Pokemon Masters Review


Amber Rhoades

As someone who has played a lot of gacha games (because all the popular ones came out when I was a broke high school student and they’re free to play), I was pretty excited for Pokemon Masters. I really liked how trainer focused it was, as I felt the majority of NPC trainers, especially before Black and White, didn’t have too much characterization. Finally, I thought, an opportunity to better know these Gym Leaders or Elite Four members that I only fight once and never see again (besides rematches). The real-time battle mechanic seemed like it’d be fun, a nice change of pace from the franchise’s usual turn-based battle system. Overall, I was pretty hyped.


Then the game itself came out, and maybe my expectations were a little too high.


For starters, I think the gameplay itself is fun for a mobile game; it really tests your reaction time and makes you pay attention. You put three trainers on a team with their partner Pokemon (a trainer and their Pokemon are referred to as “Sync Pairs” in the game) and they face off against another trio of trainers and their Pokemon, basically 3 vs. 3 battles. There are three types of Sync Pairs: Strikers, who focus on dealing damage, Support, who focus on healing and buffing the team, and Tech, who focus on debuffing the enemy team.


When you do a certain number of actions, you can have one of your trainers execute a “Sync Move”, a powerful attack that deals great damage to an opponent’s Pokemon and also removes all the enemy team’s buffs. Each character has a unique animation for their Sync Move, and I think that’s pretty neat. Keep in mind that the opponent can also use Sync Moves, though thankfully only the center Pokemon can use it, so it’s important to watch the number of actions left before the opponent uses their Sync Move and try to defeat them before they can activate it. I tend to impatiently tap my next moves so I can get to my Sync Move faster. By the way, there’s also an auto-battle button if you’re too lazy to tap, it’s nice for grinding.


There’s also co-op battles, but I haven’t gotten far enough in the game to unlock them yet, so I can’t personally comment on them, sorry! I’m taking my sweet, sweet time with this game for reasons later explained in this article.


Pokemon types are also executed differently compared to the main series games. Even if the Pokemon itself has two types in the main games, it’ll only be assigned to one type here, and it’ll also only be weak to one type as well. For example, Bugsy has a Beedrill, a Bug/Poison-type, and in the main games, it’s weak to fire, flying, rock, and psychic-type moves. However, in Pokemon Masters, his Beedrill his strictly bug-type and it’s only weak to rock-type moves. I presume these changes were made to simplify the battle mechanics for a mobile game and having only one type for the Pokemon and its weakness would make things more balanced. However, some units can learn moves of a different type; for example, Tate’s Solrock, a Psychic-type here, can learn Rock Tomb.


Something I don’t like about the game is that it feels super grindy and is stingy with resources. In order for your trainer’s Pokemon to learn new moves and skills, you need a decent amount of items. It’s to be expected, I’ve played my share of grindy games myself, but anything that isn’t a bronze common item doesn’t have a great drop rate. The more moves and skills you unlock and the further you uncap your units’ levels, you’ll need more rare items, and combined with the drop rate for said items, it’s a tedious grind. Speaking of level caps, the reward for getting a trainer to level 100 is a mere bronze exp. point book, how generous! I also wish they listed level caps on the trainer’s status page instead of making me find out when I level them up myself. At least there’s no stamina system in the game, which makes grinding easier because I don’t have to wait for some meter to recharge before I can play again.


