The latest game from The Pokémon Company and DeNA, Pokémon Masters is somewhat of a departure from the normal Pokémon games. Very much a game designed for phones, Pokémon Masters is still a lot of fun, with complex game mechanics, as well as that all-important "Collectors" mentality.

The game releases officially in September but if you are in Canada — or you are a little sneaky — you can play it today.

What is Pokémon Masters about?

Pokémon Masters leans heavily on our desire for nostalgia, as well our need to complete collections, by asking us to travel around the island of Pasio, collecting things as we go. Pokémon Masters isn't about collecting all the Pokémon though; it's about collecting the trainers you know and love from the TV shows, movies, and video games, along with their signature Pokémon. These are known as Sync Pairs.

The story mode has you as a young trainer coming to Pasio to compete in the PML, the local battle league. Because it's based on teams of Trainers using just one Pokémon instead of the normal free for all, the strategies are completely different from previous games. As you travel around, you get to meet cool people from the games, battle with them, and, hopefully, recruit them to your cause.

Getting started

Getting started is pretty simple. Once you have downloaded the game, you have to go through a sign-in process that we show you here, and once you have your Poryphone and your Pikachu, you are ready to go. The game is pretty much on rails for the first few hours of the gameplay, as it walks you through all the different things you can do.

The first hour covers most of the basics while the next few hours build your Sync Pairs to the point where you have one of each of the starter types at least. It also explains much of the leveling system used in the game, making getting into the swing of it all very simple.

More: Getting started in Pokémon Masters

Sync Pairs

When you battle in Pokémon Masters, you use a team of three Trainers and three Pokémon to fight against another pair of three. These pairings of Pokémon and Trainers are called Sync Pairs, the core mechanic for the entire game. Not only do you need them to fight, but you need to collect them all. Most of them are collectible as you play through the missions but some will need to be purchased through the games shop, and, of course, more will become available as DeNA updates and expands the game.

A Sync Pair is always a famous Trainer from one of the many Pokémon franchises, and for me, who grew up with the originals, having Brock and Misty with me from the start gives me the warm fuzzies like you wouldn't believe. Nostalgia is Queen.

Combat

Combat in Pokémon Masters is both simple and tactical. You use your three Sync Pairs to attack another three pairs. Each Pair starts with an attack and a buff, and each Pair has room to learn two more moves as well as a passive move. Attacks use an energy bar that you have to expend. As time goes on, the energy bars fill and the more powerful attack, the more energy bars it takes to use.

Buffs, happily, do not require energy to use but you have a finite of charges on the power. So if you are waiting for the energy to fill, consider using a potion to heal your Sync Pair, or increase the speed of the energy refill. Once you have used a certain amount of buffs and attacks, you will get to use your big sync move.

Sync moves are devastating attacks that have their own cutscene and deal massive damage to the Sync Pair it is aimed at. Right now, each Sync Pair can only have one sync move, but that is likely to change in the future. You can only choose one of your Sync Pairs to use their Sync move, and once it's used, you will have to power it back up again by using standard attacks.

In-game store

There are three types of currency in Pokémon Masters: Free Gems (FG), Purchased Gems (PG), and Coins. Both Free Gems and Coins are given to you throughout the game for completing goals and winning matches. The third type, Purchased Gems, are, naturally, paid for with real money.

You can buy Sync Pairs using Gems that you purchase with actual money or with the Gems you get in-game, though the prive will vary based on type. If you use "purchased Gems", the cost of your Sync Pair is just 100 Gems while for Free Gems, it's 300. This is frustrating as it makes you feel like you need to buy them to somehow "save Gems" but really, you don't need to spend any money if you don't want to.

The other two sections of the shop are where you purchase PG and where you transfer coins. Purchasing Gems is standard for a modern mobile game and the prices seem to be on par with other games like this. If you spend $0.99 you will get 100 PG — enough to buy one of the Daily Sync Pairs — but the more you spend, the more you get. With the biggest payout of $80, you get 9,800 PG which is 1,800 more than you would get if you bought $0.99 packages.

But please, don't spend $80 at a time on this game. In-app purchases make you want to buy more in-app purchases, so space them out to save your money and sanity. The best way I have found is to use Google Play Gift Cards to add a balance to your phone. Once you have spent that gift card, you are done for that month. It keeps me from overspending.

Leveling up

There are several cool ways you can enhance your Sync Pairs in Pokémon Masters including evolving your Pokémon, leveling up through combat, and by using items to add new moves to your arsenal. Each one will allow your Sync Pairs to stand out from the crowd, and become a powerhouse in combat.

Evolving your Pokémon involves story missions when your Sync Pair is a high enough level. You will also need to exchange coins for the evolution crystal you will need, costing around 3,000 coins right now. Having the evolution be an actual storyline is great and means there will be a huge amount of content. After all, there are currently 60 Sync Pairs available and though I am sure they don't all have evolution stories yet, they will continue to expand on them, making the replayability of the game almost endless.

Leveling up is a little more mundane. You level up after every combat, as well as by using manuals that are given as rewards in-game. Leveling up your Sync Pair increases their stats in combat so it is extremely important to keep up with the levels. The trainer manuals don't give any other benefit so use them as needed, especially if you get a new Sync Pair that you need to level up quickly.

You can also add new, more powerful moves to your Sync Pairs by using training machines — and later tonics — to upgrade them. The passive moves are much harder to level up and take a lot longer to save the resources for, so we will save them for another post. To get you started though, the game gives you plenty of training machines to give each of your Sync Pairs a new move.

Any questions?

Of course, what I think of as beginner information you might not, so help me out and ask as many questions as you like. The more I know about your needs the more information I can give you.

Safety first

Google Play Gift Card

For the kids

Getting a play gift card is the safest way to give your child, or self, money on a phone. When it's gone, it's gone, and it can help avoid overspending.

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