Get familiar with the playable cast of Pokkén
This is part four of a series of written guides on Pokkén Tournament Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. I’ve always loved this game and I’ve wanted to give back to the community and generate more interest in it. I’ll be creating more guides like this in the future and I hope this gets new players invested in the fighting game that taught me about fighting games. If you would like to try out Pokkén Tournament Deluxe, and learn more information about the game, be sure to check out the community Discord!
The latest article in this series was about learning how to do cancels, specifically for the purpose of being able to do CADCs. That might have been a bit of a step-up for a series of beginner guides, but CADC is so crucial to learning how to play the game that I felt it was necessary to make that the third guide, right after learning about the main systems of the Pokkén engine. Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, though, we can finally dive into the part that all newbies want to get to when they pick up a new fighting game: the character select screen! I’m gonna walk you through the four categories of Pokémon and give you a brief summary of each member, and at the end of it all you should have some idea of who you want to play.
As mentioned previously, every playable Pokémon is assigned to one of four categories that generally describes their style- Standard, Power, Speed, and Technical. While these categories are mostly accurate, they’re not strict guidelines, and some Pokémon may have properties that you may normally attribute to characters from different categories. Scizor, for instance, is a Power character, but he has very swift movement that allows him to close in on his opponent. Likewise, Croagunk is a Speed character, but his RNG mechanics lend him a very tricky playstyle.
So let’s break these archetypes down:
There are eight Standard characters on the roster: Blaziken, Pikachu, Lucario, Decidueye, Braixen, Empoleon, Mewtwo, and Suicune. The Standard characters are the jack-of-all-trades in this game. Most of these characters are relatively easy to pick up, with maybe the exception of Mewtwo and Empoleon who have a slightly higher learning curve than the other six. Furthermore, all of these characters are able to remain relevant in the metagame against the top tiers, and some of them are even top tiers themselves. Let’s quickly go through each of these eight, one by one:
1. Blaziken is a pure rushdown character with flashy combos and the ability to charge his Poké Moves into powerful EX versions at the cost of some HP. Spending recoverable HP during pressure and combos makes him very fragile, and he has a very poor Field Phase and a tough time against zoners. Once he’s able to get into his opponent’s face, however, Blaziken can be very devastating.
2. Pikachu is an exceptionally beginner friendly character. He takes after the Mishima family of Tekken fame and has a lot of moves that are good at any range or situation. Small and nimble, Pikachu is worth putting in the time for.
3. Lucario is the Ryu-like shotoclone of the cast. He thrives at close to mid-range, poking with Aura Sphere and then getting in with Bone Rush combos. Mega Lucario is also one of the best Burst Modes in the game, granting him an airdash and enhanced Poké Moves.
4. Decidueye is the headlining DX newcomer, appearing prominently on the new boxart. While he can play at any distance, his archery and tricky projectiles make him powerful at mid-to-far range. Decidueye’s unique Flying Stance also lets him utilize powerful air combos, and he’s the only character in the game with the Support Seal debuff via his Spirit Shackle arrows.
5. Braixen is a devious hit-and-run zoner who weaves in and out of range by flying on her wand and tossing out fireballs. Her main strength is using Sunny Day to buff herself and fill her Support Gauge faster than any other Pokémon. If you’re able to synergize well with your chosen Support, you can wreak havoc on your opponent.
6. Empoleon is a powerful bruiser who uses his Hidden Machine-themed Poké Moves, along with Ice Beam and Aqua Jet, to get in on his opponent and pressure them. He’s normally slow without the use of his special moves to cover ground, but once he actually gets in he can be particularly oppressive.
7. Mewtwo is inarguably one of the best characters in the game. He has a versatile toolset and can be devastating at any range, with powerful combos and good movement. His main drawback, the largest Burst meter in the game, must be mitigated with well-optimized and technically precise gameplay.
8. Suicune is a setplay based character who primarily focuses on zoning with his beams, but also has good close-range combos to get people off him if they get in close. He generally wants to keep enemies away with walls and traps, and he can also mix up the patterns of his beams to trip up their approach.
Next up are the Power characters. There are six Pokémon classified as Power characters: Scizor, Machamp, Blastoise, Chandelure, Charizard, and Garchomp. In general, these are brutal, high damage characters who can delete their opponent’s health in only a few hits. They exert insane amounts of pressure by putting the fear of getting hit by a big move into their opponent’s heart, either with the threat of a hit confirm into a combo or by a single critical hit dealing massive damage.
1. Scizor is my main! With a unique Hover Dash, an aerial Hover Stance for air combos, and moves that are effective at almost every range, Scizor is a particularly devastating character. He has creative and expressive movements, with the ability to take the opponent to the air and juggle them with ‘basketball combos.’
2. Machamp is a pure grappler, through and through. He takes a lot after Zangief, meaning he can do a ton of damage off a single grab or off confirming a combo into a grab. While he’s not very good until he gets close, he has a lot of tools that allow him to get in on his opponent, like armored moves and being the only Pokémon who can Perfect Block in Duel.
3. Blastoise is one of the two DLC characters, and sports tools that are good at any range. However, his main strength is his mid to long range pressure with tools like Bubble and Water Gun, forcing his opponent to block and eat a Water Pulse command grab. He also has a Shell Fortress Stance where he can retreat into his shell to gain defensive options.
