Over the weekend, Eurogamer published an interview with Pokémon series director and steward, Junichi Masuda. Masuda talks about Pokémon Let's Go Eevee and Let's Go Pikachu and explains why the upcoming Switch games prompted him to break his own rules about Pokémon game development.
Pokémon is a tremendous franchise, and managing it requires a unique balancing act. On one end you have the fans who adore competitive battling and hidden stats and the series' hardcore aspects. On the other end, there's the casual Pokémon players, the young players. Then there's the new inductee: Pokémon Go lovers. Masuda hopes the three camps will meet in the middle with Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee.
Masuda has been with the Pokémon franchise since its very beginnings on the Game Boy, and he's watched the series' different fanbases form around different Pokémon experiences. He wants to ensure those fanbases don't drift too far apart.
"What would make me happiest would be if Pokémon Go players and traditional Pokémon RPG players actually come together and are throwing out Pokéballs together, either with the Joy-Con or using their smartphones, and really enjoying Pokémon together," Masuda says in the group Q & A, which Eurogamer attended. That's one reason Pokémon Go and Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee are intertwined; he'd love to see Pokémon Go players catch Pokémon for their kids, then transfer them to the Switch games.
Despite Masuda's good intentions, Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee are proving a bit divisive. Masuda's breaking some iron-clad Pokémon rules to make the games more accessible, including one of the series' most iconic chain of events: Wandering into tall grass, rustling up some wild Pokémon, and then battling them to tire them out and (hopefully) capture them. In the Switch games, players see wild Pokémon on-screen and catch them by lobbing a PokéBall at them, Pokémon Go-style. Fights are reserved for NPCs.
Regardless of how people receive Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee, Masuda wants the games to show off how Pokémon can take full advantage of the Switch's capabilities before Generation 8 launches in the latter half of 2019. "[T]here's a lot of functionality with the Nintendo Switch and we really want players to really experience what there is to offer here so, we're making two different games at the same time," he says. "And specifically for these games, me personally I really want more kids to pick up and play with the Nintendo Switch, that's really the goal for me."
So what can we expect to see in Gen 8? Masuda couldn't say much during the Q & A, but he did suggest a future open-world Pokémon game isn't completely off the table. The game would have to remain accessible for newcomers in any environment, however.
"With the Pokémon games I'm sure you all know we're always trying to make them fun appealing for players of all ages, not just to older players and not just to kids," Masuda says. "So, I can't really commit either way but, if we find a way—I think it's possible—if we were to find a way to preserve the fun and kind of broad appeal of Pokémon, and also have that kind of more open gameplay, then that is one possibility."
Wherever Pokémon takes us, and however it takes us there, we can count on one thing: Caves will have way too many damn Zubats in them. For now, read our guide to everything you need to know about Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee. It's Zubat-free.