Since announcing plans to go into the mobile department, Nintendo has released several smart phone apps, such as Miitomo, Fire Emblem Heroes, Pokémon GO, and now Pokémon Duel. While Nintendo doesn’t directly handle most mobile games (outside of Miitomo), they do oversee and produce the games. Each mobile game has had different companies do the main work on them, such as Niantic who work on Pokémon GO and Intelligent Systems who helped out with Heroes (and do all Fire Emblem titles). Similarly, Pokémon Duel is developed by the company Heroz.
Originally releasing in Japan a few months ago, the localization for Pokémon Duel was very sudden. The official Pokémon YouTube channel released a video and launched the game right away. With no one in the west knowing what to expect, they jumped right in to play! The game rose to number three in top downloaded games and stayed that way for a few days after launch.
Pokémon Duel is a very different Pokémon game, yet it feels right in place with the rest of the series. The game plays like a game of chess but with less rules. To win, you move your figures to your opponent’s goal before they reach yours. You can use special cards to boost your chances of winning and do things such as jumping over an opposing figure. When attacking, each figure gets different moves to use which are selected by roulette wheel. There’s usually two to three moves depending on the figure.
In addition to normal attacks, figures can have purple, gold, and blue colored attacks. Purple attacks are ranked by stars, and range from one to three stars. The stars don’t matter too much, but a higher star attack beats a lower star attack. Most of these have additional affects added to them that can be quite helpful. For example’s Lugia’s Hurricane attack is three stars and sends an opponent back to their bench (the starting point for figures). Gold attacks usually have low damage but automatically beat any purple attack, which is very useful at times. These aren’t as commonly found on figures, but figures like Mew and Infernape have them. Lastly, blue attacks don’t damage but can protect a Pokémon from any attack (there’s also dodge for this, but not every figure has that). Sometimes the blue attacks grant additional affects such as moving the figure with the attack back a space or two.
The game opens up with an announcement of a brand new tournament, the Pokémon Figure Game (PFG), one in which people can enter with their Pokémon Figures and compete to win the grand prize of an entire tower. After this, you meet your main rival for the game while on a plane, Luca. He introduces himself and asks what brings you to the tournament. You find out that your player has never played PFG before and is trying out the tournament to see what’s it is like. You then get to choose your look (although you can only be a boy) and then embark. To win the grand prize, you must battle your way through several hotels, winning duels along the way. Whoever conquers the hotel within the time limit gets to move on. This sets the plot forward for the game.
Besides the main story line, you can complete against other players around the world. As you win matches you can get boosters which unlock Figures and items for you to use. You can also win some by doing the story. For a game that was stealthy released, the plot gets pretty interesting overtime. Without spoiling, it tackles a mature theme fore the series in a neat way, and has some twists you may not expect.
The story is fun and simple to play through if you don’t want to try battling real people right away. Your given a starter set of figures, so you can build up more from there. As a free-to-play game, there are some micro transactions however.
To start, the game runs on the good old gem system. Like most mobile games, gems are the currency. You use these to buy boosters from the shop and to increase Figure space. You can even use them to rewind turns in the story mode to try and win. With gems, you can earn them from daily logins like most mobile games, earn them from special missions or story stage challenges, and lastly they can be brought with real money. Gems may be the currency but with you being able to earn quite a lot in a day, it’s not that bad or hard to play without paying real money. The prices of stuff in-game are pretty fair for what they offer. For example, 200 Gems can buy you four Figures and materials (this will be touched upon later). In addition, one of the Figures you get with usually be rare or ex, making them a stronger pull. There are also Coins, but these are only used to either power up your Pokémon through fusing Figures, or buy you individual figures.
