We now have actual, honest-to-goodness information about what Pokemon Masters is, thanks to an in-depth trailer released earlier today on The Pokemon Company’s official Youtube channel. The first half of the trailer is just straight-up, undiluted Pokemon anime, featuring male and female versions of what we presume is Pokemon Master‘s new protagonist. After that, President and CEO of The Pokemon Company Tsunekazu Ishihara arrives to briefly name-drop Ken Sugimori (Executive/Art Director at GAME FREAK), before passing the mic to Yu Sasaki, Producer of Pokemon Masters at developer DeNA.
Pokemon Masters takes place on the (explicitly artificial) isle of Pasio (pass-ee-oh), a new location in the world of Pokemon. You, the protagonist, are there to compete in the Pokemon Masters League, which is a new tournament series designed for teams of Pokemon trainers. In order to qualify, you and the other Pokemon trainers you befriend must battle to acquire badges, as is customary.
Unlike battles in traditional Pokemon games, which are fully turn-based and cap out at two-on-two fights, Pokemon Masters employs real-time, three-on-three battles between two teams of trainers/Pokemon. Pokemon abilities are activated by spending segments of the “Move Gauge,” which refills over time. “Sync Moves,” meanwhile, are special attacks (replete with dope, full-screen animations) that Sasaki does not elaborate on, aside from saying that they “make battles a whole lot more exciting.” Trainers also have their own abilities, which can heal or amplify their Pokemon’s powers, which serves the purpose usually filled by items in traditional Pokemon games.
Most importantly, trainers and Pokemon are linked together in what Sasaki calls “Sync Pairs.” (Noticing a pattern?) This means that, should you want a specific Pokemon for your roster, you’ll have to find/befriend/acquire a Pokemon trainer who has that Pokemon. One might assume that two of the same Pokemon may have different abilities if owned by different trainers, but Sasaki does not specify; nor does he clarify the correlation between Sync Pairs and Sync Moves, which the names seem to imply.
Sasaki also fails to address how new trainers will be acquired, which is hugely important for a game of this type. Most free-to-play team building games feature multiple types of currency that are used to acquire randomized heroes from glorified capsule toy machines — hence the term “gacha” game. Whether we’re trying to get better, sexier versions of historical figures in Fate/Grand Order, or even more beautiful husbands in Granblue Fantasy, we know we’re gonna have to grind out some gems before we get to turn that crank.
Unless, of course, we’d like to spend anywhere from $4.99 to $99.99 (best value!!) to get some gems immediately. How deeply Pokemon Masters entrenches itself in these systems will have a huge impact on how it plays — getting new trainers may not seem worth the effort if they’re few and far between, but too many common trainers may make the ones you actually want seem unobtainable. Hopefully we’ll learn more about The Pokemon Company and DeNA’s plans for Pokemon Masters before the arrival of its equally mysterious release date, “Summer 2019.”