through the game by an advisor character, who's also customizable. Her hints can be helpful for a beginner, but they can be obtrusive once you get the hang of things. Luckily, you can turn off her advice in the settings.

Pokkén Tournament DX: Avatar customization

(via The Pokémon Company)

All of this was true of the original Pokkén Tournament on the Wii U. The biggest update to DX comes in the form of new characters. Technically, Decidueye is the only truly new character, since Croagunk, Darkrai, Empoleon and Scizor appeared previously in the arcade version of the game, but these five Pokémon appear for the first time on a console in DX.

There are 21 playable characters in Pokkén Tournament DX, and each of them has a unique gameplay style, making no two of them quite alike. Mewtwo and Shadow Mewtwo have totally different move sets, as do standard Pikachu and Pikachu Libre, so it's a good idea to try out every one to see which one best suits you.

Pokkén Tournament DX: Character selection screen

(via The Pokémon Company)

Of these 21 fighters, however, there are only 19 different Pokémon species to choose from. Seeing as there are more than 800 established Pokémon in the games, this seems like a tiny selection. Other established fighting games, like Street Fighter and Tekken, have much bigger rosters, and it'd be nice for more beloved Pokémon to be implemented here as well.

Pokkén Tournament DX is the complete version of the game and it benefits from being on the Nintendo Switch. For one, the game becomes totally portable, and you can also play one-on-one with a friend thanks to the Joy-Con controllers that come standard with the console. I anticipate it outselling its predecessor because the Switch makes it so convenient to play.

If you already own and love Pokkén Tournament on the Wii U, you'll have to decide whether the five new characters are worth the $59.99 investment on the Switch. If you've never played it before, try the eShop demo to see if it clicks with you, and make your decision then.


If you're excited to get your hands on Pokkén Tournament DX, click HERE to find out the most popular Pokémon in your state.