The fun thing about being a working adult with a good ole fashioned 9-5 desk job is that you miss out on fun things like Nintendo Directs. I learned about the announcements of the Pokemon Direct not from the comfort of my bed or my living room couch, but while I was neck-deep in police citations and court paperwork. Between appointments I managed to catch the occasional tweet on the subject, but I didn’t get to fully experience the Direct for myself until the evening, after I’d already digested the opinions of many others who saw it live.
I got a pretty consistent vibe from Twitter – an overall feeling of disappointment. This Direct wasn’t exactly what Pokemon fans were clamoring for. No word on Pokemon Stars, the only Pokemon game we’re getting for Switch is a port of Pokken Tournament, and instead of fourth gen remakes we’re getting “sequels” to Sun and Moon only a year after the original games’ release. While there were certainly some folks pleased by these announcements, the overall sense that I got before I even watched the goofy thing was a sense of being underwhelmed and unimpressed.
Watching it after I already knew what to expect helped me to go in with lowered expectations and a degree of clarity, and that allowed me to appreciate the announcements a bit more than I probably would have had I watched them live. I definitely was expecting Pokemon Stars to be a real thing (and to be fair, it still could be), and the fact that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon aren’t going to be Switch titles is certainly a bummer. But let’s take a minute to examine what we’re really learning here.
Pokken Tournament was a pretty well-received title on the Wii U. People enjoyed the game and it seemed like a successful side project for the company. Yet anyone who knows the gaming market knows that the Wii U’s garbage sales prevented many gamers from actually experiencing exclusive titles like this one. That means that while this game was pretty well-received, not a large audience of gamers really got to experience it.
Enter Nintendo Switch. Suddenly, Nintendo has a console that a crud-ton of people own (we’re very scientific here), many of whom never touched the Wii U. This is a good opportunity for “new” Nintendo fans to experience the Wii U’s best games – look at how well Mario Kart Deluxe took off! Pokken was another solid entry into the Wii U library that went underappreciated, so this is an opportunity for people who never got to play the original to experience the game – and to experience a better game than the first wave of players got.
The Switch version of Pokken Tournament adds five new fighters to the roster: Scizor, Croagunk, Empoleon, Darkrai, and Decidueye. The first four are apparently in the arcade versions of the game – but who has one of those lying around? Home console players don’t get to use these characters, and the fifth character will be totally new to the roster. Deluxe also includes new modes, like team matches where you can choose multiple Pokemon to switch between, or daily challenges to play. Ranked matches are also a new feature, which combines well with the fact that the Switch is viable for competitive online in comparison to the Wii U’s limited internet services. Throw in the Switch’s portability and the ability to play two-player anytime with Joy-Con functionality and this game is going to be better on Switch than it ever was on Wii U. And now, more people can enjoy it!
The Direct also confirmed that there’s going to be a Pokken Tournament tournament (ugh) during E3 on June 14th, as well as demos available. That will be pretty awesome as getting to see the game in action and playing it directly will help sell it to consumers. Personally, I think it would be awesome if we could get a demo similar to the ARMS Testpunch or Splatoon Testfire – getting to experience a competitive game like this online with everyone else is engaging and helps to build excitement for the game in a way that a traditional demo doesn’t achieve.
While Pokken Tournament took up a pretty hefty portion of the Direct, it probably wasn’t the most interesting part. At the end of the Pokken trailer, when everything seemed as if it was wrapping up, the focus suddenly shifted to the New 2DS of the little kids in the background and showed off exactly what they were playing: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. We know absolutely nothing about these two titles other than the name, a VERY brief trailer, and the fact that they feature an “alternate storyline” with Pokemon that “didn’t appear in the original versions.” Interpreting those statements is more of an art than a science and I plan to do a post solely dedicated to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon this Friday. But for now, I’ll focus on my reaction to the news.
Honestly, I am more excited about this idea than I was about Pokemon Stars. In my mind, I pictured Pokemon Stars as being equivalent to Emerald or Platinum – you get the exclusive Pokemon from both games and a bit more story. If you read my Pokemon Stars wish list, then you know I honestly had no interest in picking up Pokemon Stars unless they made some serious changes to the Sun and Moon formula. However, this approach is a whole ‘nother matter.
I’m excited for Pokemon Ultra because these games have an opportunity to introduce new features that wouldn’t be possible in what is effectively a “deluxe version” of Sun and Moon. While the phrase “alternate storyline” seems to suggest that a sequel isn’t what we are looking at here, there’s potential for Pokemon Ultra to be great follow-ups to the original Sun and Moon. If it’s set in the future, we’ll see the ramifications of the events in the original games. If it’s literally an alternative to the original storyline, hopefully it will be different enough that it doesn’t feel like playing the same game twice.
At the end of the day, yes, we didn’t get Pokemon Stars. I am particularly disappointed that our next mainline Pokemon experience is not on the Nintendo Switch. But I think that new games, even though they use the same engine, have more potential than a fancy port. Particularly when you consider that it will have only been a year since Sun and Moon’s release when the new games come out. To use another series as an example, look at Majora’s Mask – that game used the same assets as Ocarina of Time and yet took the series to a very different place. Majora’s Mask stands out on its own merit, and I hope that Pokemon Ultra manages to do the same thing by really changing up what Sun and Moon brought to the table.
As sort of a final bonus, we found out that when Pokken Tournament launches in September, we’ll also get virtual console versions of Pokemon Gold and Silver. I actually find this news to be pretty exciting; Silver was my favorite game in the series as a kid and to this day I have a fondness in my heart and soul for that generation (get it?!). The fact that I will soon be able to experience that game again, play it online with friends, and carry over my Pokemon from that title into newer games via Pokemon Bank is great news. I don’t think of myself as a “genwunner” but I do prefer the original games in the series over the newest entries, so this is a great opportunity for folks like me to re-experience the Pokemon that they fell in love with in the first place.
Overall, I understand why folks are disappointed in this Direct but for me personally some pretty interesting stuff came out of it. I stated on Twitter that for those who wanted Pokemon to be announced at E3, this direct has demonstrated that it was probably better that it didn’t happen. Think of how much more disappointing it would have been to be expecting Pokemon Stars at E3 and then to get Pokemon Ultra instead. No, this was a great way for Nintendo to get this potential letdown out of the way before the convention, and I for one think that once the initial disappointment wears off, this can still be good news. Black 2 and White 2 were very well-received by the Pokemon community, and I think that Pokemon Ultra has the potential to be just as successful if it’s done well.
What do you think, adventurers? Did you watch the Direct? What were your thoughts on the subject? Are you disappointed or do you like what you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments and be sure to come back on Friday to hear my hopes and dreams for Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon!