Pokemon Bank 3DS Review: Pokemon's Secret Weakness Rears its Head Once Again

Two eShop apps that are every bit as clunky as Pokemon X/Y itself.

Review by Kat Bailey, .

After being delayed more than a month, the Pokemon Bank and Pokemon Transporter apps have finally been released to the U.S. eShop. And after having played with them for a couple hours, it's clear that they are the quintessential Pokemon product -- clunky but (mostly) functional.

The apps are being billed as a cloud solution for storing Pokemon in case of a lost cartridge of vengeful siblings, but everyone knows its real utility is in moving old monsters from Pokemon Black and White to the newer games. That makes the Pokemon Bank/Pokemon Transporter apps only the latest in a long line of ad hoc Pokemon transfer solutions dating back to Pokemon Gold and Silver. And like those solutions, the Pokemon Transporter is kind of a pain to use.

The process goes like this:

  1. Download Pokemon Bank and open it. You will be given the option to download the Pokemon Transporter.
  2. Go into your copy of Pokemon Black/White or Black 2/White 2 and make sure your Pokemon are in Box 1 (for me, they were in the "Legendary" box).
  3. Exit and go into Pokemon Transporter. Move the Pokemon from the cartridge to the app using the box interface.
  4. Switch cartridges to Pokemon X/Y. Move Pokemon from Transporter Box into one of the Bank boxes.
  5. Exit the Bank app and go back into Pokemon Black 2. Move some more Pokemon over to Box 1. Repeat the above steps as needed.
  6. Using Pokemon Bank, move your monsters into your in-game boxes.
  7. Go into Pokemon X and use Pokemon Link. Your monsters will be done transporting.

In theory, it's not so bad. But after downloading the app, I ended up spending more than hour figuring out how to get my monsters from Point A to Point B. That's because, like most Pokemon products, it doesn't have very good instructions. As a result, I didn't realize that I could store my monsters in a Bank box while going back and forth between my copy of Pokemon Black 2, substantially prolonging the process. It also took me a while to realize that I had to use Pokemon Link to get them onto Pokemon X. Honestly, it's pretty confusing.

Once I figured it out, it wasn't quite as bad. But of course, I had to shuttle back and forth between the two apps to get my monsters, which meant that I spent a lot of time swapping my cartridges in and out of my Nintendo 3DS (not as much an issue for those who download from the eShop, but still). And as usual, there are numerous arbitrary limitations during the transfer process. For instance, items can't be transferred from generation to generation, which is an odd choice on Nintendo's part. At best, it just makes for more busywork as dedicated players are forced to grind up point to buy a Power Weight again.

Interestingly enough, the Pokemon Bank app had much greater issues before now, which was why it was delayed from its original December 27 release date. When it was first released in Japan, the server load was so great that it actually brought down eShop for a time, forcing Nintendo to pull the app from the store. It has also had trouble stopping certain hacked Pokemon, and it's unclear whether that issue has since been addressed (my Shadow Tag Litwick -- which had its alternate ability changed for Pokemon X didn't make it through, at least). Thankfully, the server issues have at least been addressed, significantly cutting down on the time it takes to connect and upload monsters.

Of the various transfer methods that Game Freak has devised over the years, the Pokemon Transporter app is probably the best. Swapping back and forth between apps is annoying, but the ability to load up a handful of Bank boxes before transferring is a plus. It's also bereft of the annoying minigames found in Pokemon Diamond/Pearl and Pokemon Black/White. Best of all: It doesn't require multiple systems to complete; and unlike the Diamond/Pearl transfer method, it doesn't limit transfers to six per 24 hour window.

That previous methods have been so annoying to use is a little ridiculous, but also fairly in keeping with Game Freak's approach to the series as a whole. Pokemon's modus operandi has long been to opaque as possible, often forcing users to go to the internet to figure out what they're supposed to be doing. It's an approach that has had the positive effect of creating a tight knit and extremely active community; but for a series that prides itself on its accessibility, it's strange how willfully obtuse it can be with elements like Pokemon transfers and effort values. 24 hours transfer waits are only the tip of the iceberg in that regard.

