Cat Fight on Pokken: “It’s a Pokémon fighting game! There’s your sales pitch right there!”

One of the newest kids on the block, Pokken Tournament has a lot of people skeptical about the game’s potential to be a serious member of fighting game scene. And it has nothing to do with whether the game is fun or not.

One of the largest hurdles in the way of Pokken is the expensive amount of equipment one needs to run a Pokken event: Two TVs, two WiiUs, two copies of Pokken, and a connector cable is a lot. Unlike most other fighters, Pokken is pretty difficult to run out of a dorm room setting.

I, for one, have faith in the scene after watching Pokken at EVO this year. I recently had the chance to talk to one of the country’s top Pokken players, Wesley “Cat Fight” Garland, who represents Circa eSports. He gives me a little background on what fighters he plays and helps break down the appeal of Pokken and why you should be playing it too.

Amanda “SageGnosis” Stevens: What games were you playing before Pokken?

Wesley “Cat Fight” Garland: Most recently, I was playing Smash 4, but I’ve been played everything from arcade fighters to Street Fighter V and things like that. Pokken, however, is definitely my main focus.

AS: What made you gravitate away from other fighters and focus mainly on Pokken?

WG: For me, usually if a new fighter comes out, I just pick up. Mostly because I like fighting games in general. But, I’m also a Nintendo loyalist. Any fighting game, especially on Nintendo, I’m going to chose that over most. And Chandelure is one of my favorite Pokemon as well; so it just made sense to pick it up.

AS: What makes Pokken different than Street Fighter? Or even Virtua Fighter, which is another 3D fighter.

WG: So there are different phases, and the field phase is very different from your traditional 2D fighter like Street Fighter and things like that. It’s more akin to the Naruto games or Virtual On series. So, thats a big difference. Even in the 2D realm, which is dual phase, it’s still different from Street Fighter because of the pacing and the heavy RPS focus. I would say it’s more similar to the Naruto GNT series and believe Bandai Namco worked on that as well. So, you can see some of that transitioning over.

AS: You said you’ve played some Smash Bros; are there any elements from those games that are similar to elements of Pokken?

WG: Nothing mechanically, but I think most people will agree that whatever fighting game you play, stuff like the mental game, spacing, frame data, etc. are all important aspects in both games.

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AS: Similar to Marvel, Pokken has the assist option. How does this affect gameplay? Are there any assists that are a cut above the rest? Or are most pretty balanced?

WG: Assists can make or break certain matchups like Electrode for Gardevoir, Emolga forChandelure…these can really change how you’re supposed to play because they counter the Pokémon by nature. Emolga and Yveltal are definitely a cut above most in the current meta with Cresselia still being very strong, and Mismagius finding its niche because of the unblockable.

AS: On a similar note, what Pokemon are S tier and what Pokemon are pretty low tier? Are there any that are dark horse pick ups?

WG: My thoughts on tiers change too rapidly; there’s still way too much to explore, especially with Darkrai coming out soon. Though, Suicune and Sceptile have always felt top tier to me with Braixen likely being top three if she doesn’t get nerfed. Other than that…Weavile, Pikachu, Mewtwo are all contenders for possibly high tier.

I don’t wanna mislead people, this is just my opinion! Play whatever Pokémon you like the most.

AS: In a lot of the fighting game scenes there is a large gap between the East (Japan and Korea) and the American players. Is that the same for Pokken?

WG: I know the EVO results will show differently, but I still don’t see a large gap between the top players from both countries. Japan has a very conservative style that we haven’t been exposed to, or rather aren’t used to fighting. But after EVO, it has opened our eyes and I think a lot of players will adjust accordingly.

AS: To close this out: if you were asked to make a sales pitch to people to get people to play Pokken, how would it go?

WG: Kinda blows my mind that it even needs a sales pitch. It’s a Pokémon fighting game! There’s your sales pitch right there!

Photos by Rocco Zoccoliroccozoccoli.com

Amanda "SageGnosis" Stevens is a freelance writer and host of The Analyst Desk podcast.

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