Pokémon Masters has arrived, and while the release was slightly unexpected, the date falls in line with the previously announced summer-release window. Of course, this isn't a mainline Pokémon game, since it comes from DeNA, the same company behind Nintendo's Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. As expected, Pokémon Masters is a free-to-play release packed with in-app purchases and loot boxes, and this time around, instead of collecting adorable creatures, you'll spend your time collecting trainers to play through 3v3 battles, similar in style to the many MARVEL Strike Force clones already available on the Play Store.

The trailer above shows off some of Pokémon Masters' battle mechanics. Clearly, 3v3 real-time battles are the focus, where you'll collect trainers and evolve their Pokémon to create a powerful team. Auto mechanics are included, which means you won't have to play through the game's battles if you don't want to, though these battles can be fun when playing manually thanks to the interesting way you have to micromanage your moves and targets continually. Much like the core Pokémon series, a rock-paper-scissors mechanic is included, so Pokémon types still play a significant role when battling.

Unsurprisingly, the trainers you are tasked with collecting all contain their own star ratings, so if you were wondering if Pokémon Masters is a gacha game, it is. Much like every other gacha game out there, the story and missions are broken up into separate chapters, and you'll have to play through these story events to get to the meat of the game, its battles. This can be annoying if you're focused on gameplay, even when you skip the story scenes (because you still have to load in and out of them) since it slows advancement down to a crawl, which is probably the point.

Really, the main highlight of this release is the amount of polish in the title. Last night there appeared to be a few server issues, but this morning things are working as expected. So far the graphics are really nice, and the cutscenes are animated smoothly with attractive designs. If you're a big fan of Pokémon, I have no doubt you'll enjoy the art and animations in Pokémon Masters.

Since this is a free-to-play release, in-app purchases range up to $79.99 per item, and there are also multiple currencies, which can get tricky since there's an exchange system for the crystals used for Pokémon evolutions, not to mention the game actually differentiates between paid and earned gems, which is really questionable. Of course, loot boxes are also included, though there doesn't appear to be a stamina system, so you should be able to play as long as you want.

In my opinion, Pokémon Masters offers more of the same content that we've been playing through for years, just with a fantastic skin slapped on top. So I have to at least give credit to the design team since the graphics look great in action, but past that, this is just another gacha game infested with IAPs designed to alleviate the title's horrid grind. This is why auto-battle mechanics are included, which to me signals a game that even its designers agree isn't worth playing. While I do not doubt that Pokémon Masters will be a major success despite these downsides, I still can't get behind a release that's designed to target children with clear gambling mechanics. DeNA and Google apparently believe that such a game should be available to everyone, since that's the game's rating, but I squarely disagree.

Pokémon Masters
Pokémon Masters
Developer: DeNA Co., Ltd.
Price: Free+

Press Release

TOKYO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, DeNA Co., Ltd., in partnership with The Pokémon Company, launched the highly anticipated mobile game Pokémon Masters worldwide for Android and iOS devices. The game is now available for download using the links below.

Download Links

Pokémon Masters is a strategy and battling game where players form teams of sync pairs (the combination of a Trainer and their partner Pokémon) to engage in 3-on-3 real-time battles against AI opponents. With 65 sync pairs to recruit at launch, players can team up with iconic duos such as Korrina & Lucario, Brendan & Treecko, Clair & Kindra, and many more. The game takes place in an all-new location, the island of Pasio, where Trainers and their partner Pokémon from every known Pokémon region have gathered to compete.

The 3-on-3, real-time battle mechanic in Pokémon Masters is a novel twist on Pokémon battles. Players will be able to release a barrage of moves while their AI opponent unleashes attacks at the same time. Each move requires a certain amount of the player’s move gauge, which will continuously refill during the course of battle. The battle is over once a player defeats their AI opponent’s team of sync pairs. Players will need to form their team, ration their move gauge, and strategically deploy the best moves at the most opportune times to ensure victory.

Pokémon Masters features both single player and cooperative play modes. In cooperative play, players can join two other players from around the world to battle a team of AI opponents.

In celebration of the launch of Pokémon Masters, special in-game events and rewards will also be available for a limited time. A story event featuring Blue, the iconic Pokémon Trainer from the Kanto region, will be available from September 2nd through September 29th, and allow players to team up with Blue and his Pokémon partner Pidgeot to battle other Trainers from the Kanto region to earn special rewards.

Players will also be able to earn up to 3,000 gems, which can be used to add new sync pairs to your team and is enough for 10 sync pair scouts, and other in-game items for a limited time by opening the game for the first time, logging in each day for up to 10 days, and participating in launch celebration missions.

More details about these special in-game events and rewards are described in the debut episode of Pokémon Masters News (

), which features Yu Sasaki, Pokémon Masters lead producer at DeNA, discussing the latest information on the game.

Pokémon Masters is a free-to-start game with in-app purchases on compatible Android and iOS devices. The game is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Traditional Chinese. Fans can learn more about Pokémon Masters at https://pokemonmasters-game.com/en-US.

They can also stay tuned to the official social media channels on Twitter (https://twitter.com/PokemonMasters), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PokemonMastersGame), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/pokemonmastersgame), as well as the official YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/PokemonMastersGame) for news about the game.

Assets

All assets, including a fact sheet containing game information and a list of sync pairs announced to date, can be downloaded here: https://we.tl/t-sEJsBDdxbK

About DeNA

DeNA (pronounced “D-N-A”) develops and operates a broad range of mobile and online services including games, e-commerce, entertainment, healthcare, automotive and other diversified offerings. Founded in 1999, DeNA is headquartered in Tokyo with over 2,000 employees. DeNA's aim is to delight and impact the world through the use of the internet and AI. DeNA Co., Ltd. is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (2432). For more information, visit: dena.com/intl/.

About Pokémon

The Pokémon Company International, a subsidiary of The Pokémon Company in Japan, manages the property outside of Asia and is responsible for brand management, licensing and marketing, the Pokémon Trading Card Game, the animated TV series, home entertainment, and the official Pokémon website. Pokémon was launched in Japan in 1996 and today is one of the most popular children’s entertainment properties in the world. For more information, visit www.pokemon.com.