4. Chandelure is the best zoner in the game, with brutal projectiles and beams that are difficult to block and can even stuff typical CADC approaches. Furthermore, she can even get out of her opponent’s grasp by swinging from the ceiling and by using powerful reversals like Overheat.
5. Charizard is a vicious bruiser whose most powerful moves and combos are done in the air. While Flying, Charizard can turn any knockdown situation into a frustrating guessing game- forcing his opponent to eat a Flare Blitz, Seismic Toss, or corner combo.
6. Garchomp is a brutal rushdown character who makes use of Dig and his unique Running Stance to close the gap between him and his opponent. With unique moves out of Running Stance, a devastating mixup game, and armor systems like Rough Skin, Garchomp is fierce once he’s got his opponent in the corner.
Now we can move on to the smallest archetype in the game. There are four Speed Pokémon: Pikachu Libre, Croagunk, Sceptile, and Weavile. All of them are primarily rushdown-focused, but they all have different methods of navigating from their starting position into their opponent’s face. Their gameplans also differ once they’ve successfully closed that gap.
1. Pikachu Libre is, surprisingly, not a Pikachu clone! She’s a grappler like Machamp, but she also has her own special mechanics like being able to jump off the wall and gain buffs for landing successful command grabs. Pikachu Libre specializes in confirming long combos into her grabs, thereby enhancing herself, and then repeating the loop to get even stronger as the crowd cheers her on.
2. Croagunk is a very tricky character with many RNG-based moves. He is just as liable to buff you as he is to debuff himself and the items he tosses can be either powerful pressure tools or self-afflicted hindrances. Still, if he’s able to get his gameplan going, Croagunk can be surprisingly frustrating to deal with.
3. Sceptile is a ninja-like Pokémon who can swing from vines, flash step across the stage, lay traps and debuff his opponents with poisonous defense drops. He is by far the fastest character in the game, and he also has some of the longest and most powerful combos.
4. Weavile is a bait-and punish character who focuses on baiting her opponents into running in against her Taunt, and then punishing them with swift combos that steal Synergy and debuff her opponent’s meter gain. She can also play a unique keepaway game by hanging in the air with Icicle Crash and then dropping down to attack.
The final set of Pokémon to go over are the Technical characters. Only five Pokémon in the cast are categorized as Technical characters: Darkrai, Gardevoir, Aegislash, Gengar, and Shadow Mewtwo. Compared to the rest of the cast, these characters are more difficult to get the hang of and have very technically precise gameplans. I would even advise staying away from these characters until you’re comfortable with how the game feels. That being said, all of these characters are very strong and rewarding once you’ve mastered how to play them.
1. Darkrai plays a zoning game in Field by placing Phantoms all around the stage and having them mirror his actions, which allows him to get close and land Dark Void. Dark Void then triggers Bad Dreams Rising, a buffed Duel Phase mode that gives Darkrai access to enhanced moves and new combos. Placing and using Phantoms increases Darkrai’s Phantom Count, which he can then cash in to enhance his Dark Pulse move or to gain buffs.
2. Gardevoir is also a zoner who specializes in enhancing herself and her moves by building Calm Mind stacks. She can use her beams to keep her opponents at bay, and she can also set up invisible traps using Future Sight in order to prevent her opponents from approaching in the first place.
3. Aegislash is a DLC character who operates on a unique stance system. In Sword Stance, Aegislash can enhance his attack stats and land powerful close-range combos. Likewise, in Shield Stance he can buff his defense and keep his opponent away with ranged attacks and the King’s Shield parry. This stance system can be tricky since it prevents him from using his normal block, but it also makes Aegislash one of the best characters in the game.
4. Gengar is one of the most miserably tricky characters in the game, with the ability to warp around the stage and bait his opponents into whiffing. His gameplan mainly revolves around confirming loops and combos that build his meter, including via his Hypnosis command grab. Mega Gengar is one of the most powerful Burst modes in the game, and is functionally a completely different character.
5. Shadow Mewtwo is a partial moveset clone of Mewtwo with the lowest health bar in the game. Like Blaziken, some of his moves spend health when used, but he builds meter exceptionally fast and his Burst is also one of the strongest in the game. Shadow Mewtwo is fragile, but his diverse moveset makes him a threat at any range.
So the real question after breaking down all this info is, who do you want to main? In general, you can pick whoever you want on the roster. The Standard Pokémon are all very good to start with and will carry you far, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try out any of the other characters in time. The Speed and Technical characters are probably the hardest archetypes to master, but they’re not off limits. Out of all of the cast in particular, I would say that Gengar and Croagunk’s optimizations make them very difficult to begin learning, and Garchomp’s Running Stance being very input-heavy also makes him hard for beginners to get the hang of. The tier list in this game is fairly malleable, and even the low tiers can hang with the top tiers. If you absolutely need to know who the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ characters in the game are, I would say that Mewtwo, Shadow Mewtwo, Aegislash, and Sceptile are the clear top-tiers, and that Croagunk, Empoleon, and Blastoise are the clear bottom-tiers.
All in all, this list only serves as a basic description of how each character plays and functions, in order to help you decide which character you should pick at a glance. More in-depth character guides will probably come in the future, but the rule when playing any fighting game is to play who you like and who feels best in your hands. The next guide will be on the various Support Pokémon in the game and how to decide what to pick!