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Pokemon Duel impressions


And out of nowhere, right before releasing Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo also released Pokemon Duel. It was called Pokemon Co-master in Japan, and apparently didn’t even warrant Nintendo announcing it at all. I get that it’s The Pokemon Company releasing it, but they’re a subsidiary of Nintendo so… I dunno, seems a bit odd that it would get NO buzz.

I’m not really far into this yet but whatever. This is just an impressions post. I don’t think this kind of game really warrants a full-on review. Let’s go!

Developer: HEROZ
Publisher: The Pokemon Company (AKA Nintendo)
Date of Release: January 24th 2017
Platform: Android, iOS
Genre: Gacha semi-abstract board game

What is this?

So Pokemon Duel is a mobile Pokemon game that doesn’t require you to take a walk outside to play!

Instead of collecting Pokemon, you collect Pokemon figures, and they’re used in a board game. In the board game sphere we’d basically call this an abstract game, but here different Pokemon figures have their own specific skills… but it’s also a bit too luck-based to really be an abstract game. It’s a bit in-between anyways.

The game takes place on a grid that’s 5 spaces deep and 7 spaces wide (not exactly, some of the rows have less than 7). Rather than being an actual grid though each space is a point that is linked to other points by lines. The lines determine which space a Pokemon figure can move to and from. Pokemon figures get 1 to 4 movement points. The goal over every match is simple, get any one of your figures on the middle spot on the opponent’s side of the grid. The corners of the grid are entry spots for figures (2 on the opponent’s side for them, 2 on your side for you). If you block a spot no figures can enter the field from there.

Since you can’t just pass over other figures, you have to fight them. Fighting is… random. Literally. You get a roulette kinda wheel (and so does your opponent’s figure), and whatever it points at is the attack you’ll do. Each roulette includes a few Miss spaces, and different kinds of attacks signified by different colors. White and yellow beat each other depending on numbers, yellow beats purple, purple beats white, blue beats white and yellow, not sure how blue and purple interact (I think blue wins over purple), and everything beats red. So even if you initiate battle, sometimes the opponent can beat you anyways since both figures roll the wheel. Another way to take out enemy figures is to completely surround it with some of your figures (block the lines that it could escape from). No need for combat, it instantly removes it from the field.

There’s also “Plates” you can use. Those are basically single-use cards (per game, you get them back after a match) that give things like attack power boosts, enable you to switch figures around, or let you move in different ways (like the hurdle jump letting you pass over another figure). Both plates and figures are set up in your “deck” (6 figures and 6 “points” worth of plates (some have higher cost)).

Figures removed from the field go into a spot where they just wait. There’s 2 such spots for each player. When a third figure is defeated, one of the 2 figures in waiting spots (the one that’s been there longest) gets back into your pool of figures you can put on the field again. So even if your figures get defeated they will come back.

Also winning battles sometimes evolve a Pokemon, not exactly sure how that works.

Each Pokemon figure is somewhat different. They all have different attacks and possible rates of red spots on the attack wheel. Some attacks have special effects, some cause you or the opponent to move, some apply status effects. You can spend figures to give experience points to other figures, and leveling them up gives you better chance to hit on attacks you want while reducing the rate of red spots. Figures can also have different abilities. For example, Jolteon can move over paralyzed opponents.

Strategy ends up being about trying to prevent the opponent from moving around, and even more specifically block their figure entry points as you cripple what they have on the field. That is, if they don’t have any OP figures. That happens too. And sometimes luck just doesn’t go your way and the battle roulette fucks you over and you lose by no fault of your own.

There’s various modes in the game. Online matches, a quest mode (which is where you use your energy I assume, I didn’t even play any of the story yet), events. I like doing just normal online matches, but there’s some content here.

Money value

So like Fire Emblem Heroes, this is also a gacha game. You use gems you get in-game from quest rewards, login bonuses, or just buying them, to get booster packs. Booster packs give you one figure. Getting 4 at once guarantees at least one figure of Rare or higher rarity. It costs 50 gems per booster.

You can also get figures using rare metals you sometimes get as a reward, and you get to actually choose what figure you want that way. You also get different kinds of booster packs that take time to open depending on their quality (rainbow time booster=24 hours) when you win online battles, but you can only have 3 at a time (more for a month if you spend money… yeah it’s douchey). And you can only unlock one time booster at a time. And every 12 hours I think you get a booster you need to gain 10 keys to open (3 keys per online match victory, 1 per online match loss).

So how much do 50 gems cost (since we want to figure out how much one in-game Pokemon figure costs)? A bit hard to say (as you get “free” bonus gems if you buy anything more than the basic pack of 12 (which costs $1.39)), but for $5.49 you get 57 gems. So around 5 bucks per figure if you want to get them this way. 5 bucks wasted because you’re likely to just get a cheap common figure. If you want to actually get something of any kind of rarity you need to get 4 boosters at once for 200 gems. For $11.99 you get 120 gems, so for just around 24 bucks you get 4 figures (and 40 remaining gems), with a large chance of getting nothing good. A hot 55 bucks gets you 875 gems, enough for 16 figures, most of which will suck balls, might I add, and will just be material to level up your good figures. If you’re lucky some of those 16 will end up being usable.

So monetary value of the in-game purchases? Horrendously terrible. That seems to be a theme with gacha games.

Overall

I’m very mixed on this one. Sometimes I really enjoy when a match is won or lost because of superior strategy, but so many matches end up with luck determining the winner more than better positioning and mindgames. Some figures are so vastly overpowered there’s not much you can really do about them unless you have a similarly overpowered figure yourself (good luck on that).

It gets a solid “okay” from me. It’s more fun than I was expecting, but it also pisses me off because when I lose it’s usually because the other player had a lucky roll.

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