Well adventurers, after skipping the Pokemon hype train for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, I am officially back in business! Last night at 9 PM EST (from my American perspective, anyway) a press conference began in Japan where four new Pokemon titles were revealed. These titles were Pokemon Quest, the Pikachu and Eevee versions of Pokemon Let’s Go, and an untitled Pokemon RPG slated for a late 2019 release. I, of course, have emotions about all of this, so let’s jump right in and start talking about all of the exciting news!
POKEMON SWITCH 2019
This was the last announcement of the night but for some fans, it was also the most hype. For those who wanted the next Pokemon game to be the first entry in generation eight, this unnamed title is the one with the most potential. I personally would be flabbergasted if this isn’t the 8th gen Pokemon game – words like “all-new” and “core series” certainly make it seem like the next main entry into the Pokemon series. For the time being, though, this is also the title that we know the least about, so it’s hard to talk about much further. I expect we won’t really hear anything more about this title until this time next year so that Pokemon Lets Go can receive all the focus that it is due.
I am going to use this opportunity to make a prediction, though. The Pokemon game in 2020 will be the remake of Diamond and Pearl. A lot of fans have been clambering for these remakes for quite some time; some were even surprised that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon or even Let’s Go did not turn out to be fourth gen remakes. However, I said some time ago on Twitter that I personally suspect that Diamond/Pearl/Platinum will be remade during gen eight. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: we got second gen remakes in gen four, and third gen remakes in gen six. That’s…really all I’m going off of, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and call this one a genuine prediction!
This game was the first one announced as part of the conference, and to see Twitter’s reaction you’d think Game Freak declared that they were canceling the series forever. I suppose that some people saw it out of context, not realizing that this was only the first reveal in a series, so their reactions were a bit stronger because they thought this was the big Pokemon Switch game that was announced at E3 last year. I can certainly understand how that would have been disappointing, but knowing that this game isn’t all we have to look forward to, let’s talk about it a little bit.
Pokemon Quest is a game that will appear on Nintendo Switch and mobile platforms as a free-to-start title. If that phrase makes you nervous, welcome to the club. Pokemon Quest features Pokemon from the Kanto region in a boxy format – comparisons to Roblox and Minecraft already abound online. From what little I can tell from the tweets by the Pokemon company, you play as up to three Pokemon and explore an island called Tumblecube. There, you can explore in search of hidden treasures which you can use to unlock more Pokemon and empower the ones you already have. Your three Pokemon battle using two different moves with a cooldown – it reminded me of my limited experience playing Pokemon Rumble with my younger brother.
The cool thing about this title is that if you’re interested, you can check it out right away on your Nintendo Switch. The mobile version of the game is going to be a bit longer in the making and other news sources I am reading (thanks, Polygon) seem to be pegging late June as the release date for that. But hey, why wait on the mobile version when you can play the game for free right now on the Switch? If you’re legitimately interested in this game, the best thing you can do is go ahead and download it now to see what you’re looking at. It’s free-to-start, so if you don’t like it you can bail before it starts to cost you anything.
POKEMON LET’S GO PIKACHU AND LET’S GO EEVEE
Oh yeah, this is the good stuff right here. If you told me a year ago that I would be excited about a Pokemon Go title, I would have laughed in your face. But Game Freak has played it smart and integrated the least invasive aspects of Pokemon Go into a more traditional RPG experience, and they did it in my favorite location in the Pokemon world: Kanto. Now this decision is somewhat divisive within the fandom – some folks are dog-tired of Kanto and want to explore somewhere else. Just as there is a whole group of people who only know or care about the first generation of Pokemon (“genwunners”), there is an almost opposite group that has no interest in revisiting the region that started it all.
Me, I’m over the moon about heading back to Kanto. This is where I started my journey all those years ago. While I have come to love many Pokemon from the newer generations, the original 151 will always be a little more special to me, a little more iconic. This game appeals to exactly what I want from a Pokemon title – to revisit the nostalgic locations from my past with all of the mechanical improvements that the series has enjoyed over the last 20 years. Pokemon Let’s Go drops in November and I plan to be there day one exploring Kanto all over again.
So why the Let’s Go branding? What’s that all about? Well, this version of Pokemon has incorporated some changes from Pokemon Go as well as some integration with the mobile title. The most obvious change here is how catching Pokemon works – you actually have to move your arm. I know, it’s awful, but stay with me here. It looks like capturing works more like Go in the sense that you have to actually throw your Pokeball instead of just clicking a menu option. The big difference here is that it looks like you don’t battle wild Pokemon at all. I watched the trailer a couple of different times and it shows the transition from the overworld to the wild Pokemon encounter screen, and your only options are “get ready” (which prompts the capturing mechanic), “items,” “help,” and “run away.” So it looks like weakening Pokemon to make them easier to catch is totally absent here.
“But wait! If capturing wild Pokemon doesn’t require a battle any more, does that mean that the battle system has been removed?” That doesn’t seem to be the case, thankfully. We get a pretty good look at the battle screen during the co-op part of the trailer, and you can clearly see the player selecting from a classic Pokemon move list, as well as displays for HP/level plus slots for a team of six Pokemon. The normal combat system seems to be present here despite the changes to capturing Pokemon.
