Opinion Piece: On Nintendo’s Mobile games + Animal Crossing’s

So, before I get into this, I want to say this is more on my opinions as per usual and not based on general commentary or sales or anything like that. I will also be including the Pokemon mobile games in this, even though they were made by other companies. The only ones I will not bring up are Pokemon Shuffle and various other Pokemon picture/music apps, the former as it is just a port of the 3DS game and the latter as they aren’t really games.

First up is Pokemon GO. It’s been out for nearly 8 months now and while the popularity has died down and you see less people playing it, it’s actually still pretty popular and I still play it everyday. I would say my biggest issue at this point is the fact that even now, months after release, the only way to earn coins is from owning a Gym.

Unless you’re fortunate to be able to get a Pokestop by your house/job/school or head out a lot and there aren’t too many far away, you’re going to run into issues with items. And even if you may be fortunate to be in that situation, there is still the issue of space and space can only be gotten from purchasing with coins. Extra incubators to help free up egg space quicker, extra space for Pokemon (as you will be catching a lot to get enough candy to evolve them and even more if you care a lot about having the highest CP possible for each with the best attacks…), extra space for items… It just constantly adds up and when you can only get, at most, 10 coins a day and only if you manage to be in 10 different gyms… It’s a bit of a mess.

From where I live, we have one gym several blocks away and in that radius, two Pokestops. I don’t often get to go to any of these and even if I got to that gym, even now, there is a constant battle over it. It changes multiple times a day and I likely wouldn’t hold it very long at all, so I’d get 1 coin a day, at most.

I don’t think a Defender Bonus is bad though. Even if I prefer not to bother with gyms or battling (I’ll probably do so eventually to earn the badges/medals), I think a defender bonus IS a good way for money, but I also think it should be increased while catching Pokemon and using Pokestops should give some coins as well. Limiting coins to only that Defender Bonus is just ridiculous. Sure, you can technically play the game without any space increasing, but unless they give us some free box upgrades once Gen 2 and future gens are fully in the game, that won’t always be the case.

The other issue is partially due to the new Nearby system. I really liked the original footprint system and while it was a bit unclear, it was fun to explore the neighborhood and find new Pokemon. The new system lessens exploring a bit for one (afterall, it tells you right where it is, and sure, maybe it’s a slightly new place, but you’re not going to just stumble upon new areas), but is highly skewed towards people near Pokestops. Because it says nearby based on a Pokestop it’s at, if you don’t have any Pokestops near them, you’re much less likely to find any Pokemon at all. There’s also no real way to try tracking Pokemon anymore. It almost feels like a backtrack to what I feel the app originally did.

Near my house, we have 2 Pokestops and a Gym within a radius of 1-2 miles. It’s better than some people, but it’s not something I easily get to go to. We will sometimes get a Pokemon right by our house, but it’s random and pretty rare. And despite that rarity, it’s Pidgey or Rattata 90% of the time. Meanwhile, if we’re going out and driving on a highway or something where there are no Pokestops, we find pretty much nothing now. Early on when the game first came out, we’d often find some new Pokemon everytime. Now it’s just miles of emptiness and it’s pretty discouraging. I can only imagine how it is for people who do live where there are no Pokestops at all. I mean, the Valentine’s Day Event is going on right now and is supposed to increase the chances of pink Pokemon. So far, I’ve seen two and that’s it. This is a huge contrast to the Halloween event where it actually helped me catch new Pokemon and/or get enough to evolve.

Despite these issues though, I’m still playing Pokemon GO everyday and still looking forward to updates. Heck, the Valentine’s Day event just started and I’m really hoping to get a few specific Pokemon. I just hope they’ll eventually improve some of these issues to make it a friendlier experience for everyone.

Next up is Super Mario Run. The game is currently only out for iOS devices which is…super disappointing. I’ve had to borrow a family member’s iOS device, but it’s really frustrating and something I hope they avoid in the future, especially as they’ve already finished with one special event and have another going on right now. Super Mario Run is a fairly simple game–it’s an auto runner, you tap to jump, that’s really it. Depending which character you play, they have different abilities. Peach floats, Toad moves faster, Luigi jumps higher, Yoshi can flutter jump, etc.

