Back in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, Double or Tag battles were introduced into the video game form of Pokémon. Double Battles had been occurring in the anime for a while, and the idea was so popular that the core RPGs eventually picked them up as well. We even saw an entire Pokémon RPG based around double battles in Pokémon Coliseum for the Nintendo Game Cube. Now with the release of Pokémon Black and White we get not one but two forms of three on three battling action. Like Double Battles, three-on-three battles first occurred in the anime series and there has already been a game based solely on triple Pokémon battles out in Japan for years (The arcade title Pokémon Battrio). For many Pokémon fans, the introduction of Triple and Rotational battles becomes their first chance to have a pier six brawl with as many Pokémon as you can find in a WWE Smackdown Vs Raw video game. This article will give you a quick primer on how both Triple and Rotational Battles work, along with the differences between the two.
As you can imagine, in Triple Battles, both Trainers will be using three Pokémon simultaneously. However unlike Double Battles where either Pokémon on your team could target whichever of the opposing Pokémon you chose (and vice versa), Pokémon can only target Pokémon according to their placement. For example, the Pokémon in your middle position can target all three of the opposing Pokémon, but the Pokémon in your right position an only target the opposing Pokémon directly opposite from it, or the middle Pokémon. It is unable to target the Pokémon on the far left of it. This means placement is exceptionally important. After all, it does you no good if you have a type advantage over a Pokémon you can’t reach. As well, since the middle Pokémon can be attacked by all of your opponents and can attack any of them as well, it’s important that this spot goes to the best defensive Pokémon of the three. It’s going to be taking the most damage, so make sure it can take a few hits. The Middle Pokémon also does more damage with attacks that hit all opponents like Surf or Earthquake than one of your side Pokémon, so this is another factor that comes in handy when choosing who your middle Pokémon will be. I tend to prefer something that can take a hit as well as dish something out. Metagross is a great example of this. There are also some Pokémon that work well as middle characters in Triple Battles that you might not think about using otherwise. Shuckle, for example, does surprisingly well in these battles.
Another aspect of the Triple Battles is that you can switch the placement of one of your side Pokémon with your middle Pokémon around at the cost of a turn. This means you can go for a type advantage, but at the cost of sacrificing your attacks for that turn.
There are twenty two moves that can be used to attack any over your opponents regardless of placement in Triple Battles. All but six are Flying attacks, which really increases the usefulness of Flying Pokémon (as if they weren’t helpful enough already!) Basically every Flying move that deals damage can be used to attack any opponent in a Triple Battle. So everything from Peck to Aeroblast is going to get a tactical boost here. The other six moves that be used across the grid are: Aura Sphere, Dark Pulse, Dragon Pulse, Heal Pulse, Perish Song and Water Pulse. Out of the six, Heal Pulse might be the most important move in Triple Battles as it allows one of your Pokémon to act as a “cleric” for your team (to use terminology for fantasy RPGs). This makes already awesome Pokémon like Blissey, Slowking, Gardevoir, Lucario, Latios and Latias pretty dominant in Triple Battle action.
As Triple Battles are seen primarily in Pokémon White, the same can be said for Rotational Battles in Pokémon Black. These battles offer a slight variance on the Triple Battle system. Where Triple Battles resemble more of what we would call a “Texas Tornado” match (using wrestling vernacular), Rotational Battles resemble more a classic six man tag team match where your Pokémon will be “tagging” or rotating out of battles. Once again you’ll be picking a team of three Pokémon, but things are quite different.
First, only one Pokémon can attack at a time. It counts as your active Pokémon and it can only attack the active Pokémon on the opposing side. Unlike Triple Battles, you can switch Pokémon and attack in the same turn. However it is important to note that rotating Pokémon doesn’t work in the same way switching Pokémon does in normal battles. For example, rotating a Pokémon out doesn’t cure it of poison or confusion status, but it also doesn’t trigger moves like Pursuit, Shadow Tag, or Arena Trap. It’s important to keep these points in mind as Rotational Battles can be quite different from how a lot of Trainers play Pokémon and steadfast tricks of the trade like using Baton Pass won’t be of any help here.
In both cases, remember that there are roughly half a dozen Triple and/or Rotational battles in either Pokémon Black or White. You won’t encounter these types of battles where often outside of multiplayer action, so it’s okay if you find you don’t like the rules or the changes. The only real way to get practice with these new three on three forms of combat is by playing against your friends. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about these), we won’t be seeing a full console RPG devoted to Triple and/or Rotational battles anytime soon like we did with Double Battles. Maybe if there is enough demand though…