Pokemon Unite

This is an image from the video game “Pokemon Unite.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is E — everyone. (CNS photo/Nintendo)

NEW YORK (CNS) — The folks behind the Pokemon Universe have parlayed that realm of imaginary creatures into one of the world’s most popular, profitable and family-friendly media franchises.

And they break new ground with “Pokemon Unite” (Nintendo), their second release of the year.

Up until now, the core games in the series have typically been single-player. With this title, however, Pokemon enters the world of multiplayer online battle arenas, also known as MOBA.

This easy-to-learn variation sees gamers, here called trainers, assisting Professor Phorus, a scientist researching Aeos energy — so-named for “Unite’s” island setting — by hosting friendly competitions.

Each match pits two teams of five players against each other, with each trainer controlling one creature. Gamers score points by defeating Pokemon on their half of the arena and collecting the Aeos energy left behind. Combat is simple with only two moves allowed.

Mystifyingly, it’s impossible to check the score during gameplay. Although this is likely intended to discourage players who are losing from quitting mid-match, some may be frustrated by this omission from the user interface.

By its very nature, of course, the MOBA genre involves interaction with others during online play. Text chat is limited to Nintendo-approved catchphrases, while voice chat can only be used during matches with users on a gamer’s friends list. Still, parents should exercise caution.

Although it’s not a landmark for the longstanding series, “Pokemon Unite” is currently free-to-start and offers excellent diversion and replayability.

Playable on Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

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Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.

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CAPSULE REVIEW

“Pokemon Unite” (Nintendo)

With this title, the popular franchise takes its first foray into the world of multiplayer online battle arenas, also known as MOBA. Gamers, here called trainers, assist a scientist by hosting friendly competitions. Each match pits two teams of five players against each other, with each participant controlling one of the titular creatures. While the MOBA genre necessarily involves interaction with others during online play, text chat is limited to Nintendo-approved catchphrases, while voice chat can only be used during matches with users on a gamer’s friends list. Still, parents should exercise caution. Although not a landmark for the longstanding series, this latest iteration is currently free-to-start and offers excellent diversion and replayability. Playable on Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

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CLASSIFICATION

“Pokemon Unite” (Nintendo) — Catholic News Service classification, A-I — general patronage. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.