Pokémon Home – Review
Follow Genre: Storage app
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Platform: Switch, iOS, Android
Tested on: Switch, Android

Pokémon Home – Review

Site Score
6.0
Good: Bringing old Pokémon into the current console generation
Bad: GTS functionality should have been included in Sword and Shield instead
User Score
3.7
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 3.7/10 (3 votes cast)

Over the last few years, Pokémon games have become somewhat controversial. Accusations of Game Freak being lazy, cutting content and rushing games to meet a yearly release schedule have been voiced by the fan base. As such, Pokémon Home has been met with skepticism, as many fans feel that this is yet another paywall between them and their favorite ‘mons. Are the fans rightfully criticizing Home, or is it worth the subscription?

Story

While Pokémon Home doesn’t really have a story in the classical sense, it’s nice to see some effort was put into giving the game somewhat of a premise with the introduction of Grand Oak. It’s not clear what his connection to the original professor Oak is, but looking behind the long hair and crazy glasses there’s a clear family resemblance. Grand Oak’s goal is to complete the Pokédex, although let’s face it: he’s not gonna be putting in any effort. That’s all up to you, although he does give you a Pikachu when you log in on the Switch version for the first time, and a Kanto starter of your choice (with its Hidden Ability!) on the mobile version. 

Graphics

For the last few years, the Pokémon games have been using the same 3D models, and Pokémon Bank makes use of these as well. Theoretically, this means that they should look the same, as in the other games, though there is a dramatic difference due to the lighting effects used. This is especially clear on the mobile version, where everything looks more saturated. The screenshots below show a comparison between Tyranitar in Pokémon Go and Pokémon Home. The models actually look better in Pokémon Go, though your mileage may vary on this. Everything looks good on the Switch version, with some Pokémon having never looked better. 

Sound

As you’re sorting your collection and looking at the ‘mons you stored, soothing background music plays. Trading music makes use of the familiar music that has been around in the main games, albeit slightly updated. Unfortunately, Pokémon sounds themselves have still not been updated and sound like clearer versions of their Game Boy cries, just like in the other games. 

Gameplay

Like its predecessors Pokémon Box and Pokémon Bank, Home mainly functions as a storage application for your virtual Pocket Monsters. You can store up to 6000 of the critters -provided you have a premium subscription- and if you jump through enough hoops you can transfer Pokémon from every previous main series game to Home. Although the original Game Boy (Color) games aren’t supported, you can still transfer Pokémon from the Virtual Console versions on 3DS. Each Pokémon post gen 6 receives a mark that indicates what game it originated from, and you’ll see a tiny Game Boy icon next to those Pokémon that originated from the Virtual Console. 

Of course, you’ll need to import these ‘mons to Home through Bank, the €5/year service on the 3DS, which is now free for a month to help players transfer their collections. While it’s a nice gesture on Game Freak’s part to offer it for free for a month, we can’t help but feel a little deceived -after all, if you’re not shelling out for Home, you can only store up to 30 mons, and as many of them cannot be transferred into Sword and Shield just yet, it’s no surprise that the more vocal part of the fan base is referring to the app as Pokémon Hostage. Additionally, while there has been no word on the closure of Bank, the arrival of Home is an indicator that the Pokémon Bank server will be shutting down at some point in the future. Fingers crossed there is a lengthy grace period again when the shutdown is announced, if only to transfer your remaining ‘mons. Of course, if you’re a long time veteran of the series chances are you’ve been storing your collection on Bank anyway. Transferring Pokémon is a relatively painless process and you don’t even need to dig up your 3DS to do so – logging into a Nintendo Network ID will transfer everything from Bank to Home. If you prefer to select which ‘mons to send over rather than everything, you can do so, but in this case, you will need your 3DS after all.

