Nintendo just recently announced a new project that they are working on with Namco Bandai, called Pokken Fighters. You can find the announcement video here. The video shows two Pokemon, Lucario and Machamp, fighting in what seems to be a Tekken-esque fighting game, hence the name “Pokken”. It also seems to be at least slightly similar to the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games, with it’s over-the-shoulder perspective on the two-player fight. Although not much is known about Pokken, it does pose some interesting questions about Namco Bandai’s future releases, as well as their relationship with Nintendo.
The Tekken series has unfortunately suffered as of late from the lack of new players coming into the Tekken scene. The games still sell well enough and are very popular outside of the United States, but the Tekken series stands above all of Namco’s other products as the one game series that is hardest for newer players to get into. Namco has seemingly attempted to remedy this problem with the release of their Free-to-play entry into the Tekken series that offered simpler gameplay, but it seems that their efforts have not stopped there.
It is entirely possible that this Pokken Pokemon fighting game is an attempt by Namco to get more casual fighting game players (i.e. the casual Smash community and the Pokemon community in general) familiar with the mechanics of games like Tekken and Soul Calibur. The fear from the competitive FGC is that Namco will attempt to dumb down Tekken 7’s gameplay to keep up with the other titles (like Street Fighter 4) that have amassed a large audience of new players, but it seems more likely that Namco is testing the casual waters with games like Tekken Revolution and Pokken. This doesn’t mean that Pokken isn’t going to be competitive, of course. In fact, the “first look” video makes it looks really good, but it is also a game marketed at the Pokemon community, which is not going to be very fond of Korean back-dashing or counting frames.
Bandai Namco’s new-found relationship with Nintendo seems to be almost entirely positive, as they’ve helped with the new Smash Bros. and, in turn, Nintendo might help them gather a new audience. Competitive players can only hope that Namco knows their audience well enough to not butcher Tekken’s core gameplay at the opportunity to bring in new players. What do you think? Does Pokken Fighters herald a new age of Namco fighters? Will players who are excited about Pokken Fighters try out Namco’s other games like Tekken and Soul Calibur? Feel free to leave a comment below or at me on twitter or facebook.