The game also costs $10 to play beyond World 1, which while other people have issues, I’m 100% fine with. Stamina systems suck and I’m so glad I can just play the levels whenever I feel like it. That said, certain modes almost make me want certain freemium things because they’re incredibly frustrating which brings me to the bane of my enjoyment for this game: Toad Rally.

Toad Rally puts you head to head with another player’s time, the goal is to get more coins than them. The problem here is:
1. The only way to earn Toads is through Toad Rally.
2. Stars are incredibly overpowered. Just like in The Wizard, if you get the star, you essentially win. They pull coins towards you and so most of the time, they will be an auto-win for the other player if you don’t manage to get one too. Similarly, if you’re doing terrible and get a star, it can be an entire game changer and secure you a win.
3. You lose Toads if you lose.

3 is the biggest issue, honestly. I can deal with everything else if I didn’t end up losing my Toads each time I tried and lost. Toads are pretty important in the game as you can’t build most things without getting a certain amount of Toads, including Character Huts to unlock the ability to play certain characters. The customization is all tied to Toads and so while I’m sitting here on a mountain of coins, I can’t actually get anything I want because my Toad count just isn’t good enough. And even with a recent update of lowering it, I’m still losing 10%-20% of my Toads if I do lose. It’s just not fun. I wish I could do something to prevent myself from losing Toads, heck, I wish I could buy Toads because it’s just not a mode I enjoy at all and considering how much I love customization, it’s hard for me to feel encouraged to play.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of playing against people. I don’t mind teamwork, but being put up against other players is not a fun experience for me. Toad Rally not only forces me into that, but also constantly destroys any progress I make due to just not being good enough to keep my Toad count up.

One other issue is that any character besides Mario and Luigi will die if they hit anything. There is no Mushroom to help them get bigger. They have one chance and if you fail, they go into that bubble. Speaking of that bubble, it is a pain to pop and sometimes I’ve managed to just kill myself over and over because touch screens are annoying. Regardless, we’ve already seen Chibi Peach in Super Mario 3D World so I don’t know why they made it this way. I feel like the other characters should work the same way.

That said, Super Mario Run’s main issue, besides Toad Rally’s existence, is that it’s just very grind-y. You need to grind up all these Toads for events and items in the game and losing them just makes it even more frustrating. The most recent event requires you to stomp on 100 Golden Goombas which will spawn at least one randomly in a specific level. Where it spawns varies, but if you don’t actually kill it, it doesn’t count. And while it seems simple enough, it’s actually very tedious as you need to play through the entire level and sometimes you may not even see it or manage to kill it.

The other thing Super Mario Run has for you to do is coin collecting. You can collect 5 Pink Coins per level which will then allow you to get 5 Purple Coins and then finally 5 Black Coins. These unlock special medals for you along with a special world that relates to each once you’ve gotten all the color coins in each level. My main issue here is that you always need to get all 5 in one go for it to count. There’s almost always one that is just infuriating for me and then once I get it, I somehow screw up the rest. I wish it remembered which I had gotten already so I wasn’t doing the same thing over and over.

Super Mario Run is probably the mobile game I’ve had the least fun with and its solely due to a lot of quality of life stuff (constantly needing to re-get every coin, losing Toads, one-hit deaths with 4/6 characters). Considering they did lessen how many Toads you lose, I’m just really hoping they’ll add more ways to earn Toads in general that won’t actually risk any.

After that, we have Pokemon Duel which was a huge surprise to say the least. The game released as Pokemon Comaster in April 2016 in Japan. There had been no information or notice of the game coming overseas and it essentially came out of nowhere. The game is essentially a digital version of the old Pokemon Trading Figure Game on a new board game system. It’s simple enough, get to the end goal on the other side and you win. I’m not a huge fan of strategy games and generally just prefer collecting, but I actually ended up having a lot of fun with this game. I always felt the stamina let me play tons and usually if I hit a point where I was out of stamina, I felt satisfied and ready for a break anyway.

