Review: Pokédex 3D Pro (3DS eShop)

It's evolution, baby

Admit it – if you were ever a fan of Pokémon, you probably wanted a Pokédex. The best-forgotten LCD-screened plastic versions aside, the 3DS eShop's Pokédex 3D was the first time you could hold the all-knowing electronic encyclopaedia in the palm of your hand – the catch was that it only contained the 150 Unova-region monsters from Pokémon Black and White.

Pokédex 3D Pro has got you covered. It brings together the vast majority of the 649 Pokémon, plus their various alternate Formes, in one package for your viewing pleasure. The most recent two species, Meloetta and Genesect, haven't made the cut – though there are two conspicuous spaces at the end of the 'dex just waiting to be filled in – but all your other favourites, from Abomasnow to Zweilous, are present and correct. You no longer have to unlock them either; they're all available from the very start.

Just as in the first eShop Pokédex, each Pokémon gets the 3D modelling treatment. Most of the creatures look phenomenal; the models are beautifully smooth and match up to our expectations of how Pokémon in three dimensions should be. It's quite exciting to look through them all to see how they've been converted, spotting new details that might have been missed in their previous incarnations, and it's easy to imagine that these models are early glimpses into future games in the series; if Pokémon is going to go down the 3D route at some point, we want to see Pokédex 3D Pro's interpretations along for the ride.

Press a button and they emit their traditional Game Boy-style call – some things are harder to let go of than others, apparently – and do a little jig or launch an attack. The art team has clearly had some fun with these: some are ridiculous, others the very definition of adorable, and many of them take advantage of stereoscopic 3D. Water Pokémon spit out bubbles, Fire types scorch the air before you and more physical monsters swipe out. A special mention has to be given to the utterly disgusting Grimer, which wobbles and drips toxic goo as it stares at you. You can change the backgrounds around to see them all in fancy different lighting settings, too.

Pokédex 3D Pro isn't just there to look pretty, though: each Pokémon's page is packed full of information, from statistics (only presented in vague meters rather than actual numbers, unfortunately) to evolutions, abilities to egg groups, move lists to heights and weights. It's nothing that you can't already find on the Internet, but to have it in an easy to navigate, attractive 3DS application is quite nice.

The entries are all smoothly integrated; if you're on Pidgeotto's page, you can check out the evolutionary information – what it evolves from, to and the conditions for each transformation – and then click on Pidgey or Pidgeot to move to their pages instantly. Similarly, you can tap on any move to be taken to information on the attack, listing its type, base power and a list of every Pokémon that can learn it and how.

Both Pokémon and moves can be searched, sorted and filtered in just about any way you'd want to from an ever-present tab at the bottom of the touch screen. You can find only those Pokémon in the Dragon egg group or with a certain ability, for example, or sort them by height or region if you prefer. The options for moves are more limited, but still useful: they can be flicked through alphabetically or according to type and attack kind (physical, special or status changing).

Augmented Reality also returns from the original Pokédex 3D. Each Pokémon and individual Forme comes with its own unique AR code on its profile; sketch the marker out, display it on a screen or print it onto a piece of paper and aim your 3DS' outer cameras at it to bring all your favourites into your living room for photo opportunities (the AR markers from the first Pokédex 3D are still compatible as well). Pictures can be saved to the SD card and up to five can be added into the Pokédex database for each creature. You can also display monsters at scale size; the instruction manual even advises you to keep this box ticked and make an AR marker of one metre square to take photos of Pokémon at "life size." Finally, our dreams of posing with a Charizard can come true!

Several AR markers can be tracked at once, so you can create a little army on your floor if that's what you're into. In addition, when using AR mode you can test out attack types on Pokémon: aim at the one you want to assault, click the attack and you're told how such a move type would effect that monster, whether it's super effective or not useful in any regard. If you have a few Pokémon hopping about, you can ask how they all stack up on a number of stats too, which is a cool touch. Press the "speed" button, for instance, and number rankings pop up to show who's the quickest among the currently displayed beasts.

Finally, there are 36 quizzes to test your knowledge. These start simply – name this Pokémon, name that Pokémon – before expanding to test you on everything from Unown shapes to matching cries, heights and Pokédex entries (some of the easiest to answer, as several of the questions actually directly give you the correct response). These multiple choice trials will really separate the elite trainers from the bug catchers; you can take them as many times as you want, and each time 10 new questions are generated at random. As well as getting the right answers, part of the challenge is also to complete each set as quickly as possible.

There are also a couple that ask you to survive 100 rounds of mixed queries or last as long as possible. Do well on the long exams and you'll be well on your way to becoming a Pokémon professor. On top of that there are a few custom slots that let you make up new challenges of varying difficulties and question types, but the contents are only determined by entering messy character strings; it's not very intuitive at all and at complete odds with the rest of the package.

Unfortunately there is one huge problem that prevents Pokédex 3D Pro from landing a critical hit: the price. It's a great package with a lot of information, but for what it is – essentially a database with plenty of pretty 3D models and search options, plus some AR distractions and quizzes – it's far too expensive at the current price point of £13.49/$14.99. It would be costly at half that price but would at least be more in-line with other eShop releases; when you consider that a content-rich game like Pullblox is available on the eShop for about 40% of the price, it's a bit of a problem. No doubt it took some time and money to pull together all those lovely Pokémon models, but the resulting price does not sit well at all.

Conclusion

Pokédex 3D Pro pulls tons of data and some fun asides together in a stylishly presented, smooth application, and the brand-new 3D Pokémon models are just delightful. However, the price point is far beyond what we'd expect to pay for such a package — especially when so much of the information is freely available online — and so, despite its quality, comes difficult to recommend to all but the most enthusiastic of Pokémon masters.

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