NS Review: Pokémon Shuffle (3DS)
It had to happen eventually. Nintendo have finally stepped into the F2P (Free-to-play) arena, and what possible way could be better to do so than to use an existing, popular IP? On that note, welcome to Pokémon Shuffle, a ‘Mon themed match three puzzle game.
As far as I know by my couple of hours I have plugged into it, there is no real story to speak of. This might change a little later than where I am; but, given the genre of game this is, I am not holding out a great amount of faith in this happening. Besides this, as much as I love the Pokémon games, they are not exactly known for their incredible narratives (excluding Black/White from this, as they had the best storylines of the entire franchise).
In terms of gameplay, Pokémon Shuffle fulfils all the basic requirements of an F2P puzzle title. It is free to download, but contains time-based elements within the core game framework that can be circumvented by paying actual money in microtransactions. The basic gameplay is a match-three style puzzler, in which the player is trying to knock down a Pokémons health until it runs out of HP; then the player can use the remaining turns to help them catch it, and then that particular ‘Mon can be used to support you in future battles. The usual tropes of being able to chain combos and to get more points for setting up a match containing more than three are present; so pretty much standard fare for the genre.
The place where it differs from others in where it enforces the time-based elements; the player is given five hearts at the beginning, which means (as one is used per battle) the player has five battles they can play. The player can then gain more hearts in three ways: purchase more in the shop using jewels found in the game; wait in real time as 30 minutes gives you one heart; or purchase additional hearts with real world money. This last one is, in my opinion as a long time gamer, an insidious factor that has crept into gaming over the last five years or so, and I am disappointed in Nintendo for falling prey to such horrid tactics. Personally, I won’t be plugging any money into the game, as I have patience but I can understand why others won’t and this is a nasty precedent for Nintendo’s future.
As opposed to most F2P games, the one thing that I can give Pokémon Shuffle is that is has Nintendo’s usual levels of polish on it. The game is beautiful, taking the usually already cutesy visuals of the standard games, and making them even cuter. Everything about this game is just adorable. The music, however, much like the main series is mostly forgettable. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some tracks in the main series I do love (Team Flare’s music comes to mind), but I haven’t found any in this one so far.
Okay, so should you download Nintendo’s first F2P title? It doesn’t hurt to download a free game, and it is perfect for just throw-away gaming whilst you have five minutes or so to spare, just be careful of those microtransactions. That being said, if you aren’t a fan of puzzlers or other F2P games like Candy Crush, the addition of Pokémon will not change your mind.