I recently finished the story thus far, though, it is not complete just yet. The only real complaints I have are:
1. That play leads you to multiplayer. The fact that story mode is in a side thing called “Quests” is really odd.
2. Lack of customization. I was so excited to see the customization when I first started it, but it’s honestly kind of lacking. I was really hoping we’d eventually get more hair or even a different outfit/unique suit, but no luck. I also feel like the game generally seems to refer to you as a male (even if no specific pronouns are set, it comes off that way to me) and that’s also a bit frustrating. The only real customization is with all the masks, honestly.

3. Very small space. While they are pretty generous with gems and I feel like I’ve earned a lot as I played, I do feel that 50 is a very small limit with so many figures and Pokemon.

I’m not too fond of the timelock systems either, but as the only way to really earn them is in the Play/Multiplayer Versus, I don’t really earn them much anyway.

Regardless, it is one of the few games I’ve played where the Stamina just doesn’t bother me at all, if not the only game. I also feel the game is super generous with gems and I’ve gotten a lot of figures thanks to that. I’m definitely looking forward to the next part of the story.

Finally, we’ve come to the most recent game–Fire Emblem: Heroes. I’m not the biggest Fire Emblem fan. I really enjoyed Awakening, but hated Fates, and other than knowing the characters in Smash Brothers, that is the extent of my Fire Emblem knowledge. Regardless, when the Battle Ballot started, I actually looked up all the characters to figure out who I would vote for and ended up stumbling upon many new characters I found interesting:

I was sad to see that Sumia, one of my favorite overall characters, is not in just yet, but many others I really liked are at least. And despite that and despite even my lack of caring much for strategy games, I’ve found Fire Emblem Heroes really fun. I do wish the gacha was a bit better (I originally thought you’d be able to get characters similar to in the game where you could talk to them in some of the maps) or you could even trade in multiple characters for ones you want, but I’m still generally really enjoying it.

The current summons end the 15th and I have four characters I still really want: Elise, Linde, Azura, and Catria. Elise and Linde are my top priorities, but it seems unlikely I’ll manage to get them. So far, the best pull I’ve gotten is when I finally got Sakura:

I’ve not gotten that lucky again (best since has been 3 5-Stars), but I’ve gotten many 5 Stars of either the same characters of characters I don’t even want. I’ve gotten Lyn 5 times now and most recently, another Robin (for 3 times now) and Hinoka. There are people who have spent thousands on the game and not gotten everyone and that’s kind of scary to think about. I don’t even want all the characters and have gotten so many I don’t want, but the chances of getting the last few I do are so low and it’s super sad to think about.

My current team is Sakura, Tiki/Takumi (switching between), Robin, and Lyn. I may switch Lyn out for Lucina if I level Lucina enough and Robin will be switched out for Linde if I can ever get her.

I would say my biggest issues with Fire Emblem Heroes, besides Gacha issues (though honestly, the orb prices are pretty good), come down to the following:
1. No custom unit. Considering the story and having played Awakening and Fates, I was really expecting character customization. Even if I didn’t get some big fancy art and just had my sprite, I was still expecting to be able to fight alongside these characters. The sprites really reminded me of Scribblenauts so I just kept expecting to be able to make this cute mashed up character. Even if the game didn’t let me, I had fun trying to do so myself:

