In a Nintendo Direct last month a surprise title in the form of Pokémon Link Battle (known as Pokémon Battle Trozei in the US) was revealed to be coming to the 3DS’ eShop. Fast forward to March 13th and the game has now landed in Europe and Japan, with a US release to follow on the 20th. With that in mind, we’ve decided to throw together a review of the title to judge whether it’s worth picking up or not. Read on to find out more!
Pokémon Link Battle is a follow up to the 2006 Pokémon Link game for the Nintendo DS. However, while the games may be part of the same series, Pokémon Link Battle plays very differently to the original game. The aim of the game in Pokémon Link Battle is to catch all the Pokémon and fill your Pokédex. To do this you’re sent out to explore a number of different zones, 13 in total, which have six stages each generally. It's worth noting that three stages of each zone can only be unlocked after fulfilling certain goals. Each stage has a number of different Pokémon, for example the first stage of Zone 1 is home to Skiddo, Gogoat and Chespin, while later levels are home to a bigger range of Pokémon. Each level also has a number of hidden Pokémon who can’t be unlocked unless you hit certain requirements, such as a high combo and high score. Some of the hidden Pokémon are a little trickier to unlock, such as Spewpa and Vivillon who can’t be found unless you’ve used a fire-type attack on Scatterbug when catching it. The game doesn’t bother to give you any hints as to how you’ll unlock certain Pokémon either, so it really is a case of trial and error on the players’ part to find what works.
To catch Pokémon you’re armed with a Battle Box which is filled with Pokémon icons for you to match up. Pokémon Link Battle works quite differently to the original Pokémon Link in this regard, where in the original you could move rows of Pokémon left to right or up and down to create links, here you can pick up each Pokémon icon one at a time and move them wherever you want to create a link of three or more Pokémon. The game also makes use of the rock, paper, scissor aspect of Pokémon typing’s which keeps you on your feet. For example, linking a fire type Pokémon in the first zone will be super effective against Skiddo and friends, which will allow you to deal more damage to the opponent and score more points while doing so. If you linked a water type Pokémon first then you’ll deal less damage to the opponent and score less points. To keep things a little easier, all the Pokémon in Pokémon Link Battle only have one type, so it’s a little easier to keep track of everyone’s weaknesses. The first Pokémon you link will be the one doing the attacking, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on who the enemy are and what their weakness is.
After linking a Pokémon the aim is to quickly keep the links up to create a chain which will score you more points and allow your attacking Pokémon to deal more damage to the opponent. If you link enough Pokémon quickly enough you may also get the chance to clear your Battle Box, and while in this mode you’ll be able to link Pokémon by matching two or more icons, which makes things a little easier. Needless to say clearing your Battle Box will score you even more points and you can still keep your chain going when the box refills if you’re quick enough.
Beyond that there isn’t much more to the game. As far as the gameplay goes the only other thing to mention is that the Pokémon you catch can then be brought with you into battle. So, if you were going into a grass stage for example you could take a Fennekin with you who would then appear in your Battle Box for you to link and give you the advantage in the stage. The more you use a Pokémon the more friendly it becomes towards you and the more damage it will deal to the opponent when you attack. It’s also worth noting that while the stages don’t have any time limits, the wild Pokémon you’re trying to capture will attack your Battle Box if you aren’t quick with your links. If the wild Pokémon does enough damage to your box then it’s game over and you have to reply the stage.
It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? In truth the game is pretty easy. Pokémon Link Battle has loosely taken the gameplay idea of the popular Puzzles & Dragons games and made it accessible to the younger and older gamers alike by adding Pokémon and making the game easy enough to understand. There isn’t much more to the game beyond catching all the Pokémon, there is no story to be had and no extra modes to speak of except local co-op play. It’s quite a shame the game hasn’t dived into a wi-fi mode to play with friends, it feels like a missed trick in this day and age, but for £7.18 I can’t complain too much. Pokémon Link Battle doesn’t make use of the consoles 3D anywhere, although this isn’t too much of a loss considering you spend very little time looking at the top screen anyway.
For the price it’s a nice game. It starts out simple enough but the stages get tougher very quickly and it’ll take quite some time for you to unlock and capture every single Pokémon, especially considering the game includes all 718 creatures. After roughly a couple of days’ playtime I’ve unlocked seven zones and only unlocked and completed all the stages in one. By zone seven we’re facing about seven Pokémon in a stage, which makes it quite tough to capture all the Pokémon while being quick enough not to take much, if any, damage. It’s definitely not an easy game at this point, something I’m glad to see as I’m confident it’ll keep me playing for quite some time. I’m the type of person who definitely wants to complete the Pokédex as well, so if nothing else that will keep me pushing onwards.
In closing: It’s the perfect pick-up and play puzzle game for short five minute bursts or for a longer length of time, only strengthened by the game being a download title and thus always on your console. It’s a shame there aren’t a few more gameplay modes and that it hasn’t gone down the route of Wi-Fi co-op, but for the price it’s not too much of a put-off for an otherwise solid and welcome game to the Pokémon series.
Pokémon Link Battle can be downloaded from the 3DS’ eshop in Europe right now, and will be released in the US under the title Pokémon Battle Trozei on the 20th of March.