Setting: I’ve got two phones in my hands, as I await a phone call from Craft PR’s Colin Brush who is connecting me with pro Pokken Tournament player ALLISTER. One cellphone is to place the pro gamer on speaker with, while the other is to record the conversation we end up having – for better or worse. It’s a rather embarrassing attempt at conducting an interview, but my Do-It-Yourself version of professionalism is thankfully not apparent to anyone I’m interacting with.
Finally, the phone call comes in.
Colin Brush: Hey, I’ve got ALLISTER here and he’s ready to answer some questions.
Riley: Sweet. How are you doing?
ALLISTER: Hey, Riley. I’m doing good. Yourself?
Riley: I’m doing well, man. How are you enjoying the convention [EGLX] so far?
ALLISTER: I haven’t been there yet. I’m hoping to go later today.
Riley: Ahhh, gotcha. [Editor’s note: Nailed it].
ALLISTER: So far, I’m just enjoying Canada.
Riley: Oh is this… Have you never been here before?
ALLISTER: No, uhh, I’m from California. This is my first time here.
Riley: Oh man, well I’m sure they’re pestering you already, but you’ve got to try poutine.
ALLISTER: OH MY GOSH. I literally just tried it like an hour ago. It’s literally the most amazing thing ever.
Riley: Dude, you can get it at McDonald’s here. It’s crazy.
ALLISTER: Yeah? I never knew it was at McDonald’s! *laughs*
Riley: *laughs* It’s a whole new world. Alright, well I’m sure I’m on the clock, so I guess I should get started. Enough about poutine, we’ll set that aside for now. But I want to start off with something, I guess it’s a bit of a personal question. At what point did you realize, “Hey, I think I’m good enough to turn this into a career?”
ALLISTER: When I first started Pokken Tournament for the Wii U, I played it a lot and I was in, like, the top 5 for the leaderboards, and I’m like “maybe not many people play this game or something,” you know? “I don’t know how I’m top five for like a brand new game, it’s weird.” So I started streaming, right? On Twitch. And everybody was just, like, watching me because the game was really popular because [at the time] it was new and just came out, and a lot of people were watching me and were just like “oh, snap. We’ve seen your name on the leaderboards. we’ve seen your name on reddit. We’ve seen you on YouTube. People upload your matches. Did you know that?”
I’m like, “holy moly, I had no idea.” You know? And then after all of that feedback, that’s when I started realizing that maybe I can get somewhere with this game. Maybe I can get somewhere with, like, video games and competing.
Riley: That’s awesome. So, what drew you into Pokken Tournament versus other fighting games?
ALLISTER: Umm. Well, like, for a long time I’ve been a big fan of the Pokemon franchise and, you know, many Pokemon fans always wished for for a game where you can control your Pokemon and fight each other rather than having a turn-based system. And when Pokken came out, that’s exactly what we asked for. So I was just super ecstatic when Nintendo released .
Riley: Yeah, it’s cool too to see the DLC kind of coming into affect and all that because it allows us to, I wrote a piece on it, but it allows us to see through Charizard versus Blastoise – you know, those schoolyard arguments – without the type advantages, so it’s kind of cool to see that.
Riley: So, I know Pokken Tournament wasn’t included in EVO this year. Do you feel like that was a mistake on the part of the organizers?
ALLISTER: Well, when discussing EVO, it’s a very complicated subject because EVO is indeed a fighting game tournament which involves many things. It involves investors and, you know, business formats and companies and communities, but, uh, yeah, Pokken had a strong start being at EVO 2016 and then 2017 it wasn’t included as a main title. So the community, you know, decided to host a side tournament which turned out to be really great and a lot bigger than we thought. So as long as there is still passion for the game and the players are willing to go, we’d have it again at EVO this year.
Riley: Well, sticking with that subject, EVO and everything, do you think there’s a ceiling in terms of the number of fighting games that can exist and remain prominent simultaneously? Like right now we have Dragon Ball FighterZ, we have Smash Bros. – both Melee and Wii U on the card this year. Street Fighter, Injustice, how do you think those games rotate in and out and how do they remain relevant?
ALLISTER: So, that’s a really good question. *laughs*
There’s two factors, in my opinion. You mention prominent, right? Prominent can mean, like, “oh, it gets a lot of exposure on media, it has a big following, there’s a lot of player base,” you know? But to me there’s two sides to it. There’s the games that get backing from their company. From the devs and the publishers. And then there’s the other games that are fully grass roots and [players] do everything themselves.
I think both can easily coexist because people will just play their favourite game and then they’ll be in it for that game. And so, we see it more and more that fighting games are growing, eSports is growing, every player base is growing. Initially you would think, “oh man, it must be difficult. There are so many different fighting games. How does everyone keep up? How does everyone keep up with the prominent ones?”
ALLISTER: But it can easily be done and because of this it invites more players to actually see. Like, “hey guys, you’re interested in fighting games? Welcome to the FGC [editor’s note: FGC = Fighting Game Community] we have fighting games you can choose from like Pokken Tournament DX.” You know? “You should look into it and join our community.”
Riley: That’s awesome, and I know Twitch is a major partner in promoting [Pokken Tournament DX] as well. They have icons and stuff like that. Do you think those partnerships are necessary to grow that particular fighting game base?
ALLISTER: I don’t think it’s completely necessary but it definitely… it, like, it helps. It gives us a humungous signal boost and it’s a win-win for everyone.
