Pokemon Masters Review (Soft Launch)

Pokemon Masters is out—kinda. There’s a limited soft-launch in Singapore and soon™ Canada, but eager superfans are already playing in other territories via VPNs and the usual tricks. Here you’ll find my evaluation of the game in its current, early state as I’ve completed all the content currently on offer and talked the game over with many other direly impatient Pokemon fans. My efforts to keep things simple has failed—so be ready for a fairly complete look at what the game is like today!

If you wish to play the game or just read up on how it all works in detail, I also have a Pokemon Masters guide on this here site or you can pop in our Discord server to chat about the game!

What Is Pokemon Masters?

Pokemon Masters is perhaps a Gachapon Mobage-style mobile game first, and a Pokemon game second. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but rather I mean that this game was clearly designed to reinforce its goal of being an accessible, stand-alone mobile title before all else. A few tried-and-true Pokemon design choices and rules have been left behind in this process—which occasionally makes things a little confusing for long-time players.

Instead of catching Pokemon, this time around you’re “scouting” for Sync Pairs; a Trainer and Pokemon pair that you actually use to battle. All battles are 3v3 in Pokemon Masters, so you can choose 3 trainers and their Pokemon . Sync Pairs aren’t like normal Pokemon ; not all unevolved Pokemon can evolve to their final form, and Types are tied more to Trainer than they are to the Pokemon; most dual type Pokemon are single type, all pokemon only have a single weakness, and resistances and immunities don’t generally exist.

janine & Ariados pokemon masters
Yep, it’s Gachapon

Pokemons’ Stat growth and Base Power for Moves are also freely re-balanced, moves are tied to a Sync Pair and can’t be changed. There’s no IVs (thank Arceus) or EVs, level 100 is level 100. It’s a drastic overhaul but mostly results in a smoother, simpler experience still largely recognizable as Pokemon. It also offers a balance setup more similar to the usual mobile gachapon-fests; a Treecko can be stronger than a Serperior because they say so, that’s why.

There’s no PVP (possibly a blessing due to power creep and other pay to win nonsense common to these games), but there is co-op play unlocked after beating most of the main story.

3v3? Yeah, You Know Me

pokemon masters combat
Ingame battle

The best thing about the game is definitely the battle format. It’s close to a mix of Rotation and Triple Battles from the main series, but all Pokemon can be hit and target other Pokemon at once; nothing only targets “adjacent” creatures. Pokemon’s moves  charge in “real time” but attacks are still cued up for an almost-turn-based battle closer to Final Fantasy’s famous ATB system.

The 3 Pokemon simultaneous match up offers strategic possibilities beyond the usual on-on-one fights, without the more time intensive complications of a full team 6 versus 6 one-at-a-time style of traditional Pokemon . And more importantly, many new “Trainer Moves” were added to the game with the 3v3 format in mind, adding many buffs that hit the whole party. Skills like this are pretty rare in the mainline games.

As a long-time Pokemon fan it does bother me just how much the AI cheats though; in the mainline games you’re always fighting “real” Pokemon that you could have on your own team right down to the moves and stats. In Pokemon Masters however, enemy Sync Pairs have extremely overpowered Sync Moves (but charge them much more slowly than you usually do) that hit the whole team and often include a Haze effect to remove your buffs. It’s something that would be fun for raid bosses, but feels excessive and cheap in regular battles. It really reduces the feeling of fair competition that’s very big in Pokemon, both in gameplay and story.

All in all I really enjoy the new format, and I really hope Pokemon Sword and Shield will offer a variation of it for play. Addition of online co-op battles to Pokemon is also very welcome. I’ve often wished I could play Battle Tree etc. in Co-op, but only local play has been offered so far, and the peak of having local friends with the latest Pokemon release was grade school for me.

Little Story, Lots of Personality

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Escaped Chasm Guide & Endings Walkthrough

Escaped Chasm is a brand new, Pay What You Want game on itchio by Temmie Chang. You probably know her from Undertale, but this game is an unrelated project by Temmie herself!

I believe this guide is complete (the game’s fairly small), but as always if I missed anything please let me know in the comments! Or just let everyone know what you thought of the game.

Escaped Chasm Mini-Review

Escaped Chasm is a tiny but very engrossing little game. For the price of free and the light time investment of ~20 minutes for a playthrough, it’s very much worth a playthrough.

The game’s heavier and sadder themes may be a surprise to those already familiar with Temmie’s work, which makes the early impact of the game quite the hook.

While short the game makes great use of it’s time and leaves you feeling for our Lonely Protagonist. Some Temmie-Brand bits of humor are dotted throughout,

Gameplay Spoilers
especially in the Developer Room!

While something of a prelude to a more complete game that may or may not happen, Escaped Chasm is a very intriguing romp through a puzzling world. Here’s hoping we’ll eventually see a follow up to answer the many questions the game leaves us with.

Escaped Chasm Walkthrough

Note there’s no save feature, it’s short and meant to be played in one go. Turn off Dash in the options before playing, it causes a bug and does not increase your walking speed.

The game doesn’t have combat or what would normally be considered puzzles, so play at your own pace and figure things out before resorting to the guide. I’ve written the fastest way to finish each day (for replays) and noted extra items to collect here.

