Pokemon Dream Radar is something of an interesting experiment for Nintendo. In a way, it almost feels like a way of testing the waters, to see what its customers will pay for, and what they’d expect for free. Pokemon Dream Radar is a downloadable eShop “game” that actually works as a sort-of add-on for Pokemon Black or White Version 2. We say “game” in inverted commas, because if you don’t already own a copy of Black or White Version 2, you’ll find there’s next to nothing you can actually do here. It’s less a game, and more an intricate way of charging for access to new, and rare Pokemon. We’d probably better explain.
In concept, Pokemon Dream Radar sounds great. Taking the 3DS’s built-in game, Face Raiders, and giving it a Poke-makeover, Dream Radar turns your living room/bedroom/house/toilet into a Pokemon hunting ground. Making use of the 3DS’s camera and motion sesnors, you hold your 3DS up in front of you, and use it to look around your room, as you search for bright pink clouds. Find a cloud, point your 3DS at it, and press A, and you’ll fire a laser at it, which will reveal either a number of Dream Orbs, which you then have to shoot to collect, or, if you’re incredibly lucky, a large, glowing, yellow sphere - which certainly knows how to put up a fight.
Get the latter, and it’s into combat mode, as the sphere tries its best to evade you, zipping all over the place, and you do your best to stick with it, tilting, angling, and waving your 3DS around like you’re completely insane. Unluckily for you, these spheres are pretty good at dodging, too – meaning this isn’t a game you’ll want to play sitting down, or in an enclosed space. Like on a train. We certainly ended up getting some funny looks when we chased the orb behind us, and ended up pointing our 3DS right at another passenger...
With a health bar displayed at the top, it’s up to you to zap the sphere as much as you can before the time runs out, with the intention of getting its health down to zero. It’s trickier than it sounds – and to make matters worse, the sphere can fight back. Firing its own projectiles at you, which, if they hit you, strip precious seconds away, it’s certainly keen to put up a fight. And so you hunt it down – mashing the A button, chasing it hither and thither, until you finally bring its health down to zero, and...
You’ve found a berry!
And this is one of the main problems with Pokemon Dream Radar. Rather than catching Pokemon, more often than not you’ll find yourself simply collecting berries, stones, and Dream Orbs, rather than actually building a lean fighting team. Actually coming across a Pokemon is a fairly rare occurrence, and even then, according to Bulbapedia, there’s only a few Pokemon you can find – which would certainly explain our collection of five Riolus.
And as if the limited selection, and frequency of Pokemon wasn’t already bad enough, there are further limitations on your time with the game, too. Each time you go into the “Dream World” and actually try to catch a Pokemon, you’ll be presented with, initially, a collection of five clouds. Get through them all without a bite, and you’ll likely want to dive straight back in and try again. Nope. Instead, the clouds take time to regenerate, with your initial set taking roughly twenty minutes to come back. Of course, you can always choose to instantly regenerate them by spending five play coins, but even then, you can only use it three times a day.
Even when you’ve managed to catch a collection of Pokemon, though, you'll find they serve absolutely no purpose in the confines of the Dream Radar app. You can have a maximum of five Pokemon in the app at any one time (and can choose to release any you don't want, should you catch a sixth), but there’s nothing you can actually do with them - there's no way to see what level they’re on, change their nickname, check their moves, etc – instead, all you can do is choose to transfer them over to a Pokemon Black and White Version 2 game cartridge, if it’s in your 3DS’s slot. Which is a little bit disappointing.
But although these limitations may be annoying, we can at least see why they were implemented. Pokemon is a game that requires balance, and a game like this, without limitations, could certainly have risked upset that balance. Imagine letting people “Catch ‘em all” without even setting foot in the game, or being able to collect dozens of rare candies (which increase your Pokemon’s level if you feed it to them), simply by shooting at virtual clouds. It would have led to some incredibly unfair battles on Pokemon Black and White Version 2 – so we can at least understand why Dream Radar's been so terribly limited.
But by trying to maintain the balance, Nintendo have ended up making a game that’s so restricted, so narrow in scope, and so reliant on Pokemon Black and White Version 2 that it doesn’t really serve a purpose of its own. With such a limited range of Pokemon to catch, such restrictions on when and how you can catch them, and no real “game” to speak of of its own, Pokemon Dream Radar simply isn’t worth the price tag. Were it available for free, to encourage people to buy the game, or maybe as a pre-order bonus, things may be different – but Pokemon Dream Radar is an app that really shouldn’t be for sale.