Pokken Tournament is what the fighting game genre needs
Just not on the console it needed to be on
There are plenty of acceptable solutions to the problems with the fighting game genre, but I want to focus on one of them: Super Smash Bros. It's not pitched as a fighting game. Smash is one of the greatest fighting game series ever made, but they pitched it as a casual party game, and used some of the gaming world's favorite characters as a draw. Smash is now the largest, most important fighting game series in the world is because casuals can pick up a controller and easily do any basic move within seconds, and if that's not enough, they can grab a hammer and go Triple H on players that are better than them. It's fun for casuals, while still having the potential to be serious.
This long reach would be great for inviting new players into the FGC, but Smash has a fairly unique feel, and enjoying Smash doesn't necessarily equate to enjoying the standard fighting game. Hell, members of the FGC will still argue about whether or not Smash is even a real fighting game. It fucking is, but people still argue about it, which should illustrate what I mean about Smash being so different that it doesn't funnel many players into the genre.
There needs to be a game that feels more like a typical fighting game, has low barriers to entry, and preferably has some way of drawing in new blood...
This brings me to Pokken Tournament. It's a game being criticized for its small roster size of 16 fighters, simple base mechanics, and a perceived dearth of content. Yet Pokken Tournament is also a fighting game I can finally provide my personal perspective on, because I play the crap out of it: Are those criticisms valid? To an extent yes, especially from the view of fighting game fans. As a reasonable casual fan? F#%k you I'm living the Pokemon dream!
Most casual gamers don't care about fighting games, but they probably loved Pokemon at some point in their lives. Pokken Tournament finally, after 20 years of lusting for it, provides fans with action packed Pokemon battles. My Pokemon is no longer functionally retarded, standing there waiting for his turn as the opponent wails on him. I can use Pikachu Libre's agility to zig and zag my way into range and German Suplex a Machamp! Why has it taken this long for us to receive this game?
I'm rocking a W-L record of 116-222, a 34.32% rate of victory, but I don't care because I'm having fun and playing in competitive matches. Sometimes, I'm able to beat players I'd never come close to even touching in a traditional fighting game. That's because I didn't have to spend forever and a day mastering inputs, with my stupid fingers that are about as deft as a newborn baby seal's flippers. After a brief tutorial, I could go into battles and perform any action I wanted with an extremely high level of success.
Handing a higher ranked, undefeated player his first loss in a match that went 3 rounds, and ended with me at 1 HP, winning with a last second Shadowball as he tried to lame it out with Braixen was the single greatest moment I've ever felt while playing a fighting game. I did an actual victory lap around my house I was so hyped. It makes me want more.
Namco Bandai's Katsuhiro Harada labeled Pokken Tournament a competitive battling action game. In reality, it's a fighting game with a small roster and extremely simple commands, being sold to casuals as their dream Pokemon battling game. It's the perfect bait. Once in, they're put into a position where they can be successful without having to spend a lot of time learning the basic attacks. Success is addictive, even in smaller doses, making Pokken Tournament act like a gateway drug to the fighting game genre.
No accomplished member of the FGC is going to hang their hat on that awesome 34.32% win rate, but this is the first time I, and presumably many others like me, have ever had any success in a fighting game's online mode. Pokken Tournament dispelled my doubts and ensured me that I wasn't entirely incapable of competing with fighting game enthusiasts, I was just lacking the tools. With that doubt gone, I'm starting to believe it may be worth my time to go back to other fighting games and put more effort in, and I know I'm not the only gamer that's starting to look at other fighting games with new enthusiasm.
Pokken Tournament is what the fighting game genre has needed for a long time: A truly great point of entry. Others games have tried to be that, but none have done it with any real success until now. It's just a damn shame it released as an exclusive at the end of a dead console's life span.