Riley: Yeah… Well, I’ll scale back. We’ll do something a little more fluffy. So, there are a number of Pokemon characters currently on the DX roster – they’re adding Blastoise, as we mentioned. Is there any Pokemon character, as a fan, you’d think would be perfect for this game?
ALLISTER: I get asked this question… a lot of people ask me this question, right? Very common question.
ALLISTER: I have, like, two parts to this answer, if you don’t mind. My initial answer as a community leader and brand investor of Pokken is that I would like to add Greninja to the game because Greninja is an extremely, extremely popular Pokemon around the world and he gained a lot of popularity through the anime and Smash Bros. for the Wii U and became a huge figure in Pokemon. So I think adding Greninja would be great for Pokken Tournament DX and would bring in a lot of people to the game. Yes, I think that’s what would be best for the game.
Now, the second part, if you ask me personally who I would like in Pokemon, usually this surprises a lot of people, I personally would like to add Mr. Mime to Pokken Tournament DX.
Riley: *surprised* REALLY? How do you envision that moveset?
ALLISTER: *laughs* He’s a Psychic-type, you know? He can play around with barriers and stuff. He can Double Slap. I think it would be really cool to incorporate his play style into Pokken and be kind of like a trollish character, and he could keep you up [in the air] and zone you out. And I think he’s just a fantastic Pokemon. I always thought he was a cool character when watching the Pokemon anime.
Riley: Okay, that… I fully agree with you now. I’m on that Mr. Mime bandwagon. Let’s get Mr. Mime in the game.
ALLISTER: *laughs* Thank you.
Riley: There’s room on the roster too, so, I mean, it’s gotta be coming, right?
ALLISTER: Definitely, definitely.
Riley: It’s Mr. Mime. Lock it up now, Nintendo.
Riley: *laughs* So, let’s move on. I’m interested to see what you think about – because I’m sure as the entire internet knows after the entire thing crashed briefly – Smash Bros. got announced for Switch.
ALLISTER: Yes! Amazing.
Riley: How are you feeling about it?
ALLISTER: Amazing! I actually found out late, right? Because yesterday I spent like most of the day sleeping. So I missed the Direct, but then I watched it this morning because it was all everybody was talking about. It was the trailer that shook the world because for so long everyone has been asking for it. Like, is Smash getting ported? Is it a new Smash? Is it gonna be an HD remake? Blah, blah. And anything Nintendo does, [Smash] is the first thing Nintendo fans ask for and it’s understandable. It’s their most famous franchise, their most popular franchise. There are only several titles across all Nintendo systems. When they just showed the logo, everyone lost their minds. I watched so many reaction videos, I lost my mind. You know?
Riley: I, uh, wish I recorded myself. I think I actually let out a scream.
Riley: And I try to maintain myself, for the most part, but I was shaking for a while after. It was amazing. It completely blew me away.
ALLISTER: Yeah, it’s absolutely massive. I’m pretty happy for all of the Smash community and the Smash players now that they have something really cool to look forward to.
Riley: Yeah, have you ever thought about making the competitive jump [to Super Smash Bros.]?
ALLISTER: I used to play Super Smash Bros. Melee competitively on the Nintendo Gamecube and it’s still active now, right? Still huge now. It’s just hard to balance between different games. Maybe I’ll look into the new Smash Bros. for the Switch, which would be awesome. One reason I’m really excited for it too is it will bring in more players for people that are still hanging out on the Wii U and haven’t gone to Switch yet because there’s this whole sect of Smash Bros.. But now since it’s on the Switch, more people will get a Switch, and that means more people will try out the other awesome games like ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Pokken Tournament DX.
Riley: For sure. And sticking with Smash, I’m actually curious, do you think there are any characters from Pokken that would transition well over to Smash in terms of moveset potential?
ALLISTER: Well, we’ve seen other Pokemon in previous renditions of Smash like Pikachu, Charizard, and Mewtwo and stuff. But if I wanted to choose an exclusive Pokken Tournament character to move to Smash, I’d have to say probably Suicune.
Riley: Suicune?! Another quadruped. That’s pretty good.
ALLISTER: Yeah, I think Suicune is an awesome Pokemon, awesome design. I really love the character, you know? He’s my main character [in Pokken] too, so I’m a bit biased. *laughs* But, yeah, a quadruped I think would be really cool to incorporate that into Smash.
Riley: Yeah, there aren’t enough of them [quadrupeds] in that game. I agree. So, is there another fight title outside of Smash that you think would function well on the Nintendo Switch or would appeal to the Switch audience?
ALLISTER: At first, I think of some old-school Street Fighter games and then it happened! *laughs* Street Fighter 2 got ported to the Switch and it’s really awesome. I think that was really great, but off the top of my head I’m not too sure. Maybe Dragon Ball FighterZ. I know that’s very popular. I think that would be very successful on the Switch.
Riley: Yeah, I agree.
ALLISTER: Because everybody has a Switch and that’s a very popular game. So when you put two and two together, it could really take off. For now, though, I’m really content with Pokken Tournament DX.
Riley: Well, that’s all I’ve got, but thank you so much for your time!
ALLISTER: Alright, thank you so much, man.
Pokken Tournament DX is currently available on Nintendo Switch. Blastoise will be made available as paid DLC for the Nintendo Switch version on March 23, 2018.
Feel free to follow Riley at @TheRileyLittle on Twitter, where he often spouts off nonsense about gaming, film, and more.