Pokémon Masters: The Next Move in Mobile
The Pokémon franchise has always been a handheld affair. From its humble, monochrome beginnings in the original Gameboy to its upcoming eighth-generation release in the Switch, the long-running, monster-catching series has been largely loyal to Nintendo’s portables. And while the franchise also had mobile games, they’re mostly casual and greatly deviate from the capture-train-battle formula that the mainline games are known for.
The exception to that, however, was Pokémon GO, the augmented reality game that got people “catching Pokémon in the real world”. It was a massive phenomenon, with millions of people across the globe partaking in a geolocation-based online gaming experience. Now, Nintendo has plans to follow up that behemoth of a success with Pokémon Masters.
of Masters and Pokémon
In Pokémon Masters, you’ll be meeting well-known Pokémon masters (thus the name of the game) that will fight with and against you as you journey across Pasio Island. All familiar faces, some are your fellow trainers (like Rosa), some are gym leaders (like Brock and Misty), and some are champions (like Cynthia, Red, and Blue).
But of course, this wouldn’t be a Pokémon game without the namesake critters! However, you won’t be catching them. Instead, the Pokémon you’ll control in battle depends on the masters you’re teamed up with. For example, if you’re teamed up with Cynthia, you’ll have a Garchomp in battle. On the other hand, if Red’s in your party, he’ll be busting out that Charizard.
Battles are 3vs3 and are action gauge-based. Instead of Pokémon taking turns, Pokémon moves consume a bar of the action gauge, which slowly recovers over time. This means you have to watch it and think twice before taking action. Other than regular moves, the game also features Sync Moves, where trainers and their Pokémon unite and pull off a tide-turning special move. As a balancing measure, however, these have cooldowns.
Gacha Catch ‘em All?
Announcements for the game have already garnered a lot of rave reactions. It’s not hard to see why, as it has a combat system that borrows a few elements from the main games but employs different mechanics, familiar faces that make long-time fans feel right at home, and aesthetics that are true to the original series. In fact, it’s already being touted as the Pokémon game that will convince lots of strictly mainline players to play a mobile Pokémon spinoff on their phone!
There is, however, one element that might turn off a lot of people: gacha. For those who have yet to touch a Japanese mobile RPG, or perhaps any Japanese mobile game at all, think of gacha as loot boxes. But unlike western games, gacha elements affect gameplay, as it is how players get better characters and gear, thus incentivizing players to spend. The same principle is speculated to apply in Pokémon Masters, with better Pokémon masters obtainable through an RNG roll.
However, it’s only fair that the game has that, because it’s going to be free-to-play, and that it’s very possible to have a strong team without resorting to gacha. Simply by following the story, players can recruit competitive Pokémon masters. Plus, they can be boosted using a specific kind of in-game currency you get from trainer battles. As a cherry on top, the game will have no energy or stamina, so players can play around the clock.
Handheld to Handheld Again
With the pros outweighing the cons, there have already been rumors about the future of the franchise being a mobile game, with this as the stepping stone. Because let’s face it: current technology is already more than enough to bring a traditional Pokémon game to the smartphone–a device everyone has, unlike a Nintendo handheld. It also doesn’t help that Pokémon Sword and Shield, the next main Pokémon game for the Switch, has been plagued with numerous complaints.
An incomprehensive Pokémon roster, recycled animation, and graphics that don’t really maximize the Switch’s capabilities–things that make longtime mainline fans wary of Generation 8. It also doesn’t help that the upcoming title faces these woes, Pokémon Masters is being hyped not only by Nintendo but also by a lot of fans.
Pokémon World: Big Enough for Two Portables
Thankfully–or unthankfully, depending on your perspective–that’s all just speculation. If a huge franchise from a gaming giant is going to make a pivot to another platform, the gaming company behind it wouldn’t send players a subliminal message. Instead, they’d say it outright. In addition to that, after Pokemon’s Generation 7 games sold like hotcakes and with Nintendo Switch being massively popular in Japan, Nintendo will definitely let the mainline stay strong right where it took root.
Besides, Pokémon Masters doesn’t need to steal away mainline players. Instead, it targets lapsed mainline players, those who chose to boycott Sword and Shield but still want to play an online-supported Pokémon game, and solely anime viewers and fans that can’t be bothered (or afford) to buy Nintendo handhelds. After all, they are all familiar and in love with the stars of this mobile game: the Pokémon masters. Plus, almost everyone has a smartphone in this day and age–something that accounted for Pokémon GO’s success.
Familiar faces, equally familiar Pokémon, and a new approach to Pokémon battling and the “gotta catch ‘em all” motif, it shouldn’t be a surprise why the excitement for Pokémon Masters is very much alive. Whether it’s going to be worthy of the hullabaloo it garnered, we’ll know on August 29.