Still, while it feels incredibly clunky to repeatedly switch between four apps to transfer a handful of monsters, the Pokemonk Bank and Transporter apps get the job done. Like Pokemon X/Y itself, which dramatically streamlines a handful of mechanics, it represents a baby step or two in the right direction.

If we're really lucky, the next transporter app may once again rise to the level of Pokemon Box -- still the best Pokemon transfer program ever made. Until then, we wait.

3 /5

Pokemon Bank 3DS Review: Pokemon's Secret Weakness Rears its Head Once Again Kat Bailey Two eShop apps that are every bit as clunky as Pokemon X/Y itself. 2014-02-14T18:00:00-05:00 3 5

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Comments 7

  • Avatar for DiscordInc #1 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    I've heard of people getting hacked Pokemon through, but it's usually something that was hacked to get perfect IVs. I'm wondering if it only blocks Pokemon that have illegal moves, stats, or abilities as opposed to ones that are just unlikely or difficult to obtain.

    Like I believe they changed Litwik's hidden ability for XY. That would mean the one you tried uploading has an illegal ability, even if it was theoretically possible in BW.

    Getting back to the Bank itself, at least it looks like Gamefreak intends this to be a longterm solution, hence the annual fee. That should hopefully mean that whenever the next generation they can just use the bank again. That ought to minimize the pain a bit.
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  • Avatar for Zebetite #2 Zebetite 4 years ago
    I can see some of the writer's points, but I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree.

    Maybe it's because I'm a total poke-nut, but I figured the process out rather quickly. It only took me about 2 hours to transport around 540 pokemon - the activity log on my 3DS does not lie.

    Yeah, the system is clunky and I wish that it allowed more than one box of transfer at a time, but I'm willing to bet technical limitations are at work here. I'm hardly an expert, but I imagine getting the program to talk with the gen 5 games took some serious effort, both now and when the games were made.

    It could be better, yes, but as it's been pointed out, it could be a lot worse. I'm hoping the next generation of Pokemon games will refine the Pokemon Bank further.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #3 Roto13 4 years ago
    @Zebetite Do you really think two hours to transfer 540 Pokemon is acceptable? I was annoyed the whole time it took me to transfer my 650 Pokemon from Black to X. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes. I shouldn't have to waste hours doing this. It's like it was designed specifically to be as cumbersome as possible. Like they're trying to discourage you from transferring Pokemon forward.
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  • Avatar for Zebetite #4 Zebetite 4 years ago
    @Roto13 As opposed to what, exactly? The centuries that previous games required for transfer? Realistically, even the fastest transfer setup is going to take 15-30 minutes minimum for hordes such as ours in terms of pure logistics and bandwidth.

    I can see a person transferring just one box being "a few minutes". But for giant, series-spanning collections? That's going to take longer no matter what they come up with.

    To repeat myself, it could be better, but it could be a lot worse.

    On a side note, I wonder if part of it is bandwidth concerns. This program is no doubt generating a metric ton of server traffic for Nintendo even if individual pokemon data is rather small.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #5 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    @Zebetite The fact that you can only transfer stuff out of box 1 is what really makes it clunky. It makes it so you have to move what you want to transfer to box one, transfer it, then switch back to BW to move stuff to box 1 again.

    If you could upload form any box you could at least remove the clunk of having to switch back and forth. I don't know if there are technical reasons why it has to be box 1, but it's inconvenient nonetheless.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #6 Roto13 4 years ago
    @Zebetite Pokemon files are actually very small. It's a list of stats and letters. Nothing big (sprites, 3D models, sounds) has to be transferred. Pokemon Box and Pokemon Stadium let you transfer all of your Pokemon to a game/memory card and it took barely any time at all. Not to mention that transferring lots of Pokemon from X/Y to the Pokemon Bank doesn't take very long at all. The many extra steps in this process are completely artificial.

    Also, the reason the servers were crashing with the original launch is because you had to log into the Nintendo Network several times for each box, which you'd have to do a lot less if you could just transfer everything at once.
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  • Avatar for TheSL #7 TheSL 4 years ago
    The funny thing is, I used the wall surf glitch from Japanese Pokemon Diamond to get "legit" (i.e. the ones that you needed special event items to get to) Darkrai and Shaymin, but the transfer app marked them as hacked for some reason.
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