Pokémon Link: Battle! (3DS eShop) Review
The Japanese are good at more than a few things- making sushi, putting stuff on cats and trying to innovate the match 3 gems game genre, just to name a few things. This game involves neither raw fish nor putting oranges on cats, no matter how awesome that sounds. Here is an example of Nintendo pushing to get Pokemon on the eShop front page yet again, all the while providing a decent experience at the same time, and I for one won’t complain about it one bit. What we have here is a game that while not entirely original and having loads of potential for new ideas, it falls flat in some areas; what is here has loads of polish for what is on show, however.
The match 3 genre of games has been around for literally decades, and while the formula hasn’t changed drastically, it has always been addictive in its many forms. Where Bejewelled Battle Link is different is in the inclusion of the entire catalogue of Pokémon and the now standard elemental system to match off against these plucky little creatures in a battle like situation.
The grid is presented in the usual gem based fashion with a set of randomly selected Pokemon that you have to match off and use the skill set to fight against a series of other Pokemon as represented on the top screen. Essentially instead of using a menu system like in the traditional games – you use the poke-gems to initiate the attacks. It is an interesting concept to say the least and one Candy Crush Battle Link executes better than expected, at least on the surface.
As you initiate attacks you combine matches in rapid succession to chain the attacks together get more powerful attacks. Thanks to the stylus controls, this is both quick and accurate. The combination of slow planning combined with frantic action of making matches means this title has a flow that is somewhat unique in the puzzling genre. It is rare to mix action into a puzzle game and yet keep it entirely in the puzzle realm. Having to consider the Pokemon type you are selecting in relation to the one that is being attacked just allows the whole package to be more complex without feeling forced.
As you go through each round, the difficulty scales up, causing you to consider your moves more carefully. The first half of the game is fairly easy, allowing you to get used to the concepts being presented – but come the later levels you will have to think quickly just to keep up. There isn’t a difficulty curve, it is a difficulty step or foot stool, if you will, and a mighty big one it is.
With that, I have highlighted the only two major issues with this release. For all the new features and advancement that have been added, at its core it is still a colour swap puzzle game and one can only get so excited about this. The difficulty curve/step is also of concern as half the time you can come away a little bored and the next half you feel somewhat hopeless if your skills aren’t up to scratch. The fact that the creatures you defeat/capture don’t really play into any additional layer of game play beyond the puzzling side does make the entire Pokemon concept feel sort of tacked on. The core ideas that the fans expect of the series play very little into the overall scheme of things. This could have easily been yet another Kirby off shoot if Nintendo wanted it to be.
That aside, if you do keep up with Puyo Puyo Battle Link then you are given a wide variety of battles to take part in as the illusion of you traveling around to catch these creatures is explored – just don’t expect added depth because of this. It is an unfortunate theme in parts of this title that greater themes are not explored. The StreetPass for instance while I have personally found it is very active in the Metro Melbourne area, all that gets swapped is your gaming stats – other than that there is no advantage to getting passes at all. It could have been an area of great potential had there been a more complex structure to the rest of the title.
The presentation however is the usual refined work that is expected of Nintendo, everything is colourful and smooth like a rainbow smoothie with a hint of Barry (Betty?) white on vinyl mixed in. Being Pokemon it has the usual cute/Kawaii moments going for, so set your heart and mind to melted from the get go due to cute overload. Making the most of the screen real estate and keeping the whole flow running smoothly is the key to this title. Never does anything look out of place or cause distraction in an unsettling manner. Even when a large amount of effects are on screen the entire thing just feels effort less of our dual screen dream machines. There is no 3D mode provided but that doesn’t affect this game one bit as it is a purely 2D affair in one of the best ways possible, it does what it does in a limited fashion so that it can be done well.
Audio is backed up with the usual brilliant standards that the series deserves. All the recordings are of excellent recording quality and all are on the vein of what you expect of the Pokemon series. I could go into more detail but we all know what to expect and it does not disappoint.
It is at this point that I have to make a small personal confession. Either I own or have owned essentially every major piece of Nintendo hardware and major software stretching back to the NES period and being in the perfect age group to be exposed to the Pokemon brainwashing of the late 90’s (Sonic the Hedgehog took that spot for a while), I have never been a huge fan of the Pokemon culture as a whole. I definitely understand the appeal of the shows and card/video games but they just never appealed to me. So when I find myself coming back to this game again and again just to improve on my past performances – I know that it is because there is a decent gameplay to be had here and not just because of it being marketed in a certain way.
If being a fan adds something to your play experience then all the power to you, if you aren’t a fan I’m sure there will be something you can find in Columns Battle link that will keep most players happy. For what flaws that are present, they do not detract from the overall games enjoyability. If it wasn’t that this wasn’t a tired game genre to begin with combined with a steep price on the eShop ($10.40 AUD at the time of writing) then this title would probably score higher and received more praise.
If you are up for a new puzzle game then this should fill the gap, if you want a big new Pokemon title to scratch your itch then this will probably disappoint. Just take it for what it is
Now where are my cats? I have an orange I need to balance on them.
Now is time I become the king (or duke) of cross promotion! Do you want to hear what the rest of the Vooks crew think of this game? Do you have functioning ears and a thirst for all things Nintendo? Want to test you internet connection on our rapidly deteriorating copper communications system? If you said yes to two or more of the above – check out the Vookcast, specifically episode 94 where you can get a different opinion on this game and many others away from my twisted concept of the rational world.