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Friday, May 7, 2021

Review: Poker Pretty Girls Battle: Fantasy World Edition (Nintendo Switch)


Review by Matt S.

The good people at EastAsiaSoft seem determined to singlehandedly bring every budget fan service game to the Nintendo Switch. Note, though, I'm not complaining (I've got a visual novel to pitch your way, BTW. Hit me up). Poker Pretty Girls Battle: Fantasy World Edition is the latest one, and this game offers Texas Hold 'Em Poker, with the added bonus of the presence of pretty, big-boobed girls. As such, this is perfectly fine entertainment.

The girls are split up into groups of four. Beat each girl at poker once and you'll unlock part of a picture of them together. Beat them all and you'll get the full picture to enjoy, and unlock the next set of girls. There is no narrative nor explanation about any of these girls. They don't even have personalities. They're just pretty pictures of various fantasy tropes (fairies, elves, and all that other good stuff). In fact, in the game, they're barely present at all. While you're playing the poker itself, these characters are only represented on the screen as their face icon over a poker chip. Even putting aside the lack of the narrative, the latter does seem like a bit of a missed opportunity for fan service there. They could have turned the deck of cards into characters in various states of undress, for example. That worked for Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, after all.

Or.... it could have been strip poker. Okay, so this is a little bit of a digression outside of the scope of Poker Pretty Girls Battle: Fantasy World Edition, but I miss strip poker video games. Back in the day, before video games could render detailed graphics, there was an absolute deluge of strip poker games. On the DOS and early era operating systems, you could find them anywhere, complete with hyper-grainy renderings of the women (seriously, the Internet Archive has a treasure trove of them). These kinds of games have all dried up - a quick search on Steam reveals only half a dozen across the million-odd games on the platform. Even Itch.io only has one or two genuine efforts, and it's usually a good place to go for sexytimes games. I understand that times change and all that and there's a greater sensitivity towards objectification (and yes, fair enough, too), but the better strip poker games had a strong emphasis on the playful and pinup, rather than a pure indulgence on male gaze sleaze, and the stakes (a girl dressing or undressing, depending on how your hands were going) was so much more entertaining than playing for virtual money as you do in poker games these days. Poker is fun, but it's the prize that matters, and to me, if it's not real money up for grabs then, I'd prefer an alternative to virtual cash.


Anyhow, that really is a digression; Poker Pretty Girls Battle is not strip poker and doesn't try to be, so it would be silly to knock it down for it. What it is, however, is a surprisingly clean game of Texas Hold 'Em. The AI is more than competent (particularly on the higher levels), and the flow of the game is nice. It's no-frills in its approach, but the Switch doesn't really have poker (aside from the Dead or Alive mini-game, and a truncated take on the game in Clubhouse games), so this is actually a welcome addition for people who enjoy the odds-counting strategy of poker.

It's presented nicely too, with an interface that isn't cluttered or confusing. My only technical gripe is that it can be a little difficult to see the difference between the suits. Hearts and diamonds, clubs and spades do look similar, particularly the shared cards in the middle of the table, and particularly when you're playing it in handheld mode. The numbers are always readable, but it's harder than it should be to be sure whether you've got a flush or not (and, given the value of flushes, whether you've got a hand worth betting big on or not). It's a small UI issue that wasn't considered in bringing the game from PC monitors to the console, but it is worth noting given the impact it can have on otherwise good hands.

There are only two ways to play Poker Pretty Girls Battle: There's the "scenario mode" where you're trying to win games to earn those pictures and unlock more opponents, and "free mode" where you can choose your favourite opponents and just play a game. Free mode's rather pointless since none of the characters have enough personality to care about which you're playing, but unlocking the art via the scenario mode offers more than enough content, given that poker games can run on for a while if the cards aren't going your way. 


One other thing I would add quickly here; because Poker Pretty Girls Battle is so no-frills about the game of poker, it's actually a good place to go to practice your game. The AI isn't particularly susceptible to bluffing, but that's actually a good thing, since "bluffing" mechanics tend to lead you to play the real game of poker terribly. It's better that you practice the form of poker which is about learning and playing the odds, and then you work on the "social" game in the real scenario. Now, with that being said, the lack of a substantial training mode (and less-than-inspired "how to play" instructions) means that Poker Pretty Girls Battle is not a good place for complete poker newcomers to start. Given that a few might pick the game up because they're fans of anime girls rather than poker, that seems like an oversight.

However, as someone who does enjoy poker and likes fan service, Poker Pretty Girls Battle checks off all the boxes, and as a budget-pitched Switch title, I had a ball with this. It's the perfect low-demanding game to play while watching TV or between more dense games, and given that I've been playing murder mysteries like Famicom Detective Club, the grindy (however delightful) New Pokemon Snap, and the existential nightmare that is Shin Megami Tensei III on my Switch recently, Poker Pretty Girls Battle has been the perfect "in-between" thing. It also gets even better with a couple of beers... just like the real thing!



- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb


Review: Poker Pretty Girls Battle: Fantasy World Edition (Nintendo Switch)
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