With that in mind, it looks like the biggest change made by the Pokemon Go elements is that capturing Pokemon is less about strategically weakening a wild Pokemon into just the perfect amount of HP and status problems in order to catch them, and more about flinging a Pokeball at everything you see. Personally, that’s a change I can get behind. The way Pokemon capturing has historically worked is kind of a pain in the tail, particularly where catching legendaries is concerned. Making some quality-of-life changes to that system that makes the whole thing more accessible is a pretty agreeable change in my book.
The Pokemon Go elements don’t end there, though. You can also bring over Kanto Pokemon that you’ve captured in Pokemon Go into your copy of Let’s Go Pikachu or Let’s Go Eevee. This allows them to play somewhere called the Go Park, which I’m guessing is some kind of neutral location where they don’t get to participate in battles or gain experience. That’s just conjecture on my part, though. What is definitely confirmed by the trailer is that playing around in Go Park can lead to earning presents for Pokemon Go, so the relationship between the games doesn’t just go one-way.
They also showed off the Poke Ball Plus accessory, which effectively works as a Joy-Con for the Switch that you can then take with you places so that your Pikachu can coo on the picnic table for all your friends. Yes, you read that correctly, adventurers. The trailer didn’t have a lot to say about the benefits of taking your Pokemon for a stroll, but the website confirms that allowing a Pokemon to spend time in the Poke Ball Plus will lead to in-game rewards. Additionally, it works as a Pokemon Go Plus accessory for the mobile game. I will say this – although I personally don’t have Pokemon Go (WINDOWS PHONE!!!!), it does seem like the integration of these games is well-done and multifaceted.
I haven’t touched on the co-op yet, so allow me to say that I personally think that’s a pretty cool option. Pokemon is kind of an odd co-op game in the sense that the series has historically been a versus title – the multiplayer is almost exclusively focused on battling, though there’s also a trading aspect to be had. In Let’s Go, you’ll be able to travel side-by-side in the overworld, work together to capture Pokemon, and even battle side-by-side. This last feature seems to be the most broken – the trailer shows that the opponent only has one Pokemon on the field while the co-op players have two, so this is definitely gonna be the game’s easy mode. That’s compounded by the fact that it’s easier to capture Pokemon when you time your throws together.
All that being said, I doubt anyone playing Pokemon cooperatively is doing so for a more difficult experience. Having a co-op mode definitely adds to the accessibility factor of the game, and since you only play with one Joy-Con each, that means that the most basic Switch setup is still multiplayer-ready when it comes to Pokemon Let’s Go. If your buddy sees you capturing Pokemon and wants to jump in, it’s simple to do so. This accessibility plays into the Switch’s primary marketing strategy (hey, want to play this game with me? Here, have half my controller) and works well with the mass appeal of Pokemon Go. Personally, I think it’s cool that I could potentially play this game with my son, who is starting to get to the point where he can play simple video games. Swinging a Joy-Con should be pretty doable for him!
As far as a couple of other small touches they showed off, Pokemon once again can follow you in the field. This was emphasized most with the two starters but was clearly shown towards the end of the trailer to apply to any Pokemon in your party. This is something that a lot of folks loved in Yellow and then in HeartGold and SoulSilver, so I imagine that a lot of fans are happy to see this back. Pikachu and Eevee have outfit customization, but it was hard to tell if this feature extended to the trainers. And finally, random encounters have been lost in favor of finding Pokemon on the overworld map.
I think my main worry here is how the changes to the capturing system might affect the RPG elements of Pokemon. If you don’t fight wild Pokemon, just capture them, do you gain experience for your team? If you don’t, how do you level up your Pokemon? Are there more trainer battles than there used to be? Is the focus more on quality time than on combat? If there’s more focus on catching Pokemon in the Go style, is leveling up your Pokemon tied to the number that you have, or are Pokemon levels static and you keep having to catch new ones in hopes of finding one with a high level? These mechanical questions that are raised by the changes to the capturing system are the only aspect of this game that makes me uneasy in any way. If they nail the Pokemon Go integration, I think there’s potential here to revitalize the Pokemon formula and give us all a much-needed breath of fresh air.
So what’s my overall impression of this game? I’d have to say I am very excited for Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee – but mostly Eevee. Golly, does anybody even LIKE Pikachu? In all seriousness, though, I think this game definitely has potential to be a fun Pokemon title, and from a business sense it is a smart move on Pokemon’s part. They draw in the Pokemon Go/gen one crowd with an accessible game where Pokemon catching works like the mobile game but battling works like the video game. They don’t overwhelm these new players with a ton of Pokemon they have never heard of, and they don’t overwhelm their own ability to operate on a new console by limiting the Pokemon selection. When gen eight hits in 2019, they’ll know the Switch better and will have built up the interest of the Pokemon Go fanbase in the idea of playing main series Pokemon titles. If this game is good, it could mean even bigger dollar signs for Game Freak moving forward – and in the process, we get a pretty cool game!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the announcement, adventurers. Are you excited for any of the games the Pokemon company announced last night? Does the Pokemon Go integration make you happy or nervous? Are you team Pikachu or team Eevee? Let me know in the comments, and keep your eyes peeled for more Pokemon coverage here on Adventure Rules next week – I’ve already got a pretty good idea what my next article will cover!