I was completely ready to write about how I finished Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and wanted to put out a brief about how I felt about the game now. However, something else caught my attention, and who really wanted to read me gushing about Toad again? Even though everyone probably said a heartfelt nope, too bad!
The game was cute and true to its quality through and through. The ending feels like a commercial, but was still enjoyable. Despite being a Nintendo game, notorious for holding your hand and being generally easy these past few generations, there was a ramp of difficulty that felt challenging, verging on maddening. Perhaps because of that notoriety, my ego mocked me time and time again as I failed to figure out the side puzzles, plummeted into lava, or generally sucked the big one. Do not be deceived. Captain Toad will make you work for your shill of an ending.
On to new things! I was ready to start Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for the 3DS, and probably will since my significant other has claimed the Wii U for Bayonetta. Then, I was reminded of a game that I don’t think I can ignore. The Pokemon franchise seems to have release a new freemium game, Pokemon Shuffle.
I’m skeptical. I may be a big fan of the franchise, but I never really played the spin-off games. I’m not sure how, and really wish I could go back and do the Mystery Dungeon series, but I didn’t really play Trozei, or any of the other games. Should I really open myself to these spins with a free-to-play, pay-to-win game? Probably not! Am I going to anyway? Unfortunately!
First and foremost, I want to complain about the lack of a screencapping system for the 3DS. I appreciate the leaps and bounds Nintendo has taken with social media and sharing screens of their games, but the 3DS is stuck in the weirdest of limbos. It’s as if they want to open the option to share images of their games freely, but can’t give up the controls out of fear, tightening their grip even further. Share your experiences, but not too much! With that rant over, please enjoy my amazing screens a la my phone. My apologies if they look like they came from a potato.
I’m going to be as blunt as possible. Pokemon Shuffle feels like extortion. I wouldn’t normally feel so angry at a freemium for trying to take advantage of my wallet and I, but this is Pokemon! You’ve been one of my favorites for years. We’ve had so many good times together. I know we had an expensive rough patch with the TCG, but we made up. I know you’ve always been there for the money, but at least when I gave it to you, I got a mutual satisfaction. Pokemon Shuffle is such a thinly veiled money sink, it should feel ashamed of itself. The biggest problem, though, is that it won’t feel that shame, nor hear my cries of betrayal over all of the money it’s probably going to make.
Let’s start with the currencies. There are three to note: stamina/time (hearts), in-game (coins), and microtransaction (gems). Pretty straightforward for a freemium, and nothing too disheartening yet; everything that I’d expect from a game like this. As far as stamina goes, you get five hearts at max. You use one heart per attack on a select Pokemon, and have a chance to catch that Pokemon if you can defeat it in time. This is typical of most freemiums, but it takes half an hour (thirty minutes!) to refresh one heart. That’s two and a half hours! Ahh!
“But you play Puzzle and Dragons. Stamina takes five minutes a point to regenerate, and dungeons take multiple points to enter,” my critical self prods. “What could possibly be the difference?” Here’s my gripe. Yes, PAD does require more stamina points, but I also get to store far more points for when I’m doing other things. As I level up as a player, I also get a larger and larger stamina pool. This means I can run a pricey dungeon and let it generate points for me while I go about my day. In Pokemon Shuffle, you don’t get the luxury of an expandable pool. There’s no level system for you, the player, to aid you in the game. In PAD, when you level up, you get a refreshed stamina bar and some sort of reward, be it more stamina points, a bigger friends list, an increased max cost, etc. Pokemon Shuffle just doesn’t give you that basic gratuity, and it’s frustrating.
Next, let’s talk about the microtransaction currency. The actual prices of each gem ranges from $1 to about $.64, assuming you pay $48 for the biggest bundle. This is actually not the worst part of the freemium model. It’s reasonable, relatively speaking. It’s how the game wants the player to spend those gems that gets a little absurd. Did you need some coins? Gem. Did you not beat that level within the parameters? Gem. Oh, you want to refresh your stamina and play the game for more than a couple of minutes at a time? Gem, please. You want to actually make progress in catching the more than 150 (currently 159 to be exact) Pokemon available? Gems, and lots of them. Assuming you have the patience of a saint, and the luck of the luckiest of lucky ducks, it will take you 80 hours to complete this game’s Pokemon collection. When you miss one and don’t want to pay, it will take even longer. Trust me, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when”.
Now, the last currency focuses more on the actual gameplay, which I have yet to actually talk about in all of my ranty rantness. Pokemon Shuffle is a pretty basic match 3+ puzzle game, with an added battle flavor. Each Pokemon you pick up has its own type, its own ability, and maybe even a mega form, giving that Pokemon a second ability. They are really milking the mega evolutions. You, the player, pick a tile to swap with another tile, but are not limited to neighboring tiles. You can swap it with whichever tile you’d like, as long as it makes a match. Each match attacks your target enemy, whittling its health down to, hopefully, zero. Then, you have a chance to catch the target Pokemon with a Pokeball. Your leftover moves make the chance for capture greater, but not always significantly. If you manage to capture the target, hooray and congrats, they’re yours to use. More than likely, they won’t let you catch them, and this is where coins start to become important. You have the option to spend your stockpile of coins on a great ball, increasing your chance of capture. You can still fail miserably, but darn if you didn’t try. You can also use your coins before the battle to modify your attacking situation, but I have yet to feel compelled to use them. They just seem like a waste of resources.
There might be a storyline in this game, but all I’ve seen is some forced plot in order to set up various tutorials. I have yet to get far enough to see if there’s more to this game than “insert money here.” The art and style is cute, even though you are technically punching Pokemon faces with other Pokemon faces. I love how bright and colorful the game is. The music is a little out there for a Pokemon game, but it still nice and fitting to the game. It definitely has a bit of polish to it.
I can’t in good faith recommend Pokemon Shuffle. I acknowledge that this is a freemium. It’s very much pay-to-win, but I still stand by my disappointment. This game has a great deal of potential, but it is so severely hindered by the demand for money, that most of the fun that could have been will probably never be.