Pokkén Tournament’s trainer customization is compelling

Having an avatar you created is essential when it comes to helping you connect with games. The character doesn’t even have to look like you. Knowing that you had some choice in the matter does. Pokken Tournament is the kind of game where Bandai Namco and Nintendo didn’t have to offer that extra touch. It’s about the Pokemon fighting, not their trainers. But you can change your avatar to suit your own ends, and it’s that extra feature that helps make the game even more appealing. In fact, it may even want to make you play every day.

Initially, it doesn’t seem like you can do much. Pokkén Tournament lets you decide on a gender and make some choices concerning eye color and skin color, but it doesn’t hint at the true levels of customization available until you head to the options screen. There, you see an array of different hairstyles, face details, glasses, emotions, headsets, accessories, backgrounds, and outfits. There’s so much more than you’d initially expect, and all of these options are waiting for you.

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Waiting, because you can’t unlock them right away. They’re your prizes; rewards for participating in solo and online matches. Participate and perform, and you’ll earn the sweet Poké Gold needed to get more items to make you a little more, well, you! Which might be a little difficult to understand, as I excitedly talk about it now. Your avatar isn’t animated. You don’t get to see a 3D model of yourself on the field. It’s just a customizable, static portrait. The monetary compensation you’re receiving can’t be put toward anything constructive, but that doesn’t lessen its value.

Instead, your look becomes a badge of honor. People can’t see what level your Pokémon is at while you’re playing. They’ll see your match percentage when you face-off online, but that stat only relates to the Pokémon you’re currently using. One look at your avatar, though, and they’ll know how far you’ve come. Seeing a hairdo or shirt they’ve never seen before sends an instant message: you’re out of their league.

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It also becomes a motivating reason to keep playing. Especially if you’re also tapping five amiibo to the Wii U’s GamePad every day. The first amiibo I tapped, a Pikachu, added a hairstyle with bunny ears to the game. I hadn’t even gotten to C rank yet, so seeing that new option blew me away. Even if I can’t make time to advance a little further in the campaign or go online to fight some people at my level, I still find a way to take a few minutes to scan in amiibo daily, because I want virtual me to look good.

I can’t be the only one who finds this incentive so rewarding. It’s all cosmetic. It’s not making my partner Pokémon any stronger. Yet, it keeps me coming back to Pokkén Tournament every day. I’m not the best player. I’m adequate with Braixen and Chandelure, but I probably only win about half of my matches online. Knowing that my avatar looks impressive, however, makes me feel special. It helps me stand out, even a little, and I think I enjoy Pokkén Tournament more for it.

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