Pokkén Tournament and the question of mind over matter
With fighting games, brawn wins battles. They aren’t usually like RPGs, where someone could harness the power of their mind, the elements or faith to allow for a supernatural show of power. Pokkén Tournament defies people’s expectations. There are about 47 fighting-type Pokémon in the game’s Pokédex as of Pokémon X and Y, but Bandai Namco only chose to put five fighting-types in the game. Instead of focusing on the mighty, burly characters, there’s an abundance of ones that rely upon psychic and ghost abilities.
It’s almost as though Bandai Namco was trying to make some sort of unintentional, moral statement with Pokkén Tournament. We have intimidating, strong foes like Charizard and Garchomp. Those make sense. But then, we have more delicate, elegant and unexpected foes like Braixen, Chandelure, Gardevoir, Gengar and Mewtwo. With Mewtwo, it makes sense. His Synergy Burst Mega Evolves him to Mewtwo X, but he’s still relying on psychic-type moves throughout matches.
Each of these psychic and ghost-type Pokémon make you think differently when playing Pokkén Tournament. You can’t approach battles as you would in titles like Street Fighter or Tekken. There has to be more finesse. People need to think, rather than go in swinging. Which is quite an appropriate concept, considering the intangible nature of these characters abilities that surely rely upon their own brainpower.
Braixen and Chandelure force a player to constantly consider tactics. These are keep away characters. While they have strong moves that can deal a great amount of damage to an immediate foe, it’s much better for every enemy to remain at bay. The goal is to push people back. Have Braixen send out a Fire Blast or Psybeam to send that other Pokémon away. Use Chandelure’s Will-o-Wisp or Overheat to send someone flying. The goal is to put distance between the two characters, and someone has to always be thinking of ways to make that happen as their enemy realizes what’s happening and tries to get close.
Gardevoir and Gengar are both characters that require people to exercise patience, know their opponent and gauge distances. You have to anticipate where an opponent will be, then use the appropriate standard or special attack to catch them. People who choose to fight with one of these Pokémon needs to be good at reading people. It’s a mental exercise. Gengar gets tricky, with moves that can be cancelled or shift trajectory on the fly. With Gardevoir, you have to know all of the possible moves that can be launched from Calm Mind and when the right time to use each one is. Patience and memory are a virtue with these two.
Meanwhile, Mewtwo can be the most challenging of all. You need to have patience and be a good judge of character, because many of his moves require a certain amount of space to hit properly. Plus, you have to know when to transition to other moves like Confusion, Telekinesis, and Drain Punch from Barrier. Tactics will constantly need to shift, especially since moves like Psycho Cut and Hyperbeam deplete his Synergy Gauge. You have to know exactly when to deal additional blows during a Psystrike barrage to maintain a combo.
Other fighting games require you to play mind games, but Pokkén Tournament is drawing parallels between the characters you’re using and the mental facilities you need to possess to properly control them. They force you to think differently, perhaps outside of your comfort zone. A tactical approach is needed for each of the fighters that rely upon psychic and ghost-type moves within the game. The more intricate moves in their arsenal, the harder you need to think to use them.
It’s interesting, because some of these skills learned in Pokkén Tournament could then be applied to real life. You might become more patient in dealing with situations and people, perhaps learning the right time to speak or act, because you’re used to waiting to pull off a skill as Gengar or Gardevoir. When trying to work out plans for a day and problems arise, you might be more prepared to adjust to a new situation because a Chandelure or Braixen match required it.
The prominence of ghost and psychic-type Pokémon in Pokkén Tournament, for lack of a better word, makes you think. It may not just be about offering a greater variety of characters and more appropriate representation of the Pokémon world. Perhaps it’s about challenging players and forcing them to do something new in a fighting game. Picking up one of these more unorthodox fighters may help you grow as a gamer and a person.
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