Like all fighting games, Pokkén Tournament gets pretty competitive. Even people going through the solo campaign might find some later matches that leave them a little stumped. Meanwhile, the ranked competition is only going to get tougher, now that everyone has a chance to start mastering their preferred characters. There’s a reason Pokkén Tournament was at EVO 2016, after all. It’s deeper and more complex than people would expect from a game with such a colorful cast of imaginary animals. (Just like regular Pokémon games!) Fortunately, the leveling system mimics the trainer experience, allowing people to gradually get better over time.
I’m not talking about training through effort, memorizing combos and participating in various practice matches and tutorial segments until you’re automatically performing incredible moves. We don’t all have that sort of time to waste or patience to endure such trials. I’m talking about the in-game leveling system. Every action you perform in Pokkén Tournament with your partner Pokémon gives them battle experience.
This is where a person gets to really be a Pokkén Tournament Pokémon trainer. Every Pokémon can be leveled up to level 100, just like in the JRPGs. Instead of stats being arbitrarily determined for you, based on IVs or EVs, you decide exactly which skills you want enhanced every time. You can boost attack, defense, synergy, or strategy. Attack and defense are fairly straightforward, making your partner deal more or take less damage. Synergy makes the Synergy Burst last longer and the attack and defense increases that stem from it greater, Strategy makes your supporting Pokémon effective and allows you to call upon them more often.
Because of this leveling component, you have an outlet if a match is getting too tough. When people are too strong for you, you can go through some Ferrum League challenges one after another to improve a character or take on some Single Battles to get a slight boost. People who find themselves getting caught up in opponent’s combos can increase their defense and survive the beatings. Those who choose a distance fighter, like Chandelure, could max out attack and rely on heavy hitting, ranged attacks to keep people away. Those getting a little more technical can improve their synergy or strategy ratings.
It’s encouraging, really. Too many fighting games become too intimidating after a few weeks. It can feel like everyone else had a personal tutor, while you’re still button mashing. Pokkén Tournament welcomes you with the leveling system, because you always have a chance of doing better. Even if you aren’t quite there yet, in terms of hand-eye coordination or skill, your Pokémon could be thanks to the training. You could go through as many of the Green League or Single Battle fights as you need, until your favorite character is advanced enough to offer a little cushion to keep you safe.
Plus, that system doesn’t penalize you when you do start developing incredible skills on your own. As an example, I’ve been maxing out my Chandelure’s attack, and I’ve been planning on boosting its defense and synergy after that. It’s a defense mechanism, because I know other players are better than me. I want to keep them away. Still, even after about a week with the game, I can tell I’m improving. Eventually, I won’t need to have all those points in attack anymore. The Skill Allocation option will let me go back and redistribute those points. Nobody’s past decisions are held against them. They’re allowed to change their mind as they grow, another incredible thing.
This, in turn, allows someone to become a better player. When you’re devising new strategies for a character, you can switch up their stats accordingly to help you through that transition. If you want to experiment with a more aggressive, in-your-face strategy that relies heavily on intimate attacks and grappling after playing keep-away, you can swap points into defense and strategy to back that decision up. If you want to try and learn more about the away game, buff attacks. The game is always there to support your decisions with skill point distribution.
Plus, it’s a fun callback to the original Pokémon games. Sure, it isn’t the same sort of leveling. Still, you are gradually growing as a trainer, and your partner Pokémon are benefiting from the experiences they’re enjoying with you. You might not be going around the Ferrum region, fighting through wild encounters, meeting rival trainers and challenging gyms for badges. Still, the battles in the various leagues do count for something, and this callback shows that they carry as much weight as the original series’ matches while helping you keep up with other players..
The leveling system in Pokkén Tournament is understanding. It’s there for you, whether you’re a beginner or advanced player. People having trouble can put a few hours in, getting a stat boost out of it. Those who want to experiment with new strategies or buff their already strong strategies can do so by allocating already existing points. The result is something more approachable. It’s a fighting game where, even a few months in, you could jump in, build yourself up and be an equal to people who’ve been playing since launch. Pokkén Tournament is a game people will always be able to keep playing, as there’ll never be that window where it’s too intimidating.