Title: Pokemon Unite
Developer: Tencent, TiMi Studios
Publisher:The Pokémon Company
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)
Release Date: July 21, 2021
Pokemon Unite has finally dropped on the Nintendo Switch and as someone who’s not really a MOBA fan, I’m honestly both happy and surprised to say, this ain’t bad. I played a ton of matches, although I learned pretty much everything there is to know within the first two. But I got into a solid groove, especially with the two characters they introduce you to being incredibly helpful with information. Plus, honestly, POC in a Pokemon game is always a welcome sight.
If you haven’t heard of Pokemon Unite before, that’s fine. It’s not really at the forefront of Nintendo’s focus as it’s something they handed off to the company Tencent (I know…I know) to work on.
Pokemon Unite is a Pokemon-themed MOBA. You pick a hero from either the one you chose at the beginning or ones you’ve unlocked (early players also receive a ridiculously powerful Zeraora). You end up on a team of five, with no two people on the same team allowed to use the same Pokemon. One of the nice perks of this format is that if you haven’t chosen yet, it recommends Pokemon based on what gaps exist in the team. So if your team doesn’t have a lot of defenders, it’ll push you to pick something like a Snorlax.
Once you’re in the game, similar to all other MOBAs, you’ll find yourself on a map with multiple lanes. Luckily, this game only focuses on two lanes to keep it simple. Smaller Pokemon controlled by the computer, like Combees and Aipom, litter the map. Defeating these allows you to absorb energy (points). As you collect more points, you need to make your way to one of the enemy’s goals where you can dunk your collection through a hoop to earn your team points. Here’s my Charmeleon takes it to the hole earning my team 19 points.
The game also features side focuses. Pokemon, like Rotoms and Zapdos, will appear from time to time and defeating the stronger CPU-controlled enemies will earn your team temporary perks to make it easier to score goals for a couple of seconds. This is incredibly helpful as the more points you have, the longer you have to stand perfectly still and charge to dunk the points. Getting hit will reset the charge.
Another perk to defeating as many CPU enemies as possible is that they reward you with XP. This XP allows your character to get stronger, learn new moves and, depending on your Pokemon, evolve. That Charmeleon you saw in the above video started the fight as a Charmander and ended the battle as a massive Charizard. Ones like Zeraora, who does not evolve normally, simply levels up and learns new moves which replace the previous ones. Honestly, though, Zeraora needs to not worry about evolving because I can tear through teams with that adorable kitten.
The one thing to keep in mind with this game is that it’s ran by Tencent. If you know about Tencent you can probably skip the next few lines but if not, here’s why that’s something to think about, especially if you’re more debating getting this for your kids.
The game is “free-to-start,” which means you can download and play the game for free; but, there are a lot of things it’ll want you to pay for. There is a battle pass, just like Fortnite and other games, that costs real money if you want to unlock things. There is a free path for the pass but it’ll make sure you know what all you are missing and, as always in this dark area of our timeline, there are two forms of currency. One you can earn and one which you can pay real money for, and I promise you that thing you want doesn’t want your free duckets.
Luckily, it’s all mostly cosmetic so it doesn’t impact the actual gameplay or disrupt the balance. The first thing you get on the season pass that you pay for is a special outfit for Pikachu that makes it look like a recovering addict in a ball cap and loose hoodie. As Zeraora, excited to see a blue Pokemon coming at me thinking it was water type, I was thrown off when I realized it was Pikachu at the last second. There was also this costume for Venusaur that made me think of Nedry from Jurassic Park.
As for the game itself, it’s honestly fairly well done. The stadium doesn’t really offer a lot of variety but the character models look nice (not that Pokemon are super detailed to begin with). The attacks look like they hit hard. And there are minor nods to the core game, like being able to hide in tall grass and attack unsuspecting opponents.
My only complaint is the autoaim. The autoaim absolutely hates the other team. If you’re close to defeating a Rotom and an opponent runs past, if you don’t manually aim your attacks, your Pokemon will straight up lunge at that opponent, leaving the Rotom behind. It’s not a huge thing but being able to lock-on would be a godsend.
All-in-all though, Pokemon Unite is a great introduction to MOBA style games, and I hope to see more things happen with it. I would like to see them expand the number of Pokemon available. There are less than 20 to choose from out of over 1,000 Pokemon, two of them are Eldegoss and Cramorant.
Pokemon Unite busts out the gate as a very solid, very easy to pick up and play MOBA game. Even as someone who does not like MOBAs, I found myself getting really into the rounds and figuring out the tools quickly. Cute visuals, fun unlockables and a fun variety of play styles keep matches fresh and a quick chat feature helps avoid the toxicity that normally sticks to MOBAs like glue.