While you’re all there being disappointed by Pokémon Go’s Valentines day promotion and Johto update, I’m here being disappointed by another of The Pokemon Company’s mobile outing. Pokemon Duel is the same game that was released in Japan on mobile last year. Despite being named ‘Duel’ theres no sword fighting or gunslinging involved (So it’s nothing like 1-2 Switch). But then what does Pokémon Duel offer you might ask. Well:
- Duel is in the name, but there is nothing that comes close to dueling in the game. Type matching, one of the tenants of the Pokémon franchise, is confusingly missing from the title. Instead you have a strategy game built around a board game.
- Gameplay is built on a solid foundation with a variety of moves, special abilities, and the standard rock/paper building blocks. Once you get the hang of what beats what you’ll actually enjoy it a bit.
- There’s some, albeit shallow, strategy in moving Pokémon around the board. But the randomness with the spin wheel can get frustrating, especially when you lose a battle against an opponent with the nonexistent type disadvantage.
- The menu is cluttered and un-intuitive. The game has some depth but the menu makes it seem like you’re playing some other-worldy version of chess.
- An inconsistent art style makes the game feel disjointed. The transitioning from anime-style character art and 3D modeled gameplay doesn’t work well. It may have been harder to pull off, but a unifying style would have cleaned up the mess of the interface and menu a lot.
- The game is F2P, but if you want to make meaningful progress you’ll have to do in-app purchases. Most powerful Pokémon are annoyingly rare, and the randomness in ‘booster’ packs doesn’t help. Pricing is pretty standard, but it’s frustrating that true strategic gameplay is behind a pay wall.
It’s hard to recommend Pokémon Duel to anyone. Despite its low-key strategy gameplay, the fun doesn’t last. Mobile gamers have plenty of other options that are either cheaper or more engaging, and Pokémon fans don’t even have the collectable figurines as a carrot. This app made to be forgotten before it even got started.
Correction: It was previously stated that Pokemon Duel was a mobile version of an arcade game released in Japan. That was Pokkén Tournament, and obviously incorrect. The correct comparison would be Pokémon Comaster, which released for mobile platforms in Japan last year. Thanks to Kotaku user isbragg for pointing out the error.
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JpSr388 is a casual(ish) gaymer, hardcore Nintendo fan, designer & writer. He writes about what he cares about, and is always good for some opinions. Keep on the lookout for more editorial, QuickDraws, Hot Takes and reviews here.