Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Review No. 106 Pokémon Shuffle - 3DS (3+)

Strong Points:
Cute, cartoony graphics
Great music
Good, solid, match three gameplay
Mega evolutions, support Pokémon and abilities add more to the gameplay with a Pokémon spin
500 coins for checking in each day makes getting coins much easier
Getting a higher catchability for more using less moves adds a reward for skill (or blind, combo-based luck)
Lots of levels
Lots of Pokémon
Expert and Special levels add more variety to the game
Doesn't force you to pay real money
Keeps you coming back for more
It's a free Pokémon game!
Super Catch Mode makes it easier to catch rarer Pokémon, occasionally (although why they didn't call it Ultra Ball?)
Mega Speedup Candies let you Mega Evolve quicker

Weak Points:
No 3D (it just seems lazy, really)
Some Pokémon are ridiculously hard to catch (3% catchability for Riolu? Really?)
Great Balls are very expensive for what they do
Items are really expensive
Levels don't give out very many coins
A lack of story
Too many Pokémon have the same abilities (if I see another Pokémon with Opportunist...)
Pokémon only have one type which, while making it simpler, makes some well known type matchups unusable
Not using Play Coins as a currency is a bit of a missed opportunity
Lots of events forces you to keep playing which feels a tad underhanded
Too many of the starting Mega's are normal types which makes them rather underpowered to begin with

Rating: 77%

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: February, 18 2015

Tap and drag to move Pokémon around the board

Right then, let's just talk about the Phanpy in the room. Micro-transactions. From a Nintendo game. But, while most of the internet appear to be comparing this to the arrival of Giratina (I wonder how many people are actually getting these Pokémon references...?) I am here to tell you that it really isn't that bad. The reason? Well, look at it this way, what you're basically getting is a free, and solid, Pokémon game. Now what's so bad about that? Yes, you can only play five levels before having to wait for another life (or you can pay for one with real money - not that you have to and, I can't stress this enough, you don't have to).

Anyways, onto the gameplay. In Pokémon Shuffle you have to move around various Pokémon heads (where their bodies are: I'm not sure, which can make the whole experience rather... creepy) in order to match three or more of the beloved creatures. However, if your movement of a dismembered head doesn't result in a match, that Pokémon returns to its original position (but doesn't take a move away from your total). Every successful match deals damage to the opposing Pokémon (with super-effective moves and a match of more Pokémon doing more damage) as well as taking away from your total remaining moves. The inclusion of Pokémon types (although the exclusion of dual types still baffles me from a strategy, and long-time Pokémon trainer perspective)/different base powers (Support Pokémon can also level up which increases their base power) and abilities and Support Pokémon (the four Pokémon that you bring into battle with you) adds a, very Pokémon, spin on the match three genre as well a more interesting gameplay. Once you're out of moves, you lose the battle. If you defeat the opposing Pokémon you win the level and have the option of catching the monster.

Catchability is determined by a set score (that can be anything between 3% and about 70%) plus an added bonus for the amount of moves you have remaining (the actual % increase changes with the difficulty of the level). If you fail to capture the Pokémon then you have the option to try again using a Great Ball (this doubles your catchability chance) although you will have to spend 2500 coins (which are earned for completing levels and for checking in) in order to buy it. This is rather a lot and, as it doesn't give a 100% catchability rate, is only very rarely worth using. As well as Great Balls you can also pay for various items (such as +5 Moves, 1.5* XP, Mega Start or -1 Complexity). These items all increase in price with their various usability.

The other currencies are Jewels (the premium currency which can be bought with real money, won through beating Mega Evolved Pokémon or through Streetpass Hits) and Hearts (which are required to play a level and are regenerated every 30 minutes or can be bought with Jewels). While these two currencies are... controversial, I've never had to spend Jewels and Hearts make the game into a quick, pick up and play title as well as letting you look forward to your next playtime more. However, I do think that half an hour is a little too long for a regeneration (and meaning that it takes 2.5 hours to get to five lives) and 15 or even 20 minutes would have been preferable.

The final gameplay points are abilities and Mega Evolutions. Each Pokémon has an ability which can do things like increase the Pokémon's attack power for a move (seriously, if I see Opportunist one more time...) get rid of a disruption (which are the opponents way of attacking and involve placing stone/obsidian (?) blocks on your board), put the opponent to sleep (which prevents them from using disruptions and makes them take slightly more damage) or get more power with a match of 4 etc. Certain Pokémon can also Mega Evolve like in the gen 6 main series games. In order to Mega Evolve, your Pokémon must be on the far left of your support Pokémon list and you must have gotten their Mega Stone from a trainer battle (these appear at the end of the different areas and involve a tougher battle). Then, in battle, you must match enough of the Pokémon you want to Mega Evolve in order to fill the bar on the left. Once this is done, you can use that Pokémon's Mega Ability throughout the rest of the battle (Mega Abilities mostly consist of removing other Pokémon around the Mega match thereby increasing the power of the attack).

Overall, I have really enjoyed playing Pokémon Shuffle and the graphics are cute and cartoony (although I really cannot understand why they didn't include 3D effects) and the soundtrack is just superb! If Nintendo want to go into the Free To Play market, then this is a good start. However, if they dare bring micro-transactions to the main series games then they are just asking for trouble...

Goodbye for now, Harry 

Update: hearts that don't replenish by themselves (such as those from Streetpass) are displayed next to ones that do so that the ones that can replenish do replenish. The Level and Experience of Pokémon appear when you optimise Pokémon on the Stage Select screen (and you can see a Pokémon's details immediately after capture). There is now a chance to activate Super Catch Mode which massively increases your chances of catching a Pokémon. The Mega Pokémon Gauge can be filled up quicker using Mega Speedups (the amount depends on the Pokémon). There are other items as well (known as enhancements) which can be used on your Pokémon (but once it's used, it can't be undone). Finally, there is increased Cheat Detection, the Home Menu is blocked during the Time-Based stages and Bonbon Boulevard has been renamed to Street Strasse. (source: http://www.serebii.net/shuffle/patch.shtml).

Update: more levels and Escalation Battles! Escalation Battles (so far limited to Giratina) involve you trying to be a Pokémon as many times as possible with the difficulty (and catch-rate - however, the moves left doesn't affect it) escalating each time.

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