Figures come in UC (Ultra Common), R(Rare), and EX(Extra Rare). Different Pokémon are obtained depending on the figure rarity. For example Mew can only be obtained as an EX figure, while Bidoof can only be obtained as a UC figure. However, just because a rarer figure may be strong, doesn’t mean you always need them. Different figures have different moves and abilities like the main games. When battling, the figure whose move does more damage wins and knocks out the opposing figure. The knocked out Figure can be revived with an item, or will come back when another figure is knocked out. There can only be two Figures knocked out at a time, so keep that in mind. The way to play is a bit confusing at first, and while there is a tutorial, some things could be covered better. Many find it hard to play and/or are confused at first.
Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple though! Each Figure can move a certain amount of steps per turn, and like chess only one can be moved per turn. In addition to normal attacks, some Pokémon Figures get purple-colored attacks. These are special moves that do different thing such as confuse an opposing Figure. These status moves are good as they can increase the opponents miss ratio, shield the figure from attacks that turn, and more. There are many options, which make it fun to try out and see what works best. Of course to battle you spin a wheel and your move is random, but you can change the amount of space moves take up on the wheel, making it easier to fight. In addition to moves, there are abilities with a wide range of effects – such as Shuppet’s Infiltrator which lets it slip through figures rather then be blocked by them, making Shuppet a tough foe! Knowing when to use abilities like this is key. While you can’t choose your moves, you can control a Figure’s ability activating. This can be crucial to wining matches. Another factor that can help you do better is the fusion system.
As mentioned earlier, materials are one of the key things you can obtain from battles. You can randomly win them from story missions and from any booster. When you obtain these materials (Gold Ingots, Rare Metals, and Cubes) you can spend coins (obtained through the story as a random reward, or special events) to power up a figure.
Gold Ingots gives 1 exp each to the Figure, but these have a better use. You can sell it for coins to the shop, allowing you to make more money to power up a Figure with Rare Metals. (Although the game does not tell you, you can sell them, which is something that would be worth being told.) Rare Metals can give anywhere from 500 to 4,500 exp depending on the number on the metal. This can level up Figures much easier. When you level a Figure up, you can change the area of its moves. You can make one move per level have more radius on the figure or less. Depending on what you choose, you can decrease your chance to get a miss or increase your chance to spin the stronger move. With each move increase, there is less space for miss. However you can’t not directly change the size of a miss space without changing other moves. Designing the Figure your way is fun and can create a good experience in learning what works best for how you play. The more you redesign the Figure’s Battle Ring, the better luck you may have.
Lastly, Cubes are used for increasing damage. When you use a Cube in fusion, you can add one more damage point to a move. This may not seem like much, but it can be very helpful. For example if you are fighting something that gets a move with a power of 60, and you land on your move with a power of 60, that extra one will give you the advantage and knock the opposing Figure out. Fusion is the last major piece to improving your Figures and is a very nice feature to have and use.
Two other features to discuss are the graphics and music. For a mobile game, the graphics are pretty nice. They give the game a modern look as you can see in the pictures here. The art style is also very colorful and feels very fitting for a Pokémon title. As for the music, there are not too many different tracks. There is one battle music track for each arena in Pokémon Duel, and the story gets different music tracks for sequences. The tracks are pretty nice and don’t get too repetitive or tiresome to listen to. They fit the battles pretty well too! The music even speeds up as you close in on the goal which is a neat touch, similar to the final gym leader Pokémon music in fifth generation games like Pokémon Black and White.
Overall Pokémon Duel is a very solid mobile title. It’s fun and can really test your strategy skills. If you are into games like chess, you would likely greatly enjoy this. The story is very unique and interesting for a mobile title that doesn’t need one. There are many ways to play and a lot of figures available with different stats. With constant updates, the game continues to be supported making it worth coming back to and playing when you can. The micro transaction system is pretty fair and doesn’t feel as overwhelming like some mobile titles where you may feel pressured into spending real money, making it fun to continuously play without having to waste your real life money. While being a mobile title, Pokémon Duel feels like a complete and genuine experience that is worth playing, and although not everything is explained, you can pick it up fairly quickly and get to playing right away.
Edited by bobandbill and Dragon.