We’ve been whiling away the hours conjuring up our own artistic masterpieces since Art Academy first made itself known as a Nintendo DSiWare application. Along the way we’ve drawn Yoshi and Goombas in such time, muddled in among flowers, picturesque landscapes and enough fruit to fill an orchard, but we’re now treated to an iteration that squarely turns to Nintendo’s iconic IP to inspire us to draw.
Pokémon has enjoyed merging with several series before, whether that be Puzzle League or Nobunaga’s Ambition, and while Pokémon Art Academy’s announcement came out of the blue, it is the perfect opportunity for the broad demographic that the series attracts to learn how to draw their favourite pocket monsters that have populated our screens for so long.
Players assume the role of an artist that is newly enrolled at the Pokémon Art Academy which is run by Professor Andy, who happens to be the brother of Art Academy tutor, Vince. You aspire to become an artist for the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and partner with another character that shares a similar goal.
Trudging through the main part of Pokémon Art Academy will allow you to participate in lessons that teach you the various aspects of creating artwork. These gently take you from simple drawing and colouring through to more complex techniques such as lighting, hatching and so forth. All of these lessons are done with Pokémon as the basis to whatever you will draw, and alongside each lesson, there are additional mini-lessons that task you with using techniques learned on other templates. It is this mode that will serve as the real bulk of the game for most people and can take a while to complete if you want to fully immerse yourself in the concepts.
Alongside this, there’s also a Free Draw mode. This allows you to use any Pokémon template, creating artwork based on more than 100 Pokémon that fill the 3DS cart. You unlock most of these by completing the lessons within the game, but an option teases that additional artwork will become available by SpotPass through the Nintendo Network. This means you can look forward to the game continuing to add new templates for you to draw as time goes by. What’s more is that you can even bring in photos from your SD card, or take them while in-game with the 3DS camera, and use these as the basis for your drawings.
When you’re done, you can save your masterful creations and share those that you’re most proud of with the world. These are presented as editable Pokémon cards which are displayed within the in-game album, then able to be saved to an SD card, shared locally with other players, or by uploading it to Miiverse in the hope that you’ll receive plenty of “Yeahs!” from the community.
As can be expected from UK developer Headstrong Games’ burgeoning experience with the Art Academy series, it continues to be meticulously presented. The artboard is particularly simple to use, with responsive and lifelike drawing animations whether you’re using pencils, paints or pastels. Outside of this, there are few locales and variations to change the backdrop, but the game looks really nice. The music is catchy and subtle, and when you draw, you get the same sound effects as if you were using a pencil or an eraser which brings the experience to life.
In essence, this title could be very useful for children who are starting out with their art skills. It can give them tips and welcome guidance and is something I would have easily appreciated when I was younger. It’s also worth noting that this is a game that readily benefits from being played on a 3DS XL in comparison to the standard 3DS or 2DS, mainly due to the increased screen size.
It is those that pour plenty of energy into Pokémon Art Academy that will get the most out of it. If you’re not really willing to put in the time necessary to improve your skills then you won’t get the full benefit out of what it has to offer, while artistic Pokémon fans will easily find that it has plenty of appeal. The templates may make it seem easy to just duplicate what you see before you, the challenge is in using the lessons the game teaches you in order to create your own versions of the Pokémon.
For those that already own previous iterations, it must be said that Pokémon Art Academy doesn’t really build much further upon that which we’ve already encountered before. Although directly bringing Pokémon into the mix, what it does provide is a more significant pull that will hopefully entice those yet to experience what the Art Academy series has to offer.