When Nintendo announces a new Pokémon title, the world stops to pay attention. That is exactly what happened when Pokémon Masters was first revealed in June 2019, although it also raised eyebrows when it was announced that the game would be a mobile title developed by DeNa. Being made for smartphones means that while the game will become more accessible, there are going to be some elements implemented to it that might turn long time fans away, a subject that we will be addressing here.
Set in the artificial island of Pasio, players take on a role of a trainer participating in the Pokémon Masters League tournament. This is where the classic Pokémon formula altered somewhat, as fights are three on three battles for the most part. Furthermore, everything is in real time, and there is an expandable command gauge that depletes each time you use an attack. Using enough attacks will eventually unlock the team’s ability to use Sync Moves, this game’s version of the ougi or ultimate moves. The elemental system remains intact, so certain Pokémon will be better or weaker versus other types.
You will be spending the majority of your time on the story mode, which replaces the more traditional open world setting of the original games. As your progress the single player campaign, you will encounter other trainers, some of whom join your cause as permanent playable characters. Completing each chapter grants your various rewards, which includes power up items and gems. Down the line, the co-op mode opens up and you get a chance to other trainers.
At the core of Pokémon Masters is the Sync Pair Scout, which is essentially this game’s gacha. You cough up 300 gems for a single pull and 3,000 for a ten pull. At time of publication, the rates for the highest rarity is a 7%, which is fairly high for a gacha game. Taking a note from games like Granblue Fantasy, there is a also pity system where if you made enough pulls, you will eventually be able to pick any unit you like from the available pull, so if your pockét is deep enough, you can get your waifu with relative ease.
At the end of the day, this is a fanservice-centric game through and through, with heavy emphasis on the first generation, at least for now. Misty and Brock joins your party right off the bat as teammates, and your starter Pokémon is Pikachu. The recruitable trainers comprise recognisable trainers, Gym Leaders and even some of the Elite 4. As you might expect, the roster is not particularly extensive but will change as the game ages.
For what it’s worth, Pokémon Masters is a relatively competent entry to the franchise. Gameplay is far more streamlined while offering quite a bit of depth with its real-time combat system. It trades the open world system for an accessible waifu collector, so that may or may not sit well with you, depending on your preferences. In no way will this game replace any of the mainline titles, but if you need a quick fix of Pokémon on the go that places more focus on the trainers, this is your go-to.