The Pokémon Company – together with Game Freak and Niantic – announced not one, but three new Pokémon games that will launch within the next year and a half. Pokémon Quest for the Nintendo Switch and mobile, which was available for free on Switch immediately after the announcement; Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee for the Switch, to be released on November 16; and a core RPG title, also for the Switch, planned for 2019.
If the Pokémon Company had announced any of these games singularly, I can only imagine the number of fans who would have been let down for one reason or another. I’m sure I would have complained, too.
I’m hesitant to accept anything that would change the heart of the core RPG series.
Instead, it’s an exciting time to be a Pokémon fan – we get to have our cake and eat it, too. New players and younger children who may not have enjoyed a console Pokémon game yet will get their chance, while us long-standing fans get to experiment with lighter versions of the core, RPG experience without fretting about the dilution of the series.
I actually teared up while attending the press conference in Japan – it was just about everything I could ask for. I absolutely adore the Pokémon franchise with a ferocity most hardcore fans share. And though I’m open to experimental changes to mainline games – like the very welcome Ride Pokémon introduced in Pokémon Sun and Moon – I’m very protective and hesitant to accept anything that would change the heart of the core RPG series.
With the announcement of both Let’s Go and a core RPG, I truly have nothing to complain about.
Pokémon’s core RPG series is innocent. Its easy-on-the-surface gameplay, yet incredibly deep meta, appeals to people from all generations – few games can strike that delicate balance. Any changes that alienate one segment of players to appease another is something I’ll resist, which is why I was so hesitant to embrace Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee when I heard the first round of rumors. Let’s Go sounded like something I’d love to play, but as the core games have gotten older, I have, too, and I’ve come to appreciate the depth they’ve explored.
And maybe if it had been the sole announcement, I’d still be worried that Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee would’ve indicated a step away from that. But with the announcement of both Let’s Go and a true-to-character core RPG (confirmed to be a brand new game, not a remake), I truly have nothing to complain about.
No one asked for Pokémon Quest, but it has already spawned adorable merch, which I’m looking forward to more than the game itself. It is, afterall, plagued by walls common in the free-to-play genre. But because I have other games to look forward to, I’m less inclined to let my Pokémon expectations ride on this free-to-play, commute-friendly title.
I’m relieved knowing I can be excited for Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee without worrying about the “death” of the mainline series. I almost always prioritize the deeper mechanics over the light-hearted fun of collecting and bonding with your Pokémon, but, honestly, I’m excited for the opportunity to enjoy a Pokémon game without neurotically worrying about IVs, EVs, and Natures as I adventure.
Junichi Masuda, director of Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, said his goal for these games is to create a Pokémon RPG for everyone.
“It’s really my hope that all sorts of people will give these games a try,” Masuda said.
Considering Masuda has been a part of the Pokémon RPGs’ creation since Pokémon Red and Blue, I’m inclined to believe him. The list of new, different features for Let’s Go include some mechanics I’ve wanted for a long time, like Pokémon in the overworld and the ability to ride larger Pokémon in the field. I get to actively fly around on a Charizard! Ah! And with the Pokémon Go connectivity, I can transfer over my Shiny Charizard from Pokémon Go about midway through the campaign. I can’t wait.
The Pokémon Company’s game plan is incredibly smart.
“With the launch of Pokémon Go in 2016 and the global sensation that ensued, millions of new players were introduced to the world of Pokémon,” Masuda said. “For many people, Pokémon Go was their first experience with the Pokémon brand, so we have crafted these two new titles to be an accessible entry point to our core RPG series while giving our longtime fans a new way to play Pokémon.”
As he said it, Masuda was interested in creating an experience for children who may have been too young to be able to enjoy Pokémon Go on their own, and missed out on the fun. He even included two-player, couch co-op to emulate the experience of parents playing Pokémon Go on a single phone with their younger children.
The new features of Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, like Pokémon in the overworld, could appeal to more seasoned fans, but, if they choose to skip it, they know a core RPG is coming around the corner too. The 2019 title will not be influenced by Pokémon Go – so rest assured the beloved series will remain in-tact.
Experimenting outside of a core-series structure is a risk for any developer – perhaps most of all one as tied to nostalgia and a devoted fanbase as Nintendo. But the Pokémon Company made an incredibly smart business decision to do that while still offering those fans the game they’ve been asking for for so long, and that benefits all parties involved, companies and Pokémon fans alike.
Casey DeFreitas is an Editor at IGN and can’t wait for Gen 8. Catch her on Twitter @ShinyCaseyD.