The Pokemon Company is full of surprises. When Pokémon Duel released on January 24th, 2017 it hoped to not only capitalize on the success of Pokémon Go but also expand on Nintendo’s growing mobile catalog. Pokémon Duel brings common elements from the Pokémon series and tweaks them to provide a unique experience that manages to be incredibly interesting despite being a little strange.
Pokémon Duel is a strategy board game where you collect and battle with figures that represent your favorite Pokémon. As in other mobile games of its kind, the Pokémon you collect have a rarity rating which scales from Common to EX-rare (which is a level above rare.) “Duels” play out on a board with the goal being to capture your opponent’s goal point while protecting your own area by utilizing the Pokémon in your party. If your Pokémon moves next to an opponent, a battle ensues.
Battles play out as a game of chance with a spinning wheel containing your Pokémon’s moves, as well as a “Miss” section. If you do more damage than your opponent, then you win the duel and if you miss, your opponent gets a free hit on your Pokémon. This will send them to the Pokémon Center where they must wait for a few turns. If two (or more) of your Pokémon surround an opponent, you automatically win the battle. This adds a layer of strategy in having to keep track of where your figures (and your opponent’s figures) are. This also of course helps add more the gameplay than just the battles themselves. Status effects such as poison and paralysis return from the main series, adding even more of an emphasis on keeping a balanced and effective team.
Leveling your Pokémon can be done through repeated battles. These can be done in multiplayer league battles or in single player quests. Another way to level up is through fusion, which merges items and figures into your chosen Pokémon to increase their level. Microtransactions are present in the form of gems, which are a premium currency used to purchase booster packs with new figures. They also can contain plates, which are one-time use battle items like X-Attack and X-Defense, which can change the outcome of battles.
Other mobile mechanics include things like daily missions (which reward you for doing certain things each day), a daily login reward, and an interesting mechanic called “featured duels” in which you can watch other players duel. You can also set up rooms to play with friends in what are called “room matches” even locking them with a room key so only people you know can join in the game.
Pokémon Duel has promise but in its current state, I can’t recommend it. It is incredibly buggy and just in the time I’ve spent with it, I’ve had to restart the app multiple times. Even when it isn’t freezing or locking up, the loading times are horrendous and take far too much time. It would be fine on any other platform, but on mobile (designed for quick matches or a quick time-waster) as it stands now it needs a lot of work.
Another large drawback to Pokémon Duel is that it takes a bit of time to learn the game. It isn’t something that you could dive into and intuitively understand. Some aspects of the game are common sense if you know the mainline series, but there are parts (such as the element of chance during battles) that can take some getting used to.
Pokémon fans will probably greatly enjoy Pokémon Duel and I have high hopes for it. The long load times and bugs need to be fixed if this game is going to experience any level of success though. Pokémon Duel is different than most Pokémon adventures fans are used to, but it could become an addictive game in its own right. It looks like the developer is going to be fixing many of the bugs, so within the next month, we may see Pokémon Duel in an entirely new light.