Pokemon Masters is the perfect mobile counterpart to Pokemon Go

With the successful launch of Pokemon Masters, The Pokemon Company now has two successful mobile titles on the market that are getting actively supported. While the colorful real-time role-playing game isn’t taking the world by storm like Pokemon Go did upon its 2016 release, it never was going to. Rather than trying to replicate the success of the augmented reality title, Masters is a perfect counterpart to it as the two games combine to give players the full Pokemon experience, albeit in a new way that is different from the previous handheld and console titles.

Each of the two titles have a clear focus, which helps not only differentiate the two but aids them in being played concurrently. While Pokemon Go was always about exploring the real world and getting to experience the thrill of chance encounters with rare pocket monsters, Masters is all about the bond that trainers have with their Pokemon and working together to win battles. While Go has slowly added more RPG elements into it and received trainer battles earlier this year, it’s far from what draws players to Niantic’s innovative title and doesn’t quite scratch the same itch that the main games do.

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One of the most refreshing aspects of Pokemon Masters is getting to see a bunch of familiar faces. While the series isn’t exactly known for its plot, it has had a number of recognizable trainers introduced throughout the years. Many of these have been more fleshed out thanks to the various manga and anime adaptations of the series. This is why characters like Brock and Misty are so beloved and nearly every fan knows their personality despite them only having a few lines of dialogue in the original games. From gym leaders to members of the Elite Four, Masters has plenty of cool moments that reward longtime fans as they get to see characters from every generation.

Pokemon Masters highlights the bonds that develop between player and trainer

Pokemon Masterse

The bond that the player has with their pocket monsters has been one aspect that the mainline series has always struggled. Unlike the anime, which shows Ash Ketchum earning the respect of his stubborn Pikachu and then going through a number of beyond-belief adventures together, the games never show that type of bond developing. Sure, everyone has their favorite Pokemon that they like to use because they either look cool or have a good set of moves, but they are all replaceable to an extent. If someone offered me to trade the Squirtle I trained all the way to level 70 for one that was already level 75 and had better stats then I would take that trade without a second thought. There is no actual attachment or personality shown, and that will always be one of the RPG’s shortcomings when compared to how fleshed out the world is within other mediums.

Pokemon Masters manages to avoid this issue by featuring a number of side stories that show how the trainer and their Pokemon get along. From Brock bonding with his beloved Onyx that has been by his side since his humble beginnings in Pewter City to Barry getting to see his Piplup evolve, players get to see sides of the characters that aren’t normally explored during the games. Since there is a singular focus of each trainer only using their favorite pocket monster, players get to spend time appreciating these character moments that take place in a much smaller scale rather than attempting to save the world for a nefarious organization like in the main series.

These bonds also serve a more practical purpose, as they result in a new type of move that is unique to Pokemon Masters. Called Sync Moves, these are powerful maneuvers that the trainers come up with on their own with their Pokemon. It’s reminiscent of the anime, where Ash and Pikachu would come up with a genius plan to win a battle they were getting obliterated in, such as using a gym’s water sprinklers to make Onyx susceptible to electric attacks, and feel more unique than simply calling out attack moves from a list. The names are ridiculous ranging from “Dark Authority Black Hole Eclipse” to “Wandering Artist Twinkle Tackle,” but they capture the personality of both the trainer and the Pokemon that joins them in battle.

Pokemon Masters isn’t a replacement for Go and that’s a good thing

Pokemon Masters

Pokemon Go and Masters also play differently, and that’s also one of its biggest strengths. Go forces players to travel and actually move around, while Masters can just be played during any downtime one might have or at home. No matter if players are going out for a walk or waiting for a doctor appointment to start, there is now a mobile Pokemon game for them to keep them occupied for a few minutes. Despite being released on the same platform, Masters was never meant to serve as a replacement to Go, but rather another option that fills different needs.

Masters is also an entirely story-driven experience as players make their way through the game’s 18 or so chapters. This is quite different from Go, which depends on player interaction and real-life events to create memorable moments. There’s not a right or wrong way to tackle this, and each game is successful despite having different design philosophies and goals. Ultimately, both games get to dive into different aspects of what it means to be a Pokemon trainer and they each do them justice.

Pokemon Masters will probably never blow up the App Store charts like Go did and will never be a cultural phenomenon that sweeps the nation, but it is a wonderful way to celebrate a side of Pokemon that is not seen as often as it should be. It’s great getting to see so many awesome characters that have been sitting on the sidelines since their mainline game have been released and getting more personality out of them. It won’t wind up replacing Pokemon Sword and Shield for anyone, but this is a great alternative that is doing its own thing.