Though it’s not an MMO, Pokken Tournament for the Wii U has been an online driven fighting game since its arcade testing days. It’s very much an arcade fighting game for those who aren’t really into arcade fighters, but there’s still just enough left for players to understand its roots. As it’s part of the Pokemon franchise, there’s certainly a built-in player base, but as those players are more used to turn-based RPGs, Pokken may be a bit challenging for them. However, I’ve come up with 11 tested tips for improving your Pokken game.
1. Play The Tutorial
If I could only give you one piece of advice, it’d be to actually play the game’s tutorial. It’s not perfect, as some of the tips go by too quickly without any hands on practice. That being said, it’s serviceable enough that even after having sunk at least half the game’s value into arcades across Japan and having early access to the game, I still go back to learn a few things. Trust me, play the tutorial.
2. Learn the Attack Triangle and apply it to your opponent’s play style
Counters (that give off a blue glow, like X+A) beat normal attacks, grabs (that give off a green glow, like Y+B) beat counter attacks and blocks (R), normal attacks beat grabs. It’s like rock-paper-scissors. It sounds stupid, but here’s the thing: if you’re not paying attention to the system or how it’s used, you’re going to have short matches that end in a loss. Though Pokken is no Tekken, it’s as random as the Smash Bros series that Pikachu is usually appearing in. Skill differences quickly reveal deep gaps between players. If your opponent often attacks as soon as you get up, start counter-attacking to punish them. Do they shield or counter as soon as they stand up? Start opening with a grab. Like any competitive game, being able to read your opponent is key, but the Attack Triangle helps narrow down your choices for responses.
While Y+B and X+A are the standard for every Pokemon, others may have a second counter or grab as a different combo, and there are even counters and grabs in the air. That brings me to…
3. Learn your moves and their functions
Again, super simple, but it’s something most people are missing. Even in single player mode you have access to a list of all your moves plus some combos, as well as their effects. While some of the combos may be tricky, the most difficult ones (Garchomp’s, in my experience) don’t reach Street Fighter levels of tough, so invest a little time. Especially for certain ‘mon, like Shadow Mewtwo, it’s best to have an idea of what you’re doing instead of button-mashing.
4. Listen to Nia
While she’s not perfect, I find that having Nia’s comments on helps a great deal. Think of her as your personal announcer, telling you when you or your opponent’s Synergy Meter (think “Ultimate Mode”) is ready, notify you if a move left you with a negative status effect, and even remind you about the Attack Triangle. At the very least, it’ll help prevent you from getting tunnel vision.
5. Choose your support Pokemon wisely, before and during the match
While Magneton may sound awesome with it’s 2 negative effects on your opponent, the fact that it’s only effective on jumping opponents makes it difficult to apply. Espeon/Umbreon is the first good set you’ll unlock, though later it’ll mostly be replaced by Reshiram and Cresselia. What do they both have in common? Healing abilities and the ability to drain synergy meters. The meta may change later, but right now, these are important.
For the most part, have heals ready during the first match you need to win, as healing support Pokemon charge faster. During your “win,” switch to an offensive Pokemon, as damage deal will drain your enemy’s synergy meter. If you play this way, the support ‘mon you need most should always be available to you.
6. Stick with the basic cheer option
While some of the other cheer options are interesting, the basic one is the most consistent and powerful, ensuring that you always have quick access to support Pokemon and get additional synergy if you’re in a pinch. Even as a big fan of synergy attacks, I know that opting for that over my support ‘mon leaves me at a disadvantage after the first round, when a player using the standard cheer option may be able to open with a slow, powerful Pokemon and possibly use it against me twice. Again, this may change as the meta-game evolves, but as a new player at the low levels, trust me when I say to stick to the standard. It’s got that name for a reason!
7. Always consider synergy meters
Remember that while you’re in burst mode, in addition to being harder to stun and having increased attack and defense, your burst meter falls not only from time but also damage. If you and your enemy both have a synergy meter and you can afford it, let them make the first move, then use your burst and try to hit them with your burst attack first. Saving offensive and disruptive support Pokemon for this phase also helps. Conversely, if their meter is low and your own is full, you may want to unleash before they can build their meter.
However, be careful with this strategy if you have full health. Burst mode also helps you regenerate recoverable hp (the dark green bar you see after you’ve taken damage), so using burst mode too soon can potentially rob you of free healing needed to make a comeback.
Also keep in mind that if a round ends while you’re in burst mode, you won’t get any of that synergy back. It’s important to ask yourself if it’s worth unleashing your synergy near the end of the current round or if you can afford to save it for the start of the next one.
8. Don’t forget the effects of low and high stance
Low stance makes Y attacks quick and your X knockdown your opponent, while high stance Y-attacks are anti-aerial attacks and X-attacks hop over and parry low attacks. Much like the Attack Triangle, knowing this and responding correctly to your opponent will make your fights much, much easier.
9. You can counter-cancel to avoid projectiles in field phase
While you can try to match projectiles or side step them, these are usually considered sooner than the counter-cancel at this point in Pokken Tournament. Use counter-cancels (X+A followed by R+ a direction) to approach enemies spamming projectiles in field phase because they allow you to approach your opponent while also absorbing attacks.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of this strategy, remember that piercing attacks (such as during the Field Phase, holding X after a charge attack with X) can break through a counter or shield, though it’d be easier to simple dash forward and grab your opponent. Its best to know your options though!
10. Punish your opponent when they’re against the wall
An opponent pressed against the wall not only has less room to move, but is more open to attack for a few seconds, making them easier to juggle or combo. Once you’ve damaged them enough, you may even damage them enough to bounce them off the wall. While this does allow them to get back into the middle of the field, it also robs them of potential recoverable health. This is also why you don’t want to just mash buttons but know what your moves do, as you can decide how much you want to bash your enemy before possibly allowing them some space.
11. Don’t restrict yourself to a single fighter
While levels are meaningful, your skill overrides that (and to note: you can go to “My Town” any time and switch your stats, as much as you want, for free). Playing as the other Pokemon not only allows you to learn what they’re capable of, but also how their style may be vulnerable to different strategies. There are enough fighters to give the “fun” crowd some good variety, but not so many as to overwhelm an up-and-coming eSports star.
I say this particularly because I have a feeling many new players with the Shadow Mewtwo amiibo card may think the Pokemon is incredibly powerful and feel they should learn him first. While he can be powerful, the fact that many of his attacks also damage himself make him very risky as well. If you’re one of these players and simply can’t stand him any more, just change to a new Pokemon!
Final Round: Fight!
Pokken isn’t as punishing as other fighting games, even if there are levels. The tutorial is accessible, the Attack Triangle gives you strong suggestions for counter attacks, and it’s the Pokemon franchise that’s warmed your heart for years come to bone-crunchingly glorious 3-D. That being said, the depth is enough that players can have short, punishing matches against opponents who understand the above 11 points. It’s my hope that, by highlighting these, even those of us who primarily play MMOs and MOBAs can jump in and have an enjoyable match with our console-focused buddies.
Related: Bandai Namco, Guide, Pokemon, pokken tournament, PvP, Wii U