Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have detailed their plans for new Pokémon games on Nintendo Switch for 2018 and beyond. Quite a lot was revealed in Tokyo, so let’s take some time to digest the biggest announcements and what they mean for the Pokémon games in the future.
The most obvious detail is that the new games — Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee — are aimed at a slightly different audience than the usual titles such as Pokémon Sun/Moon. But if we pull back the curtain a little further, the differences are actually a little more exciting.
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee are the first games in the series heading to Nintendo Switch on November 16, 2018. The games combine classic RPG elements from the franchise with new features intended to help newcomers get into the world of Pokémon with ease.
The aim of the games — at least from a business persepctive — is to help some of the 800 million people who downloaded Pokémon Go on smartphone to dip their toes into the core Pokémon games experience. Going from an app where the experience is basically throwing a PokéBall at creatures and calling it a day, to a game where you’re trying to save the world through this massive sprawling adventure with breeding, beauty contests, Zubat infested caves and gym leaders can be a daunting ask for the casual crowd. That’s where Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee come in.
In terms of the games themselves, they’re said to be “inspired” by the GameBoy Color game Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition. That title more closely followed the story from the anime series (which itself was based on the Pokémon Blue/Red/Green games). The trailer shown gave us glimpses of the re-imagined Kanto region with old staples like Team Rocket and Mt. Moon thrown in for nostalgic pleasure.
The Pokémon Go Connection
Developers GameFreak have been careful to enhance the Pokémon games’ RPG experience with the casual mechanics of Pokémon Go. The one of the most obvious differences is the system of catching Pokémon.
In the main series, the method of catching a new creature basically involves hopping into a menu, selecting a PokéBall and watching the on-screen animation do its thing. It’s not exactly rocket science, but many new players are accustomed to merely swiping towards the creature with their index finger.
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee help make the transition with the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con which can be used as a motion controller. Players now simply make a “throw” motion and the animations are very similar to those found in Pokémon Go.
Players can also transfer Pokémon from their smartphone to their Nintendo Switch game. Perhaps due to this integration, the interface has been overhauled to resemble the smartphone game. The “CP” value makes its first appearance in the RPG series, which makes it easier to compare one Pokémon to another. A Pikachu with a high CP is going to be stronger overall than one with a low CP. The “old way” of comparing was basically catching the Pikachu and checking its stats. If it wasn’t what you were after, you’d have to go an try again.
The end result should be an incredibly familar experience for those whose first foray into the franchise was with the app. Pokémon games typically sell around 100 million copies, but with a huge install base of 800 million smartphone downloads it’s little wonder why the developers would want to target these newcomers specifically.
It’s probably also worth pointing out that longtime Pokémon fans started their fandom with the original Game Boy games which are incredibly simple compared to the wealth of content offered in modern titles.
Random Encounters Are Out
In Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, developers have done away with the “random wild Pokémon encounter” system players are accustomed to seeing in the original games.
Normally when walking through grass or exploring a cave, Pokémon will appear out of nowhere and initiate a battle. This system is actually great for grinding to power up your team, but can be a little confusing to newcomers who are specifically wanting to find a certain creature to add to their collection.
In Pokémon Go, the creatures appear on the map. Simply tap on them and the battle initiates. If you’ve already got one, you can just ignore it and move on. The Nintendo Switch games seem to follow this system.
Modern Age Kanto
The original Pokémon games were set in the “Kanto” region, although this wasn’t revealed until the sequel games Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal. In those titles, the world was called “Johto” and after completing the game, the old world was revealed to the player as “Kanto”.
Since then, the original 151 Pokémon were known as the Kanto group and while a lot of the more popular ones made it to future generations of games, a lot of the underlying mechanics have changed over the years.
For example, Pokémon types have been added. In the original games, were was no Dark, Steel or Fairy type. Some of the creatures have been changed to new Type classes. Pokémon breeding wasn’t a thing, and the creatures didn’t have genders. Nature (personality) classes didn’t exist either, and some Kanto Pokémon got new evolved forms. Other new additions is Mega Evolutions, Aloha forms and plenty more. All this simply didn’t exist in the original Kanto games.
When Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee was announced as a trip back to the Kanto region, many assumed that a lot of these new features would probably be dropped or perhaps that some of the new Pokémon would not feature in the game. It was quickly pointed out, however, that Aloha forms will appear in the game which opens up the door for more modern Pokémon to appear too.
In fact, at the end of the announcement it was revealed that those who pick up the Poké Ball Plus device will be able to use an unannounced Pokémon in the game. What that creature will be is anyone’s guess, however if it is a completely new Pokémon (and not a different form of an existing one), it does suggest that even more can be added over time. Those hoping to see their favorite appear in the new games should not be disappointed, even if they have to wait a little longer.
Play With a Friend
The Nintendo Switch offers a new way to play: co-operativly with a friend using a second Joy-Con controller.
For the first time in the series, two players can explore the game world together and engage in battles as well as catch Pokémon together. It’s not exactly clear if you can join in using your own character from your own game, but in any event it could still be fun to play together with a friend or sibling at your side.
Poké Ball Plus
The Poké Ball Plus accessory is an option device that connects with both Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and Pokémon Go. Players of the Nintendo Switch game can transfer one of their Pokémon to the device and walk around with it in their daily life.
The Poké Ball also functions as a “Pokémon Go Plus” device. This means it will connect to your smartphone and vibrate when a Pokémon is nearby. Simply press the button to attempt a capture.
When playing the Nintendo Switch games, the Poké Ball Plus also functions as a Joy-Con controller. Using motion sensors and a button on top, players can navigate the game world as though they were using a Joy-Con controller. The “button” on the front of the ball is actually a control stick. Nintendo pointed out later, however, that the device will not be compatible with any other game at launch (though software updates could, theoretically, increase compatibility. Imagine playing Doom by controlling a Poké Ball!).
The Poké Ball Plus has a rechargeable battery inside and is good for about 3 hours charge. This could be the only thing holding it back from being a device that hardcore fans use instead of their Go Plus accessory, but should be good for popping down to the shops for a few hours or for those who want to take it along on a walk.
Pokémon Switch 2019
GameFreak also pointed out that a new generation of core Pokémon games will launch in the second half of 2019. The game is currently in development for Nintendo Switch.
Not many details other than that were announced. However it was said that this game will be more along the lines of the “core RPG” titles that users have become accustomed. Specifically, it was said to be along the lines of Pokémon X/Y in terms of content and gameplay.
The next couple of years are going to be quite exciting for Pokémon fans and newcomers alike. The franchise has certainly gotten a second wind since the launch of Pokémon Go on smartphones and it’s becoming clear that the series that launched some 22 years ago (when some new fan’s parents were still in elementary school) is still going incredibly strong.
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee launches on Nintendo Switch on November 16, 2018.