Today, The Pokémon Company unveiled some new details about its newest gaming venture, Pokkén Tournament. A collaboration with Bandai that’s due to be released in Japan this year, Pokkén Tournament is an arcade game that pits various Pokémon like Machamp and Lucario against each other in a Tekken-style brawl. It was assumed that the Pokémon featured in the game would either be fighting types or bipedal, as that would make sense with a game focused on punching and kicking movements.
Today’s livestream blew those expectations out of the water by confirming Pikachu, Suicune, and Gardevoir as playable characters. The preview footage, which showcased full matches, showed each Pokémon using special attacks besides fighting moves, such as Suicune’s Blizzard and Lucario’s Aura Sphere. Even more impressive was the free range of motion that each Pokemon had, even when using those special attacks. For instance, Suicune launched Aurora Beams on the ground and in the air as it dodged one of Machamp’s strikes.
For the first time in Pokémon’s two decade history, we saw what it would be like to have a realistic battle.
The latest round of Pokémon’s flagship handheld games, X and Y and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have made significant advancements in battle gameplay, with full 3D renderings of all 720 Pokémon and their attacks. However, it doesn’t offer free range movement and utilizes the turn-based battle structure that has been the game’s standard since its creation in the 90s. I am certainly not the first to imagine a Pokémon game that matched the anime, in the sense that there is greater control over how a Pokémon moves on the field and how it dodges. The most logical reasons for the gameplay’s stagnation were technological imitation and a general feeling of “don’t fix what isn’t broken”. or, it couldn’t be done and why try when Pokémon consistently ranks among the top video games worldwide.
Which makes Pokkén Tournament truly exciting. It shows that it can be done, and done well. Watching the lifestream footage, I felt a level of exhilaration that I’ve felt towards Pokémon in a long time, if ever. Seeing Suicune jump in the air with grace befitting its personality and deliver a chilling (pun intended) blow to Machamp was an amazing moment, and makes me excited to see the other Pokémon in this game. It speaks to a whole new frontier of the Pokémon video game franchise.
There is just one problem, though.
Pokkén Tournament is an arcade video game, like one you would find in Dave & Buster’s. It is also localized to Japan for the foreseeable future. Although popular worldwide, Pokémon has a thorough and pervasive culture in Japan, which would suggest that this might be a Japan-only experience. That would be unfortunate, since this game could mark a much-needed advancement in the series. Imagine Pokkén Tournament ported to the seriously fledging Wii U console. Taking it further, imagine a fully realized RPG with Pokkén’s fighting style for the Wii U. The results for the franchise, and for Nintendo as a whole, would be massive.
There’s no telling how Pokkén Tournament will be received upon its release in Japan and if fans are jumping the gun regarding a console edition, but we finally know that what fans have been waiting for is possible. Now, it’s just a matter of time.
You can watch the full lifestream of Pokkén Tournament below: