Pokken Tournament is just the beginning
Did you hear the news about Pokken Tournament? If not, get ready to have your mind blown by the concept of a Tekken game that replaces the cast with the toughest Pokemon imaginable. The game, currently only announced for Japanese arcades in 2015, is being developed by Bandai Namco, and Lucario and Machamp are just a couple of the fighters you'll be seeing in this upcoming oddity. And, unbelievably, this isn't even the fifth weirdest Pokemon spin-off of all time.
Yes, in the nearly 20 years of Pokemon history, the main RPG series has been supported by so many strange side games that a Tekken-style fighter is par for the course. There's been virtual pinball, fishing, ranching, and more that all feature the pocket monsters in one form or another. Get ready to put Pokken Tournament into perspective with this long list of Pokemon oddities...
Pokemon Pinball (GBC, GBA)
Until recent years, high-quality pinball games were few and far between, especially on platforms other than the PC. So imagine the shock virtual pinball wizards felt when they discovered that the Pokmon brand led to the creation of one of the greatest pinball video games in recent memory. Replacing the actual pinball with a Pokeball was a stroke of genius, as high scores end up taking a backseat to the growth of your Pokemon collection (just like the core games, really). If you're good with the flippers, the Pokemon Pinball game will provide hours of entertainment, all contained on a handful of colorful tables.
Pokemon Snap (N64)
There you are, a Nintendo employee sitting in an intense brainstorm session at the height of Pokemania. The task: come up with the breakout Pokemon experience that shows the majestic creatures in their natural habitat. It needs to show Pokemon with greater detail than ever before--AHA! It'll be in first-person! But it can't be a first-person shooter--NO! You'll shoot them... with a camera! Great, but it'd be too difficult to create an entire 3D Pokemon world from scratch...EUREKA! Put the whole thing on rails, just like a safari tour! Throw in a few Professor Oak lectures and some apple-tossing antics in for good measure, and the legend of Pokmon Snap is born.
Pokemon Conquest (DS)
Nobunaga's Ambition has been around since the NES era, retelling the tale of Japanese historical figure Nobunaga Oda. Pokemon Conquest recasts the tactical look at Japan's past with cuddly faces like Jigglypuff and Evee standing next to generals and samurais. The gameplay is pleasing to strategy buffs and Pokefanatics alike, but it's still odd to see a series as globally minded as Pokemon focus on such a specific time and place, especially when it focuses on a franchise most of its audience likely never heard of.
Pokemon Trading Card Game (Game Boy Color)
This one is hardly obscure to the devoted TCG fanbase, but it's worth noting for how many steps removed this is from its source. The success of Pokemon Red/Blue led Wizards of the Coast, makers of Magic: The Gathering, to create a collectible card game that kids all over America played almost as obsessively as the main game. Then Hudson Soft translated the cards back into a title that came to Game Boy Color in 2000, which added a story to the collection of digital cards. Sadly, Wizards of the Coast didn't follow this with Pokemon Trading Card Game: The Collectible Card Game.
Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
Alternatively known as Panel de Pon and Tetris Attack, this franchise has some of the best puzzlers Nintendo ever made, and the series got some extra exposure by attaching to the Pokemon brand. The game really only went through a cosmetic change, adding all the popular Pokemon and anime stars into the background. But the intense, brain-bending gameplay is unchanged, so who cares? Also, this is the only Pokemon game not to be released in Japan, most likely because its heavily based on the American version of the anime.
The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series (GBA, DS, Wii, 3DS)
Much like Pokken Tournament and Pokemon Conquest, Mystery Dungeon appears born from this idea: this game is cool, but itd be much better if Pokemon starred in it. Chunsofts Mystery Dungeon series are infamous for their hardcore difficulty, and the developer only softened the difficulty slightly when making these more kid friendly games. Players still had to explore dark caves full of killer enemies, and players would still lose all their items if they were defeated. But now they had Charmander by their side! The Mystery Dungeon titles also feature the Kafkaesque scenario of a human waking up in the body of a Pokemon--this has to be the first time ever Kafkaesque has been used to describe a Pokemon game, right?
Pokemon Dash (DS)
Every successful game franchise deserves its own kart racer--but how could Pikachu ever put the pedal to the metal? And thus, Pokemon Dash was born: a racing game where your pet monsters sprint on all fours for your amusement. It's like horse-racing, but significantly less depressing when you lose. The zoomed-in aerial view ensures that you will never be able to see where you're going, and the stylus-heavy method of acceleration ensures that your hands will be dead tired in no time. On the bright side, the game has 420 special courses, so any time's a good time to get your puff-puff-pass on.
Hey You, Pikachu! (N64)
Hanging out with Pikachu looks like so much fun in cartoons that it makes sense a game would be built around it, especially when virtual pets were all the rage in the late 90s. The N64 release came with a microphone peripheral for your controller, and Pikachu would respond to your commands in real time. The game boasts that Pikachu understand up to 200 words, which makes him about as good at listening as a Kinect. In retrospect, Hey You, Pikachu! is admittedly gimmicky, but its influence can still be seen in X & Ys Pokemon-amie minigames.