Once the transfer is complete, your Pokémon collection can be viewed from both the Switch and mobile versions -though each version offers different functionality. The Switch version works pretty much as Bank used to, with the ability to send Pokémon to and from the Switch games. Some restrictions apply: you cannot transfer any Pokémon that aren’t in Sword and Shield, although the upcoming DLC will add 200 mons and Pokémon from the Let’s Go series cannot be sent back to those games after they’ve been moved to Sword and Shield. At the time of writing, support for Pokémon Go isn’t live yet. This is coming soon, supposedly, although you can transfer first-generation Pokémon as well as Meltan and Melmetal by sending them to Let’s Go first. 

Pokémon are stored in boxes in the Switch version, just like in the main games. Arranging Pokémon in these boxes can be a hassle though, and while there are functions that allow you to sort and filter your collection, these functions only work temporarily. This is the main drawback of the Switch version. While the interface is clean and the search function works well enough, actually arranging your ‘mons can be a slow process, depending on the size of your collection. This issue isn’t present in the mobile version, which uses an interface and sorting options similar to that of Pokémon Go. Unfortunately, the mobile version doesn’t allow you to arrange the boxes, and your collection is presented as a long list. 

The Global Trade Service, or GTS for short, makes a welcome return in the mobile version. It’s odd that this series staple wasn’t present in Sword and Shield, as it has been around since the Diamond and Pearl era. Very little has changed, and your options to actually search for something specific are still very limited. Additionally, the GTS is still filled with unreasonable trade demands, such as people offering a level 1 Rattata in exchange for a Mewtwo, but that’s an issue that’s been around with the GTS forever. We found that the best way to use the GTS is to simply drop in a ‘mon and ask for a fair and reasonable trade, and that the system will then do the rest. Whether this is because one of the millions of other players stumbled upon your trade request or if there is some behind-the-scenes automated matchmaking isn’t really clear but it saves a lot of time and frustration. Do be aware that the trade economy is currently slightly skewed towards Pokémon that are unobtainable through the current-gen games, as many people are preparing for the DLC and are looking to complete their collections even if they didn’t have the DS and 3DS games these mons appeared in. As some of these species cannot currently be bred, due to being absent from Sword and Shield, their trade value has dramatically increased. 

There’s a couple of other trade functions embedded in the mobile app. Wonder Box works exactly like Wonder Trade in the main series games, except you can deposit multiple Pokémon in the box, and it can take up to six hours for them to be traded. Trade rooms, where you are randomly matched with other players to trade also exist, but they’re a buggy mess that don’t seem to be working at the moment. Friend trades are also possible, but they require you to be within a certain distance with said friend, for some reason. 

There’s a couple of issues with Home, and most of these seem tied to the mobile version. Reddit users have been complaining about synchronization issues between the mobile and Switch versions, with certain Pokémon not listed in the Pokédex even though they have been deposited. A glitch we encountered was that the mobile version showed Scizor as being transferable to Sword and Shield, although it isn’t. Pokémon that evolve through trading don’t do so in Home, although whether this is a glitch or intentional isn’t clear. Admittedly, the mobile app seemingly receives regular updates for bug fixes, so perhaps in a few months, the current issues (such as the infamous Nincada glitch) are ironed out, and new functionality is added. One thing that really could improve the app is to add the checkbox in the GTS that prevents you from seeing people demand Pokémon you don’t have. This function was present in the 3DS games, and it would certainly filter out the “impossible” trades that certain players put up.

Conclusion

Overall, the Premium version of Home offers all the functionality you’d expect but while it doesn’t break the bank -and doesn’t need a Nintendo Online subscription- we can’t help but feel it’s still a little overpriced. A lot of the functionality, such as the GTS, should have been included in Sword and Shield. Ironing out all the kinks, and perhaps expanding functionality in the future may make Home worth it in the future, but for now, the premium app is only worth it for hardcore Pokémaniacs, even if it shows promise.

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Rating: 3.7/10 (3 votes cast)
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Pokémon Home - Review, 3.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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