A deluge of Pokemon news rushed from Japan yesterday evening. After the scurry to translate the presentation, sort the games, and then tweet about them, a picture of the Pokemon franchise's immediate and distant future emerged.
The first talked-about game, Pokemon Quest, is a free-to-start adventure game for the Nintendo Switch that utilizes simplified voxel-style graphics. The longed-for Generation 8 will arrive in the second half of 2019. And sandwiched in between is Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's go Eevee, which appear to be Pokemon Red / Blue / Yellow remakes coming to the Nintendo Switch on November 16.
Pokemon Let's Go initial reveal kicked off a brief panic on social media as fans wondered if the game encapsulates all of Game Freak's plans for Pokemon on the Switch. Once it became clear Pokemon Let's Go is supposed to help ease us through the long waiting period for Gen 8, we exhaled in relief. Then we began looking at Pokemon Let's Go with clearer eyes.
There are two reasons I'm looking forward to Pokemon Let's Go. First, I think it's a perfect Gen 8 training ground for Game Freak and fans. Game Freak is presumably deep into whatever it has planned for Gen 8 by this point, but that doesn't mean the release of Let's Go won't teach the veteran developers some valuable lessons about bringing Pokemon onto Nintendo's latest system. The trailer for Let's Go even gives us an idea of how Pokemon trading and battling might work in Gen 8. Namely, when it's time for our Pokemon experience to go portable, we'll be reaching for our smartphones instead of our Switches.
Though the Switch is portable, it's not as easy to tote around as every other system Pokemon's thrived on to date. I can pop the Nintendo 3DS into my purse; the Switch, not so much. That's probably why Let's Go interfaces with Pokemon Go and lets you transfer Pokemon from Niantic's game to Let's Go's "Go Park." It's unclear what your Pokemon can do in Go Park beyond send gifts back to Pokemon Go players, but I foresee a future wherein Pokemon are transferred from the Switch to a phone app—maybe Pokemon Go, maybe another app entirely—for ease of trading and fighting other players.
That's not to say we won't be able to trade Pokemon from Switch-to-Switch (Let's Go's couch co-op also suggests a future where we battle on the same console), just that the ultra-portable option might be there for whomever wants it.
Transferring Pokemon to our phones might even let us train them indirectly like we did with Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver's PokéWalker accessory. I admit the PokéWalker came to my mind when I saw the PokéBall Plus accessory in the trailer, but it doesn't look like the ball is equipped with a pedometer. That's a shame but taking nice strolls on the beach while your Pokemon gets buff is still a possibility for the future. I already build up my Pokemon through walking in Pokemon Go. The longer you walk with a chosen Buddy, the more Candy you earn. The more Candy you have, the more you can power-up your Pokemon. It's a good incentive for getting more exercise, and if Niantic can find ways to get us off the couch, Game Freak sure as heck can, too.
Even though it lacks a pedometer, the PokéBall Plus accessory and its (hopefully optional) motion control scheme makes it clear Game Freak is fishing for a young audience with Pokemon Let's Go—even younger than what's typical for Pokemon games. Far from being a detriment, Let's Go's target audience is the second reason why I'm interested in the game.
From my angle, another big reason Game Freak cooked up Let's Go is to introduce kids to Pokemon via the region most familiar to their parents: Kanto. Kanto is the most recognizable Pokemon region, and it's the least cluttered. You hit the road quickly, you're rarely interrupted by story exposition, and the rules are simple to understand. Let's Go's (again, hopefully optional) motion controls and PokéBall accessory make the game even more appealing for young trainers. Add in that option for couch co-op, and I envision a Christmas season with a lot of parents taking their kids on their first Pokemon journey.
I'm always happy to see new players enter the fold—and as someone who's more into collecting Pokemon for the "cool" factor, I'm not against indulging in Let's Go's hardcore nostalgia factor while also appreciating its simpler roots.
We've got some time until Pokemon Let's Go comes to the Switch, and there's an even longer wait for Pokemon Gen 8. Let's Go might not be exactly what every Pokemon fan wants for the series' first big game on the Switch, but I think it's an important detour for Game Freak to make if it wants to learn everything it needs to know to give us a top-notch Gen 8 experience. After all, expectations for the game will be higher than a Rayquaza riding the jet stream. Who knows—we may all wind up having a lot of fun come November.