Pokemon Rumble (Wii, DS, Wii U)
Like to fight with Pokemon in the Smash Bros. games, but wish you were more removed from the action? Pokemon Rumbles odd approach to portraying brawls with nearly 100 monsters on-screen at once is to remake every monster as a simplified, wind-up toy. It makes for some rather abstract gameplay to see armies of barely articulated pocket monsters bump into each other, but their plastic outsides have an undeniable charm. Plus, it gave fans an excuse to buy more toys (as if they needed another one).
Pokemon Battrio (Arcade)
When I say "Pokemon arcade game," two phrases should immediately come to mind: "Japan-only," and "That's awesome." Pokemon Battrio is one of those arcade oddities that lets you use physical object placement on a game board to affect virtual pocket monster fights. In this case, those objects are little, Pogs-like pucks with Pokemon on top and Pokeball designs on the bottom, including fancy-schmancy varieties like Luxury, Healing, and Repeat to denote puck rarity (two words I thought I'd never combine outside of a fever dream). And here's a fun fact: the name "Battrio" is just a mash-up of "Battle" and "Trio," since all the fights use three Pokemon. The more you know!
Could it be?! An officially sanctioned, downloadable ROM for classic Pokemon games straight from Nintendo? No--Nintendo still hates your guts for all those old games you pirated. The name is just a lame play on CD-ROM; PokeROMs were weirdly misshapen discs of randomly inserted (like trading cards) pieces of crappy edutainment. Excited kids expecting Pokemon-style gameplay were just moments away from having their dreams crushed, as all that awaits on these discs are quizzes about arithmetic, American history, and geography with cut-and-paste assets from the Pokemon anime.
Pokemon Art Academy (3DS)
The DS popularized a number of lifestyle games, including the painterly Art Academy titles. But for all the techniche the games taught, they never dealt with the most important lesson: how to draw Pikachu. Pokemon Art Academy rights that wrong on the 3DS, teaching folks how to recreate the form and figure of monsters from all six generations of Pokemon. Is there anything in the way of gameplay? Thats debatable, but seeing a Snorlax perfectly rendered via stylus is more satisfying than any Trophy or Achievement could be.
PokePark Fishing Rally (DS)
Furthering the assumption that mankind devours Pokemon on a regular basis, here's a game that simulates the act of fishing for Water-type Pokemon, presumably before you gut, debone, and cook them for your dinner. This Japanese-only DS Download Play demo was only available for a few short months way back in 2005, meaning it's rarer than a Shiny Mewtwo. That's fine, because it seems basically just as boring as any other fishing simulation.
The Thieves and the 1000 Pokemon (3DS)
If you're a 3DS owner, then you know that StreetPass games are pretty great--but imagine how much greater they would be with a heaping helping of Pokemon mixed in. Turns out, the Japanese eShop already got one as a limited-time download that earlier this year. This utterly bizarre minigame basically boils down to "Whoever has the most StreetPasses wins." Oh, and it was pretty much all a ploy to get kids in theaters for Pokemon the Movie: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction--which, don't front, would be amazing for StreetPass fanatics.
Pokemon Picross (GBC)
If you're a Nintendo diehard, you probably have some familiarity with Picross, the take-all-the-time-you-need puzzler that involves chipping away tiles on a large grid. If you aren't familiar, it's a bit like Minesweeper, a numbers-crossword hybrid that creates a pretty little pixelated image when you're done. Pokemon Picross was planned as a pretty ordinary addition to the series with a Pokemon accompanying you instead of archaeologist Mario. Despite showing up in Japanese gaming magazines, it never got released--but its legacy lives on in a Japan-only series of Nintendo Power Picross carts. Crazy!
My Pokemon Ranch (Wii)
You know how the core Pokemon games have the PC box for storing your monsters? If you've ever wondered what that would look like with a folksy twist, check out this WiiWare title. My Pokemon Ranch is a virtual home for monsters caught in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. Its mainly used as a way to sort through your collection of monsters as you hang out with ranch owner Hayley. Aside from some limited online interactivity, it was basically a screensaver starring your Pokemon, which is valuable enough for most fans.
Pokemon Trozei! (DS, 3DS)
Yes, Pokemon Puzzle League is a triumph in its genre. But why stop at one puzzle spin-off franchise when you could have two!? Trozei (exclamation point optional, but preferred) is the strangely phrased answer to that question: a match-four style block game using disembodied Pokemon heads and playing somewhat similar to Yoshi's Cookie. Like any frenetic puzzle game worth its salt, there's plenty of combo chaining and loud, slot-machine-like sounds to indicate that your score is shooting through the roof. It's all the fun of a modern mobile phone game, with none of the mainstream recognition!
Smell ya later
So now that youve seen the weirdest Pokemon spin-offs have to offer, just what can Pokken Tournament do to up the weirdness? Goofy CGI cutscenes? A guest appearance by Gon? Making Jigglypuff the secret final boss? Let us know in the comments!