Pokémon Art Academy was released in Europe last week and thus our resident reporter has picked up a copy of the game (and somehow managed to put it down....) to write a review! Find out what I think after the cut.
I’m not an artist by any means. A writer with some artistic tenderises, perhaps, but by no means an artist. So, how is it that this Pokémon spin-off has captured 15 hours of my life over the last couple of days?
Simply put, Pokémon Art Academy is a small gem that shouldn’t be overlooked by any Pokémon fan. It was released quietly in Europe last Friday and is due for a release in the US in October. I picked my copy up on Monday and haven’t put the game down since, and for someone who isn’t that interested in art it’s quite an achievement. For reference, all of the below images are my own work mostly drawn through the lessons. The background of the images are just those provided by the game. I didn’t draw those.
Pokémon Art Academy sets out with the aim of teaching you how to draw a number of different Pokémon in different styles. The game also sets out with the idea of teaching you how to draw artwork that would be befitting on Pokémon Trading Card Game cards but we’ll get to that later. To begin with the game has you draw a simple image of Pikachu’s head with pastels. Once you’ve done that you begin the novice lessons, of which there are four main lessons which each have three mini lessons to go along with them. Generally the main lessons will teach you a brand new skill, which is then reinforced in the mini lessons. For example, the second main novice lesson teaches you how to draw Pokémon from an angle using Fennekin as the subject. The mini lessons then have you draw Meowth, Torchic and Minccino in a similar manner to reinforce the ideas and skills you’ve just learnt. Once you advance from the novice classes you go up to Apprentice lessons and then finally Graduate lessons. In total, including mini lessons, there are 33 lessons to get through with a bonus three being unlocked once you complete all the
As you’d expect the lessons start off fairly simple but the difficulty is soon pushed up and you’ll quickly have all of your skills put to the test. The game tries to ease you into things slowly but it’s going to the effort of teaching you all of these different skills, so it’s certainly going to make you use them as soon as it can. The game slowly teaches us how to use pens, pastels, paints, and pencils to create many different styles of art. You’re never quite left feeling like you’ve done the same thing twice and the game teaches you things in such a manner that even if you were doing the same type of art over and over you wouldn’t care because it’s brilliant to see your work come to life as you go along.
To begin with the game gives you a template of the Pokémon you’re drawing on the bottom screen with an example of how you want it to look on the top screen. The template can be turned off completely in later lessons but if you don’t feel confident enough to draw a Pokémon completely from the ground up you can turn it back on to trace the Pokémon’s main outlines and features. The template really is the only aspect which you, arguably, don’t have to do completely on your own though. Everything else you do is completely down to your own skill, especially later on when the game assumes you can do a great deal more on your own and neglects to mention how to best shade a character and so fourth and leaves it completely down to the player.
If you want to take a break from learning new skills, the game also has two other modes to choose from. There is Quick Sketch, which gives you very simple Pokémon that you can draw up in a few very quick and easy steps, but perhaps more interestingly the game also has a Free Paint mode. In Free Paint mode you can choose from a number of different Pokémon images and draw one of said images however you like. The game will give you a quick step by step guide on how to make the most of the Pokémon and how best to draw it but you don’t have to follow it. You can either turn a template of the image on to trace over or just leave the image on the top screen to use as a rough guide. There is no fear of running out of Pokémon to draw either, as the game is being given a slow but steady support of DLC in the form of new Pokémon.
All of the images you create from the three different modes can be saved to your SD card. Each image is saved to a TCG style card and then stored in an album of sorts for you to look back through whenever you like. Each image can also be shared through Miiverse if you feel like showing off your skills to your friends and fellow Pokémon artists.
Overall the game doesn’t support the 3DS’ 3D ability at all. I was a little saddened that it didn’t make use of it somehow but overall it doesn’t matter and certainly doesn’t negatively impact the game. The same can be said for the soundtrack, which is very lacking, but at the same time this doesn’t really negatively impact on the game as you’re often far too lost in your artwork to be paying attention to the music being played.
Overall Pokémon Art Academy sounds like a simple enough game with not a great deal to offer, doesn’t it? In truth it is a simple game, and yes it doesn’t offer a lot beyond its lessons, but overall it has a charm that you just can’t shake. It’s the type of game that will capture young and old Pokémon fans alike for many, many hours. Budding artists will get a great deal out of the game but so will those just wanting to dabble in Pokémon art now and again. It may have been released fairly quietly in Europe, and likely seems a long way off to the US just yet, but Pokémon Art Academy is without a doubt a must have title for the 3DS if you even remotely care about Pokémon. The fact it’s being sold by GAME and other retailers for £25 leaves you with very few reasons not to pick it up and give it a go.