Over a year ago many would have doubted that we’d ever see Nintendo’s IPs on smartphones: the Kyoto-based company has always been notoriously exclusive when it comes to its biggest franchise out of fear of becoming irrelevant in the market. The hugely popular Pokémon Go was the turning point, quickly followed by the underrated Fire Emblem and Mr. Nintendo himself, Super Mario. Like Pokemon Go and Duel before it, Magikarp Jump isn’t developed by Nintendo itself, but nevertheless puts one of the company’s most popular IPs on smartphones – and with mixed results.
Magikarp Jump is a simulation game in which you catch, grow, and battle with different Magikarp Pokémon. After using an old rod to fish for your friend, you help it to become bigger and stronger by feeding and training it. Each item of food or method of training gives the Pokémon a certain amount of jump points (JP), which is essentially a measure of its strength. Different meals and gym sessions can be unlocked along the way as you level up, meaning your Magikarp can become stronger more quickly. In order to level up you need experience points, which are awarded for winning jump battles against other trainers: if your Pokémon has more jump points than the opposing one it will jump higher, resulting in a win. The overall goal is to win every jump league, of which there are eight – only then can you become a Magikarp master.
Throughout the game you’ll change Magikarp several times, whether it be because your Pokémon has won you a tournament or it’s been swept up by a Pidgeotto. When one has successfully retired, the maximum level and size the next one can reach is increased, so that you can progress further in each league. To make the number of jump points you receive relative to the Magikarp’s maximum level, though, you can use in-game currency to purchase new food-types and training methods, or increase the rewards from your existing ones. To get the in-game currency – gold coins – in the first place you’ll need to level up your Pokémon, or wait until coin prizes come around every now and then. Alternatively, you can use diamonds – the other in-game currency – to purchase Pokémon friends, fish tank decorations, or other items to help boost the number of JPs your Magikarp receives from food and training. The better the methods you purchase, the more chance you have of out-jumping your opponents.
Undoubtedly the weakest Pokémon of its generation, Magikarp has long been joked about within the Pokémon fan community; it’s a clever and humorous decision to have it appear in a standalone game, then.
Undoubtedly the weakest Pokémon of its generation, Magikarp has long been joked about within the Pokémon fan community; it’s a clever and humorous decision to have it appear in a standalone game, then. For all that the series represents – legendary monsters, evolution, and epic battles – Magikarp offers some respite, and has you training the most basic of Pokémon for the most basic of competitions. It’s a decision that fans of the game will be pleased with: an iconic character gets its chance to shine in a game that overall isn’t bad. It still has the feel of the original series with similar characters and familiar pocket monsters, and the whole game flows well: levelling up enough to compete in jumping competitions doesn’t take much time, whereas other simulation games can take hours of waiting around for any sort of progression. The mechanic of constantly renewing your Magikarp is also an interesting one, as it adds to the idea of levelling up and moving on.
This is really only a game for fans of the Pokémon series, though. It serves as an in-joke, a nod to the original games that those who didn’t play them wouldn’t understand. A simulation game in which nothing changes but how high your fish can jump would be nonsensical to non-fans, but hilariously ingenious to those who grew up catching this useless Pokémon. Because of this Magikarp Jump is unlikely to win over new fans for the franchise, but it will no doubt please its loyal ones.