You can hold down the Z key to speed up dialog you’ve already seen. Do not press X when at the Diary Menu, it ends the game. If the game crashes when you watch the TV, turn off dashing in the options menu. You can also control with the mouse instead of the keyboard.

Day 1

All you have to do to finish this day is check on Melody (her snake) and read your diary, then you can go to bed.

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The Problems with Rain World

A Torrent of Small Issues

I recently played Rain World on stream, and as anyone who tuned in would know, I don’t hate the game but it has far more problems than I was expecting. A core issue of the game is…there is no core issue; it’s a big messy tangle of small issues that wouldn’t even be problems if not tied to other small issues, and they all bundle up into a big ball of frustration.

This isn’t quite a review so much as a critique on how to make a much more approachable game. I’ve only played about 4 hours, but it’s flaws are so readily apparent (and so well agreed on) I don’t feel that’s a problem. If you haven’t played the game, Destructoid has a good run down on the issues in it’s review.

So let’s go over the individual problems that add up to a greater, incredibly frustrating hole. Note pretty much all of these are fairly innocuous alone and I’m not calling any of them inherently bad design; instead I’ll go over how each interacts negatively with other factors to result in more frustration than funstration, a word I just made up and must now swear to never use again.

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MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies Review

On May 10th, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies releases. It’s a multiplayer Neptunia spinoff focusing on Blanc (sigh, and Neptune…) that’s based on Neptunia U’s parts but with a new Multiplayer component, some Monster Hunter inspiration and some general retooling that makes it feel more like it’s own game. This title is from Idea Factory and Tamsoft, developers of Senran Kagura and also Neptunia U.

I’ve played both the Japanese and English releases, so let’s see how this multiplayer action spin on the Neptunia franchise stacks up.

Multiplayer Screen Shot 2015-11-22 19-44-07
Team up for Victory!

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Trillion God of Destruction First Impressions Review

I received a review copy of Trillion: God of Destruction and, while I haven’t quite beaten it in time for launch (and I don’t feel comfortable reviewing a game I haven’t beaten) I have enjoyed my time with it and I’ll give my impressions so far here.

I’ll follow up once I’ve completed the game to fill in my complete thoughts.

Update- 2016-23-05:

For now I’ve put this game on hold. Most of the impressions below still hold true, but I must note the game gets quite slow and repetitive. The game’s harem roots show far stronger in basically every character’s story other than Gluttony’s story, who I happened to pick first. All in all it’s a game with some really good ideas and good writing here and there, but it bogs itself down too hard with Harem tropes and a Raising Sim mechanic that is far too slow.

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Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review in Progress

Senran Kagura Estival Versus releases today on PS4 and PS Vita, and while I didn’t quite (nearly) get enough time to finish it in time for release, I have beaten the Japanese release and have some strong opinions on the game.

So I thought I would present an interim “what I think/what to know” review in progress before I finish up the real ordeal, for anyone looking to decide day one. Instead of worrying about a nice format I decided to just lay out all the relevant its and bits for anyone on the edge of making a buying decision.

You can also check out my my Import Review for Estival Versus for my impressions of the Japanese release.

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Hyperdimension Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls Import Impressions

Recently I imported the latest Neptunia side game, called Super Dimension War Neptunia VS Sega Hard Girls Dream of Coalescence Special AKA Cho Jigen Taisen Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls Yume no Gattai Special AKA 超次元大戦 ネプテューヌVSセガハードガールズ 夢の合体スペシャル

AKA We’re just calling it Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls okay. I’ve been enjoying it and thought I’d write up a post about the highs and lows so far.

If you’re interested in watching gameplay, I have 6 hours of video from livestreams on my Youtube channel, you can find the first Neptunia vs Sega Hard Girls stream here and the second livestream archive here. That should give you a pretty clear look at the start of the game. I’m also working on a guide for the game I’ll publish soon.

As this is an “import impressions” post, note that I have not fully completed the game (I have played about 10 hours and I would approximate possibly half the game) and I may not properly understand all aspects of the game as it is in Japanese. I do not speak Japanese so I play these games via a combination of Google Translate, trial and error, dumb luck and Determination. If I say something is missing it’s possible I just haven’t seen it, and I may miss otherwise obvious hints in UI text/etc that would have prevented me from making certain mistakes.

Also note the game released last week in Japan–there’s a possibility there will be some patches. Neptunia Victory II actually got quite a few patches to address issues and improve a few things.

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Steam Controller First Impressions

I got one of the first batch of Steam Controllers this Friday and I’ve had an…Interesting™ time with it. I played it with 17 games of various genres to try it out and I’ve got a lot of things to say about it, at the least. You can find my specific experiences with the games at the bottom after the conclusion.

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Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer Mini-Review

If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you might not know I’m a pretty huge Animal Crossing fan. Being able to design my home is pretty much the main driving force behind most of my actions in Animal Crossing, so I was quite excited to see them break out a whole game around designing homes.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer has gotten a lot of “who asked for this” replies from the peanut gallery but I’ve always been pretty excited and I was very relieved to find out that yes, it’s pretty darn fun!

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