When Pokémon Unite was announced last year during a Pokémon Presents, I was skeptical. As someone who has tried to get into the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) scene multiple times, the idea of Pokémon going down a similar path didn’t really excite me. However, after spending some time with the Pokémon Unite network test beta (downloaded from the Japanese Nintendo Switch eShop), those concerns are gone and replaced with anticipation for the full release next month. These are my hands-on impressions of the Pokémon Unite beta.
Unfortunately, I don’t speak Japanese, so my impressions are going to squarely focus on Pokémon Unite‘s gameplay. The game starts with a pretty basic tutorial. My problem with other MOBAs is the barrier to entry, which has become absurdly high these past few years. However, Pokémon Unite revels in the idea of being easy to understand, hence why I was able to experience the game even in Japanese. Your primary objective is to defeat wild and enemy Pokémon to score points. This is achieved by heading to the opposing team’s side of the map, where you will see a variety of “goal post”-like rings.
Before a match, you choose from a varied selection of playable Pokémon. You will begin the match as the first evolutionary stage of the Pokémon you choose, e.g., Charmander for Charizard. This adds another level of strategy to the battles, as you need to become stronger to defeat opposing Pokémon a lot quicker. Each Pocket Monster feels unique as well, with their own strengths and weaknesses playing an integral role during the selection process. Throughout the 10+ matches I played, I found myself attached to Venusaur, who is a ranged attacker. They use a variety of area-of-effect attacks, such as Sludge Bomb, which can be especially useful during long-distance encounters.
My only concern with Pokémon Unite is the variety of in-game currency options, which can actually be used to acquire new Pokémon. Microtransactions often cause a lot of issues in online games, so I hope that Pokémon Unite makes in-game progression fair and easy to understand. I’ll ultimately have to wait until the full release to grasp all mechanics fully.
However, from what I played, Pokémon Unite is shaping up to be an excellent free-to-play MOBA, and I can see myself becoming addicted to it. It runs at a solid 30 FPS on the Nintendo Switch version, and the visuals are actually quite pretty to look at. Overall, my first impressions of Pokémon Unite are extremely positive, and I’m excited to dive into the full release.
Pokémon Unite is scheduled to launch sometime next month on Nintendo Switch, with the mobile version arriving in September 2021.