Life & Technology

Pokemon Masters Turned Into a Microtransaction


The newest Nintendo’s Pokemon mobile game leans deeply into gacha essentials

Since Nintendo features began increasing to mobile devices four years ago, we’ve noticed a series of uncharacteristic experiments, like games branded with popular top characters that are nevertheless filled to the brim with microtransactions. And Pokemon masters, the newest release mobile title in the monster-capturing franchise announced last month, is no exception.

The game is made by Japanese mobile powerhouse DeNA, the same business that guided Nintendo create mobile versions for top franchises like Super Mario, Animal Crossing, and Mario Kart. And for the first time, this is a Nintendo-affiliated title that’s being released by DeNA, and not by Nintendo itself.

Pokemon Masters is Released by DeNA and not Officially United with Nintendo

With that declared, the one title Pokemon Masters most resembles if Fire Emblem Heroes, the IOS and Android game DeNA co-develop with Intelligent Systems and launched in 2017. That may come as a bit of an unexpected thing to longtime Pokemon fans who were ready for something more traditional, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re willing to openly accept the fact that the microtransactions are core to this experience, things will be relatively fair.

On the other hand, of you’re feeling a little bit uneasy about gacha elements, you’re definitely not going to like Pokemon Masters. Gacha is a loot box-style mechanic named after randomized toy vending machines in Japan, and it’s known monetization technique in the Asian mobile market. Like Fire Emblem Heroes, which was created around gacha elements, this particular Pokemon mobile game circles around collecting characters at different levels of rarity, sometimes paying for the ability to get them more frequently. But unlike traditional Pokemon games, those characters you’re collecting are trainers, not just the nominal creatures.

In Pokemon Maters, each Pokemon is paired with a different  trainer taken from one of the main games in the franchise, in what the game refers to as a sync team. So if you request a specific creature to fight with, you’ll have to unlock the trainer associated with them. Think Brock and his main partner Onix, Misty and the water Pokemon Starmie, and popular Red (the first character of the first pair of Pokemon games) and his fire-breathing mate Charizard. All are unlockable and playable characters in the game.

Unlocking can be done a number of ways. You can buy in-game currency and just spend your way to a more expensive collection of trainers. Also, you can spend a minimum amount of a different currency you can get in-game once, daily, to unlock a character of your choice. And then lastly, playing the story mode will get you into a battle and then recruit trainers and their associated Pokemon into your schedule.

More Trainer-Pokemon Sync Pairs With Money

The story mode itself is created much like Fire Emblem Heroes, where you advance through chapters with little, dialogue-heavy cutscenes that typically end in fights. DeNA develop a specific narrative for the game featuring a few unique characters on a new island, Pasio, and you can play as an original male or female character that begins out paired with Pikachu. The usual trappings of a Pokemon game are all here: a professor that teaches you in your quest, an enemy to fight against routinely throughout the story, and a top tier ‘masters league’ to struggle to compete in.

Fighting is the one standout thing, with a turn-based style suggestive of the main Pokemon games and well-ordered custom animations, but with simplified move sets that make it more like Pokemon Let’s Go in training. You naturally play as a trio of trainers, each with one special Pokemon that can be exchanged between, and each Pokemon has an unique move that you can use once you’ve refilled up a meter over the course of fight. You can also mix skills when playing in co-op mode against other players or AI opponents.

There are a few other details worth telling. Leveling up need using currency that is different from the currency you can buy for unlocking characters. The same is true of developing, which will let you change your Pokemon at a specific level after you’ve ready with an extra chapter and use the necessary combination of items.

Remarkably, DeNA states that there will be no stamina meter, so you can play the game as much as you want daily without having to spend any currency or wait out a specific time. DeNA says that there will exist a total of 65 sync pairs to get at launch, with more to be added later, that cover up to the latest Sword and Shield titles coming out in November. Getting each single character shouldn’t be anywhere close as intensive as it is in Fire Emblem Heroes, at least as good as it could be telling.

After all, this may not be the long sought-after Pokemon mobile game people have been waiting for since the beginning of the smartphone period. But it is a different enough perspective to distinguish it from mobile counterpart Pokemon Go, with many of the main series things and plot threads to create it a more improved experience over the limited puzzle and board game features that existed before Nintendo first paired with DeNA, four years ago.

DeNa won’t tell though, when Pokemon Masters will be released on IOS and Android, but the company is keeping a summer 2019 opportunity for launching. In other words, it’s likely to reach the mobile storefronts sometime in the next month, maybe.

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