Pokemon is great, and that extends to its spinoffs. At it’s core, the games are targeted to younger players- that’s why a recurring complaint about mainline games is that the mechanics are so simple, it’s aging playerbase moves to outgrow them.
But this works to the games favor, too- with Pokemon as huge as it is, it’s got a variety of spinoffs, all of them carrying that same mantra of giving more accessible gameplay.
The best examples of these are Pokemon Unite and Pokken Tournament– a MOBA and a fighting game, respectively. Ordinarily, these are two genres of game that would be *extremely* difficult to get into without any prior knowledge.
Pokken Tournament- Gateway Drug Into Fighting Games
In Pokken’s case though, it’s hard to not get pulled in. On the surface, it looks like the Pokemon game you’ve always wanted: fully 3d models, doing flashy attacks without things like an 80% accuracy getting in the way of doing your moves. Heck, it even has a King of Fighters-style tag mode to mimic an actual Pokemon battle.
At its core though, Pokken Tournament is a solid fundamentals-based fighting game. Heck, it’s what got me to wrap *my* head around the genre, with its rock-paper-scissors approach. The game focuses on the strike-vs-throw-vs-block approach, and puts it front and centre with each pokemon being perfectly viable as long as you can win the showdown.
This is even further enhanced with the game’s tilt inputs, which mean you won’t have to worry about things like quarter-circles or DP inputs acting as an execution barrier to stop you from showing a ratty Pikachu what’s up.
On top of that it even features two phases- a Field Phase with focus on ranged zoning, and a Duel Phase that plays more like your traditional 2d fighter. Suffice to say, it’s a great teaching tool for anyone getting into the genre, since each Pokemon’s moves are flashy enough that people would want to give it a try, and the simplified gameplay means you won’t have to spend 3 hours in training mode just to get something cool.
Admittedly, it’s one shortcoming is that it’s easy to grow out of. By using a guard button instead of most 2d fighters’ hold-back-to-block, you can’t really do fun advanced things like crossups. Worse still, the game lacks any real high-low mixups either, unlike its namesake Tekken.
Pokemon Unite, Making Me Actually Play MOBAs
Pokemon Unite acts as a gateway into one of the other most inaccessible genres- MOBAs. When I think of MOBAs, I usually think of bad times as 5 other dudes (all ignoring their girlfriends) immediately regret bringing me along to the cybercafe. They’re pointlessly technical and have one more factor that makes it even harder- a reliance on teamwork. It’s very possible to be playing a MOBA well and still feel like you’re getting nowhere, just because your teammates are being difficult.
While Unite certainly doesn’t fix the teammate problem, it does provide a much more fun MOBA experience. Instead of farming your opponent’s creeps, you’re competing against them for a shared pool of neutral creeps- and scoring points instead of tower diving.
I feel like Pokemon Unite was an exercise in removing the most hectic parts of the MOBA for new players, which is great. My first time playing a MOBA, walking too far out and getting pelted in tower fire and verbal abuse is a good sign that I’m not gonna play much longer.
It even takes this one step further with the items- rather than buying them mid-game, sorting out your items is now a pre-game ritual, so you never have to get lost in reading menus mid-match before someone says unsavory things about your mother.
A Pokemon Racing Game?
Honestly, that’s not even the entirety of the Pokemon spinoff library. Pokemon Masters EX is a pretty fun gacha game, and Pokemon Go literally created way more GPS-based games.
While the mainline RPGs seem locked to their formula, I really hope we get to see more Pokemon spinoffs in future. Like I said, they act as great gateways into other genres of games, which is good for everyone involved.
Considering The Pokemon Company’s willingness to get into MOBAs and Fighting Games, maybe we could even see a racing game to complete the incomprehensible trinity?