Even if they didn’t fight, it’d be more fun to see to identify your friends and who is visiting versus the same several units that multiple friends may like.
2. Stamina doesn’t upgrade. Your cost to play each level goes up immensely as you play and/or change the difficulty, but you still only have 50 stamina. I can get two story attempts in at a time at this point before I’m stuck waiting for it to charge again. It just goes too slowly and I feel like I get through maps quickly and then am sitting there with nothing to do.
3. Feathers to get from 4 star to 5 star is just… way too much. 20,000 is a lot. 5,000-10,000 I feel would be much more reasonable. You can get 10-15 feathers a day normally, more from sending heroes home (which considering you can get SP and stuff by combining them or even up to 10 additional levels if the same rank, you may want to keep them more often than not), occasionally from quests, and/or from the Arena based on your rank. Similar to Super Mario Run’s Toad Rally, it puts you up against another player’s team and it’s better to play on harder difficulties to get more points in order to get a higher score for more feathers. It’s not personally a mode I enjoy for many reasons and I generally don’t find the match-making very balanced at all. It’s just not a fun mode to me.
4. This is a relatively small thing compared to the rest, but I wish there was an Undo button. So many times the touchscreen has read my placement wrong and I went to the wrong spot or I put myself in the correct spot and accidentally finish that character’s movement without attacking when I went to. These often can be game-costing mistakes and it just sucks that there’s not really anything you can do if it happens to you.
5. Healers need better heals. Their heals should go up as they level. The fact that the best wand only does 8 to multiple people is awful, especially as all your character’s HP goes up. Sure, the special ability can help, but it’s just not enough and this is why many people aren’t playing healers. It feels pointless when you heal so little.

In general, I am still enjoying the game as I continue my struggles, but there is definitely a lot I hope to see improved in the future.

Now that I’m finished talking about all of the current mobile games, I want to talk about the last one we know is coming soon–Animal Crossing. At the moment, we have no idea what to expect for this game. It was announced along with Fire Emblem ages ago and that’s it and while I could easily envision mobile games for everything else on this list, I am having so much trouble thinking of anything that will work with Animal Crossing and not completely suck. Animal Crossing is an interesting game because it technically does have a waiting system due to it being a real time game, but it still always has stuff for you to do. Even if I’m waiting to meet with a villager or for new favors to be available or for Nook to finish my house expansion, I can still fish, catch bugs, make designs, water flowers, and continue to enjoy my village and I’ve having such a hard time of thinking of any kind of game where all of these things will fit in. Everything I can think of either makes the game too slow/grind-y or only focuses on one small aspect. We know the game will connect to future Animal Crossing games and/or New Leaf, but how will it work in the first place?

So, I wanted to bring up some of the types that came to mind that I hope it won’t be:
1. Action-based story games. These tend to sound interesting with quests, a good customization, and usually even a room you can customize, but the problem is the quests are tedious and huge energy hogs. They usually involve you randomly clicking certain parts of the screen with each click using up energy. The catch is that you’re also timed. If you get too low of a score (usually out of 5), you’ll “fail” or do incredibly poorly on your task, so if you decide to step away while energy refills, you need to hope you don’t forget to check back in. These timers can vary anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours. It’s repetitive and people end up often pressured to spend money for energy due to worrying about not checking back in time. It’s also lazy as it’s literally the same thing over and over with just some different lines of text for what you’re clicking on.
2. Kingdom Builders. If you think of early Facebook games, this is what I’m referring to. You set up buildings and wait for them to finish, you click things to try and find materials in order to make more stuff, you try and build up a town and make it self sustaining. It’s RNG-based for getting certain items and requires a lot of waiting with little, if anything, to do in the meantime.
3. Restaurant games. You take orders and do them. Similar to doing the Coffee service at Brewster’s Cafe in New Leaf.
4. Minigames – Whether it be fully dedicated to fishing (use certain baits to catch the fish), bug catching, the museum, designing, gardening, or coffee brewing, it feels like a disservice to Animal Crossing to only center on one thing.
5. Games that have nothing to do with what’s going on, but somehow cause the town/garden/whatever you’re in to upgrade and get better anyway. Usually games like Tetris, Bejeweled, or various other matching games. Slow and repetitive.
6. Happy Home Designer in a game – Nintendo already said they would always try to make new experiences rather than a port, so I’d feel it’d be more likely to be more exterior-based than interior based or a combo of both with that touch screen thing, but I just worry it’ll be too much like a Kingdom Builder game.

Regardless, I’m keeping my fingers crossed they will do amazing things with an Animal Crossing mobile game as it’s something I really want to love.