Mike: This might be the weirdest thing I've seen announced all week. Pokken Tournament brings together the Pokemon Company's tiny little cash cows and Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada from Bandai Namco. The game is planned for an arcade release in Japan in 2015, but there's been no further news about other possible platforms.
The game makes sense, as the Pokemon have always been a popular part of Nintendo's Super Smash Bros series. An entire Pokemon-focused fighting game should be a instant gold mine since Bandai Namco can keep releasing new characters as DLC for years. With Pokemon X and Y, we're up to 718 Pokemon total and I'd say at least a third of them deserve a fighting game appearance.
Kat: Well all of the Fighting-types do at least. It's no coincidence that Namco Bandai featured Lucario and Machamp, both of whom are Fighting-type Pokemon. They're a natural fit for a game like this. What I'm really curious to see is how Bandai Namco is going to handle the more non-traditional fighters. Pikachu is a given, for example, but its low profile is almost certain to give fighting game fans fits.
Mike: The thing that perplexes me is Bandai Namco's Tekken team seems to be taking the lead on Pokken Tournament's development. Pokemon has a number of ranged combatants who deserve a chance to shine, but Tekken isn't a ranged-heavy game. The Lucario/Machamp fight shown in the teaser trailer plays to the strengths of the Tekken team, but characters like Pikachu and Mewtwo seems like they'd be at odds with that style of play. I agree that Pikachu's combination of long-range and tiny hitbox could present a problem.
Kat: Well, despite the name, I don't think Pokken Tournament is going to bear much resemblance to Tekken as we know it. The style and pacing is all wrong for a Pokemon game. If anything, I think Pokken Tournament will be more like Soul Calibur, which admittedly doesn't have many projectiles—something that's hard to pull off effectively in a 3D fighter—but feels right for a Pokemon spinoff. With Soul Calibur being all but dead following Soul Calibur V, I'll take what I can get, I suppose. That begs the question though: As a fighting game fan, how do you think Namco Bandai will handle the various projectile attacks? Is it fair to say that moves like Flamethrower will be overpowered or underpowered? I keep going back to Link's turn in Soul Calibur II, which was ultimately pretty successful, but also fairly clunky. The arrows and bombs were just a pain to use.
Mike: That's kind of what I'm getting at. Bandai Namco, especially the Tekken team, aren't currently adept at handling projectiles. Companies like Capcom and SNK Playmore have the expertise to balance a zoning projectile user against a grappler's rushdown tactics. Harada's team will be learning a new skillset if they're not just treating ranged projectiles as long-range handheld weapons. As to your question, I'd expect Flamethrower to be treated like Dhalsim's Yoga Flame, a mid-range, mid-damage attack that's best used in combos or as a block-breaker.
Kat: That's what I was afraid of. I'm also kind of wondering which Bandai Namco characters are going to find their way into Pokken Tournament. Is it possible that we're going to see Pikachu fighting Panda from Tekken Tag Tournament? Would Game Freak and The Pokemon Company even allow such a thing given what control freaks they are over the property? How long until we get to see Heihachi punch Charizard in the face? Actually, I would pay good money for that, which I'm sure is what Namco Bandai and Nintendo are hoping.
From a Pokemon fan's perspective, I'm just surprised that this game is even happening. Game Freak has worked together with other studios before, most notably HAL Laboratory and Chunsoft for the Pokemon Ranger and the Mystery Dungeon games, but I never expected to go all out and actually make a fighting game. Then again, Game Freak has never been shy about adding additional revenue streams, and a fighting game is a pretty natural fit for the format. The question is whether it will be any good from a fighting game perspective. What are your thoughts, Mike? Has Bandai Namco lost their mojo over the past few years? I sort of feel like they have.
Mike: Tekken 7 is coming and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 had a place at EVO 2014, but I admit that Tekken's overall star is waning and Soul Calibur is nowhere to be found. I'm not exactly sure how to fix that problem, because while the fighting game community is rather welcoming, there's a huge barrier to entry in the games themselves. Not just the expertise needed to compete at a minimum level, but the fact that you have to purchase a full game. Free-to-play has been one of the strengths of League of Legends and DotA 2, to the point that I've loaded up Dota 2 just to try it. I don't like free-to-play fighters like Dead or Alive Ultimate and Tekken Revolution, but I do wonder if that's the direction the genre is going.
Kat: I'm going to say that Pokken Tournament will be a fun, if somewhat shallow, fighter that is mostly devoted to kids. It may end up getting a spot at EVO 2016 or something, but I doubt that it will have much staying power. Think of it as a very poor man's Persona 4 Arena, which is fun to play, but ultimately has more flash than substance.
Mike: Damn, I'm hurt by your jab at Persona 4 Arena. It's a bit hard to get into compared to some other fighters, but there's a decent bit of metagame, like Arc System's Blazblue. I see Pokken Tournament as a solid contender in the fighting game community, albeit one that'll be overshadowed by Super Smash Bros on Wii U. If Game Freak and Bandai Namco commit to it, I expect both sides to make a lot of money. (Random thought: A connection to Nintendo's Amiibo Toys-to-Life system?) If it's a one-off, it'll be an interesting experiment, something Pokemon fans have been asking for almost as long as a Pokemon MMO. Still waiting on that last one.