Pokémon Link Battle Review:

No, this is not a Zelda, Pokémon crossover.

Use the Squirtle, the Squirtle.
Use the Squirtle, the Squirtle.

Pokémon Link Battle is a 3DS eShop follow-up to Pokémon Link (Trozei in the USA) on the DS. It’s a match three style puzzle game in which you match up Pokémon on the bottom screen to deal damage to the one on the top screen, when it has zero health you catch it. The combination of match three gameplay and Pokémon is interesting, and the developers did a few interesting things with the tried and tested formula.

Firstly, as in the Pokémon games, the key is to deal super effective damage, each Pokémon retains their first type from the main games and as such if you are up against a water type, you should use an electric or grass, etc… What’s also interesting is that each Pokémon has a power rating out of five stars, the evolved forms therefore are of higher power, but are harder to catch as they have more health.

It’s not all this simple however, the Pokémon you are “fighting” deal damage to you (they can even knock through your defensive line, and find themselves in amongst your Pokémon – you don’t want this to happen). To get around damage there are three options: 1. Act quickly, prioritising super-effective attacks. 2. Use Chansey to heal yourself (matching 3 Chansey’s heals you). 3. Perform the super chain (my name for it).

pokemon link battle 3
Healing.

Indeed, Pokémon Link Battle works on chains, the bigger your chain, the more damage you dish out (or the more you heal yourself or your wall with the right Pokémon). Chains are simple, get one link of three Pokémon and you follow it up with another; the way to win proper however is to get a super chain – to get this you need to link four or more (any more than four and you lay your attack on all your opponents) corresponding Pokémon together, and follow that with another link, boom, you deal the damage. When you get a super chain the music changes, and any links of two matching Pokémon count as a link, with this you can clear your screen and get chains in ridiculously high numbers.

One of my best chains.
One of my best chains.

Another way in which the match three formula is changed is that before every stage you can put in at most three (or four…) of the Pokémon you have caught into your battle plan – if you’re finding a stage too hard, figure out the most common type you are up against, and put one in to combat it with super effective attacks. This is where Pokémon Link Battle falls down.

In order to get the most enjoyment possible from the game, you need to know the types of each Pokémon, right up until Pokémon X & Y. The game does tell you what type all the ones you’ve caught are, but it’s a faff looking through them all. To a large degree, the issues and strengths of this game come from the fact that it is Pokémon. Matching up is an issue to some extent also, as many Pokémon have similar colour schemes, and ultimately, their designs are too complicated compared to coloured gems or rocks or whatever. It’s visually busy, which you don’t really want in a puzzle game of this variety.

This won't end well.
This won’t end well.

Pokémon games are well known for their music, in Link Battle however, the music is disappointing, it doesn’t add anything worthy, which is a shame considering the strength of music in the series. There is not one memorable tune from the game, indeed, I largely didn’t bother with the sound even turned on.

The last issue with the game comes with hidden Pokémon. In each stage there is at least one Pokémon that is hidden, you know you haven’t caught it as there is a silhouette there telling you so but there is never a single hint given how you catch these hidden Pokémon; as it turns out, for the most part you have to get a chain of fifteen on the Pokémon before the hidden one (there are gaps on the timeline of the stage that should indicate where they appear), but this is information I got from Miiverse, and it didn’t seem to work every time. This lack of communication is irritating; at least one hint wouldn’t have hurt.

Despite all this, those looking for a simple enough puzzle game on their 3DS could probably do worse, as it offers plenty to stick your teeth into and it changes the match three formula just enough and gets away with it for the most part. It’s not very difficult to get to the end game, and the post-game content offers enough challenge for those looking for more intense puzzle action. I will say you could do worse than this game, but at its price point, I’d say wait for a sale or just spend more on one of the Tetris games available.

Summary:

Pokémon Link Battle is as simple as it is complicated, it’s too visually busy for a puzzle game and its intricacies don’t always work. However, this is still a decent enough puzzle game that is fine for short bursts on bus journeys or just for when you’re bored. Just don’t pay the full price.

Pokémon Link Battle proves that sometimes simpler is better.

68/100

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