By: Andrew Lister
With E3 less than a month away, video game companies are ramping up the excitement before the show floor even opens. While Bethesda spent all day yesterday hyping up the brand new Fallout 76 on their bizarre and hilarious Twitch stream, the Pokemon Company and Nintendo have dropped a ton of new information overnight regarding the future of Pokemon. That future looks pretty awesome if you ask me.
Nintendo released a surprise announcement of not one, not two, but three brand new Pokemon games. The first, Pokemon Quest, is a fun pixel game that is free to download right now on your Nintendo Switch and on your phone next month. It's filled with micro-transactions, but if you play it in moderation, it's actually a pretty fun game you can enjoy for free! Thankfully, the other two games are things with a little more substance.
The most robust of the announcements came with a trailer for Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu/Eevee! Be sure to watch the trailer above before continuing as we're about to dive into my first impressions of what's been released thus far. Oh, and for fans freaking out about the seemingly less-deep experience of Let's Go, just know that Gen 8 is slated for release during the second half of 2019!
Welcome Back to Kanto
Some people might believe that we've seen enough of the Kanto region, but once again Let's Go brings you back to where everything began. The key difference this time is that instead of yet another Red/Blue remake, we are getting a remake of the Pokemon Yellow game, which was much more directly connected to the anime.
Unlike many people complaining about having to play yet again in the Kanto region, I for one am excited to revisit one of my first Pokemon experiences and see how things have changed from the original. We don't know a lot yet about the actual story, but I'm stoked just to have the chance to walk around and experience this world with updated graphics.
In the best case scenario, we are going to get a brand new story in a familiar world. It will be a way for new and old fans alike to (re)experience their first true Pokemon adventure, and with some hopefully good writing and story points, the magic of those first Game Boy games will really come to life once again.
Choose Your Starter
This time around, your choices of starters are Pikachu and Eevee. Of course, this hearkens back to the original Pokemon Yellow, where the protagonist is followed by its faithful companion Pikachu and your rival started with an Eevee.
Like past games, Let's Go will consist of two separate games that you can purchase, each one featuring one of these two starters as well as a different roster of the original 151 Pokemon. Given that this will probably be a more expensive endeavor than past games (more than likely retailing for $60 rather than $40 with the handheld titles), I'm not sure if their strategy of two games will pan out, but only time will tell.
Back when I first played Pokemon Yellow, I despised the idea of being stuck with Pikachu. His following me around, constantly distracting me from the grind of collecting more Pokemon, was frankly annoying. Once I realized he wouldn't evolve, I decided to just toss him into the box and replace him with a Jolteon.
This time around, I'm actually really excited to have either Pikachu or Eevee hanging out on my shoulder as I race around Kanto, looking for other Pokemon to join the team. Will I be Team Pikachu or Team Eevee? It's an important decision that I'll have to tackle by November 16th.
"Go" Catch Some Pokemon
The one aspect of Let's Go that has me the most worried is its integration and emulation of Pokemon Go's game mechanics. From the trailer, it seems that the catching system from Pokemon Go is going to be implemented in almost the exact same manner.
Gone are the days of random encounters. Now Pokemon run around in the overworld for you to see and choose to engage or evade. You no longer have to battle a wild Pokemon to lower its health and make it easier to catch. Now you simple choose a ball, possibly use items to change your catch rate, and wave your Joy-Con controller to simulate actually throwing your Pokeball.
Not only has the way you catch Pokemon changed, but there is direct linking between these games and your Pokemon Go account. This includes transferring Gen 1 Pokemon from Go over to what's called the "Go Park." You can even receive gifts and Pokemon to your Pokemon Go account from your Switch.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the Pokemon you catch, however. Will you be able to trade Pokemon with another player, and can it be done over the internet? How will CP translate into levels? To what extent is the game going to be satisfying for those that don't play Pokemon Go? Will it become too easy to collect them all if the Pokemon are just visible on the map? These are just a few things still hanging in the balance.
New Ways to Play
The best thing from the trailer is that a second player can jump in and out of the game, turning Pokemon into a truly cooperative experience for the first time ever. Sure, you could battle and trade Pokemon with other players in past games, but with the shake of a second Joy-Con, a second player can materialize, run around the world map, and even engage in double battles.
On top of multiplayer, Nintendo is trying to rake in the cash yet again by releasing another Pokemon-specific controller. The Pokeball Plus will also be available on November 16th, and even though it's totally unnecessary to play the game, it's kind of slick in its design. This Pokeball has many of the same functions as a regular Joy-Con, including motion controls and HD Rumble, a thumbstick, and a button to select options.
On top of these functions, it also lights up when you catch a Pokemon, and more importantly, it can actually "store" one of your Pokemon and allow you to interact with them on the "Go." This is shown in the trailer when they transfer Pikachu into the ball, and away from the game you see them shake or pet the ball, which calls out with Pikachu's voice.
Sure, this is a feature that I'd never use as an adult, but a young kid who loves Pokemon will find this to be exceptional.
As someone who played Pokemon Go along with everyone else during the Summer of 2016, I understand why they decided to go this route. If done properly, this will not only be a game that sells a tremendous number of Switch systems, but it could be the thing that will revitalize and lengthen the life of Pokemon Go.
It's still too early to make a final call on Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee! However, from what we've seen thus far, these games are shaping up to be a really nice in-between game to tide fans over until the next mainline game releases in 2019. It won't be as deep of an experience, but it will serve as a great place for new and former fans of the series to try again. We'll have to wait for E3 on June 12th to get even more information on these titles. Until then, try out Pokemon Quest or finally update your Pokemon Go and head out to catch those elusive first 151 ahead of time!
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