A small adventure awaits budding artists in Pokémon Art Academy, which is delightfully appealing to children and adults alike. What it may lack in stretching accomplished artists, it delivers in bundles for beginners with easy-to-follow lessons and a good selection of fan-favourite Pokémon.
Though it may be a niche franchise, Art Academy has proven its success in the touch-based generation of Nintendo consoles. And for the first time, Pokémon fans can learn how to draw their much-loved pocket monsters from the adorably small to the ferocious and large in the 3DS application. With a variety of artist tools, Pokémon Art Academy takes you through the basics one step at a time – first you’ll learn how to quickly sketch a Pokémon’s face, then from an angle or from a curled-up pose, and eventually you’ll be taught advance techniques to bring the otherwise flat, two-dimensional sketches to life. It’s linear, accessible and, most importantly, it’s a whole bunch of fun.
Pokémon Art Academy offers three stages – apprentice, novice, and graduate – along with three to four main lessons and several mini lessons per course. Players will work alongside the Art Academy’s professor and AI buddy Lee in each lesson, learning a basic skill set with one or two main tools at any given time. There’s no grading system implemented so, no matter how your drawings turn out, players will never be forced into creating masterful pieces of art to unlock more content. The stage’s main lessons merely need to be completed in order to progress, with mini lessons serving as an extra practise session to reinforce the skill set learnt.
Although not as diverse as other professional artist applications, Pokémon Art Academy certainly delivers with an array of tools in comparison to previous entries in the franchise. From the standard outline pen and markers to the more creative pastel and graffiti spray can, players can experiment with many different styles to produce their ideal and most-treasured Pokémon. Though the lessons always pinpoint which specific thicknesses and opaque settings you should use, don’t be afraid to opt for the smallest thickness setting in order to achieve those sharper details, particularly in the advanced and unlockable bonus sections.
Providing a linear approach, the application’s lessons become too restrictive in due time and its main gripe falls at the feet of the franchise’s mascot: Pikachu. Players must conclude each stage’s finale by drawing Pikachu and applying the various techniques learnt. But since there’s no other option to draw additional Pokémon at this stage, players are forced to draw Pikachu three times – it’s tedious rather than circular, taking up two slots which could be given to other firm favourites instead.
While free paint offers a greater selection of Pokémon, without the guidance of lessons, beginners may feel out of their depth and uncomfortable with such an open format. However, construction lines and grid markers can be chosen from the layer tool, providing a basic guideline for rough sketching. Additionally, users will find the full palette, eyedropper and colour picker tools for a more superior creative control.
Pokémon Art Academy gives users plenty of space to save their sketches in the album, as well as Miiverse interaction. But it does lack an image sharing tool, as seen in Tomodachi Life, in order to share to additional social networks with ease. And though 3D isn’t utilised, the app doesn’t suffer from its exclusion, perhaps only missing out on aesthetic appeal, making it perfect for 2DS users.
With superb accuracy between stylus and touch screen, Pokémon Art Academy delivers a solid experience for long-term fans who have yearned to draw their favourite characters. But its main drawback is its inability to bridge the middle ground between lessons and free paint. It may not be a standard Pokémon adventure, but its slogan can always be adapted: gotta sketch ‘em all.