The POKÉMON series is currently more accessible than it has been in years, but, consequently has me worried about the future of the franchise. Let me start by saying that I have always been a huge fan of POKÉMON. I grew up watching the anime and collecting tons of little figures. I had tee shirts, even a Pikachu wristwatch! You get the point — like many kids in the 90s, I was obsessed.

Surprisingly, despite loving the franchise for years, I did not own any of the games (partially due to the fact that I grew up with a PlayStation). That is until I finally got POKÉMON RUBY, and I was hooked. RUBY was probably my most played childhood game. I would spend countless hours just running around with no objective in mind. Exploring a POKÉMON world for the first time is a feeling like no other.

I own a copy of nearly every main series that has released after RUBY. I am clearly a huge fan of the franchise, so why am I worried about its future? Well…

POKÉMON’s Plot is Maturing Right Along With Us

POKÉMON SUN/MOON:

You may have noticed that I said I own nearly every main series game after RUBY. Well, that’s because I was disappointed with 2016’s SUN/MOON to the point where I did not even buy 2017’s ULTRA SUN/MOON. I was very excited to buy SUN when it came out, I even went to the midnight release with a friend. All of the newly introduced Pokémon have unique designs and abilities in battle, but, sadly, the region they reside in does not match up.

pokemon incineroar
Incineroar is definitely one of my new favorites — who doesn’t love a wrestling cat? Image courtesy of the Pokémon Wiki.

SUN/MOON’s Alola region feels far too linear. Sure, the games have never looked better, but I’d prefer a game that’s visually less impressive if it means that there is more to do. On top of this, the games are far too easy and do not have too much post-game content. So, to put it all together: SUN/MOON are quick to play through and have virtually no reason to go back and explore. My experience playing through SUN was lacking and the game failed to have the same magic as its predecessors. Apparently, ULTRA SUN/MOON fixed a lot of these problems though.

ULTRA SUN/MOON:

I have heard that ULTRA SUN/MOON are better games all around when compared to their predecessors. The games add more Pokémon to catch, new areas, minigames, and the games are apparently longer and much harder. So, why didn’t I buy a copy? Simply put, POKÉMON ULTRA SUN/MOON feel like what SUN/MOON should have been. I do not want to spend $40 dollars for just a few changes to the original SUN/MOON, especially considering that the first large chunk of the story remains relatively untouched.

Exploring Ultra Space is a new feature in ULTRA SUN/MOON. Image courtesy of Bulbapedia.

I am sure that ULTRA SUN/MOON are great games on their own, but this whole situation slightly soured my opinions and made me more skeptical of the franchise as a whole. Now, the next POKÉMON games, LET’S GO PIKACHU/EEVEE are already coming out in November. Part of me wants to be really excited about these games, but the rest of me is concerned.

POKÉMON LET’S GO — The Positives:

I just want to state that I am not mindlessly bashing on two games that are not even out yet. In fact, the games have plenty to be excited about. First off, LET’S GO are the first main series games on a home console, meaning they’re also the first main games in HD. Plus, the games happen to be landing on the Switch, and what games aren’t better on the Switch? The console is great!

Not only that, but the games will feature co-op gameplay. After all these years, I will finally get to completely experience a POKÉMON game with a friend. This is definitely what I am most excited for. And, lastly, one of my favorite features of any POKÉMON game is making its return. Previously only appearing in 2010’s HEART GOLD/SOUL SILVER, any Pokémon can follow the player outside of battle.

Better yet, many of the larger Pokémon are rideable!

pokemon let's go arcanine
The player riding on top of his Arcanine. Image courtesy of Serebii.net.

There are certainly other features I am looking forward to in LET’S GO, but these are the big three. Now I am going to get to some of my worries.

Nintendo Switch POKÉMON Games Will Require Fees for Online Play

POKÉMON LET’S GO — Causes For Concern:

The primary reason that I have not already preordered a copy of LET’S GO is that it does not include any new Pokémon, or any from the original 151, for that matter. I grew up with the original 151, I do not have anything against them. These are the most well known Pokémon, so they’re always the ones in the spotlight. They were originally the only Pokémon in POKÉMON GO, they’re the only ones with Alola forms in SUN/MOON, and they are the only ones catchable in the recently released POKÉMON QUEST.

That LET’S GO contains only the original 151 Pokémon means one thing: another trip to the Kanto Region  — the series’ first region. I love Kanto as much as the next guy, but how many games has it been featured in already? RED/BLUE/YELLOW and their remakes, as well as GOLD/SILVER/CRYSTAL and their remakes. I have journeyed through Kanto a countless number of times, so I do not necessarily want to do it again, despite it looking prettier than ever before. I would not like the next changes to LET’S GO even if the games were completely brand new.

LET’S GO is taking a ton from POKÉMON GO.

POKÉMON GO: Nintendo Getting You Outside Since 1996

LET’S GO and GO’s Relationship:

I absolutely loved POKÉMON GO when it first came out. The game single-handedly puts POKÉMON back in the center of mainstream media. The game is simple to play and is accessible to anyone with a smartphone, and it really leads to social experiences like no other. That’s all that GO is though, a great social experience.

Objectively speaking, GO is not all that great gameplay wise. Without the POKÉMON coat of paint slapped over it, GO would simply be a buggy, monotonous game with no real lasting appeal. GO seeps into LET’S GO in the worst way possible. No, the massive social appeal of GO is not present, but the Pokémon capture mechanics are.

This means that there are absolutely no wild battles in LET’S GO, just the boring, luck-based, “toss a Pokéball into the colored circle” minigame. This takes all of the fun out of both training your Pokémon and capturing new ones. I get that this mechanic is used to attract GO players to LET’S GO, but it simplifies the gameplay so much that it dissuades the experienced players.

pokemon let's go capture mechanic
LET’S GO’s capture mechanic in action. Image courtesy of Serebii.net.

Hopes For The Future Of POKÉMON:

Well, that about sums up my opinions on the current state of the POKÉMON franchise. LET’S GO may very well be the second main game that I opt not to buy. The one silver lining is that a new core game is coming out on the Nintendo Switch release in late 2019. Maybe LET’S GO is releasing this year to hold players over until next year’s major release. Maybe Game Freak is taking their time with the next big games to avoid another disappointing SUN/MOON situation. Who knows? My biggest hope is that the new games will cater to the older, more experienced players. A truly difficult game would be great.

pokemon let's go pikachu
Image courtesy of Serebii.net.

This is not to put down the more recent games either. I hope the new games are an amalgamation of what works well in ULTRA SUN/MOON and LET’S GO. Ideally, this is a fully fleshed out, complete package that is not watered down with casual gameplay mechanics, as well as containing other features like Pokémon following the player around. I know that this is a lot to ask for, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

I hope that my concerns about the series are clear and that I do not sound like a grumpy old man who is complaining about change. Feel free to agree or disagree, I just hope that one of my favorite game franchises will be able to recapture the same magic it did many years ago.

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