The stinginess even extends to the gacha, unfortunately. It’s 300 gems for a single pull and 3,000 for 10 pulls, which is pretty standard. The rate to get a 5-star character, the highest rarity, is super good for a gacha game at 7% (in comparison, most gacha games tend to have their rates for the highest rarity characters between 1% and 3%). There’s also a Scout Point system, where you can accumulate one point per 100 gems to get 400 points for the character of your choosing in the current gacha banner (you’ll need a whopping 40,000 gems). This sounded pretty good to me, but Masters doesn’t give out gems generously. You’ll get only 10 gems for reading a story, 30 gems for clearing a battle, 150 from weekly logins, and 30 from doing daily missions. Event missions seem to be a little more generous, in which you can earn up to 350 from doing all the missions on this current event, but normal missions with gem rewards only give out 10. I feel like with the number of gems the game gives us, it should be 100 or 150 for one pull instead of 300. Not to mention, we only got 200 gems daily for several days for launch, and that’s not even enough for a solo pull. While I like the idea of the scout point system, you’d have to be saving for a really long time for the guaranteed character if you choose not to spend money. Another game I play, Granblue Fantasy, has the same system for its gacha, but it requires more crystals in comparison to Pokemon Masters (300 for 1 point, so 90,000 for 300 points to pick a character from the banner). However, the Granblue devs happen to be much more generous, giving us lots of free tickets and crystals (especially during special occasions like the anniversary), and during certain times of the year, we get free gacha pulls that rack up a good amount of points for that SSR character we want. In both games, the points don’t carry over to the next gacha banner, but at least Granblue converts the unused points into stones you can trade-in for various items.


I guess the one thing that makes up for the abysmal gem gains is the fact that you get a free trainer every story chapter, and some of them are pretty good units.


It’s also worth noting that Masters had a paid guaranteed 5-star gacha banner at launch, which other gacha games have, but they usually save theirs for special occasions. Fate/Grand Order for instance only has its paid guaranteed 5-star banners for their anniversary and for New Year’s. Since Masters also has a daily paid 100 gem scout, I think buying the 3,000 gems and then doing the 100 gem scout every day for a month is a better use of the money than spending it on the paid banner. You’ll get 30 units for 30 bucks instead of 10 units. It’s strange and rather predatory that it had a paid gacha at launch, but since the game made over $26 million already, it’s a success on their part.


Recently, they did give us 6,000 gems in compensation for some bugs, so at least there’s that.


Content-wise, there isn’t a lot going on with Masters at the moment, but I can chalk it up to being a two-week-old game. There’s the main story mode and then a bunch of maps where you can grind for items to upgrade your trainers. The main story plot isn’t anything special, you’re on the island of Pasio where you and a bunch of trainers you’ve befriended go fight other trainers and earn the five badges needed to enter in the Pokemon Masters League in hopes of conquering it. So far, there’s only 18 chapters and two interlude chapters, and I’ve heard that once you’re done with those, all there is to do is just grind for items and play co-op. That’s why I’m taking my time on this game, so I don’t reach post-game quickly (also because of that busy college kid life).


As of this writing, there are currently two events going on, but they don’t have much in terms of content. The first one, a story-centric event focused on Blue, is super short yet lasts almost the entire month. The story itself can be cleared quickly and after that, all you really do is farm co-op so you can buy out all the items in the event shop. The second event is dedicated to leveling up your rock-type trainers, and that’s about it. At least they get lots of experience points. For such uneventful events, I feel like they should only be a week or two at most.

The one thing that keeps me from actually uninstalling the game are the trainers, my primary reason for playing. They’re given more personality in comparison to the games, and you’ll learn more things about them. Every time you get a new trainer, you’ll be able to read a short story about them, mostly about their motivations. I’m not gonna spoil anything, but I’m pleased that I finally know why Barry was always threatening to fine me ludicrous amounts of money in the Sinnoh games. The trainers you’ve recruited will also hang around on the home screen where you can talk to them and have little conversations where they talk about themselves or their Pokemon. Although you can’t play as generic NPC trainers, you can also talk to the ones that show up on the home screen for similarly entertaining conversations. Overall, while the main story writing is nothing to sneeze at, I really enjoy the writing for the characters, they’re all charming.


I think Pokemon Masters overall isn’t anything special currently, but it’s still a fairly new game. Although overall gameplay isn’t very good at the moment, I like the trainers enough to at least keep an eye on it for the time being. Given the lackluster launch events and the lack of content, I feel like there isn’t much reason to invest too much time into it at the moment, but I hope that in the future we’ll have more content and the like that’ll make it worth playing.