Hey You! Pokemon is back

Duncan MacLean • Jun 16, 2018 at 6:00 PM

The weeks surrounding every year’s biggest and most anticipated tech and video game conference are always a wild ride.

Leaks, both virtuous and false, threaten to spoil the fun and fuel wild speculation as to what each company, from Microsoft to Bethesda and Nintendo, will bring into the world of gaming over the coming years.

This year, one leak, and subsequent pre-E3 announcement was a return to the roots of possibly the most beloved gaming franchise ever — Pokemon.

Rumored as a main-line RPG, meaning in the style of the classics like Red, Gold or Ruby versions, the newest installment of the Pokemon franchise had the chance to appeal to the oldest and most dedicated fans, who have been alienated in recent years by the company’s development choices.

The second rumor was that it was not only a return to the original style of gameplay, that it was a loose reboot of the original game, Pokemon Yellow, set in the beloved region of Kanto.

The final piece of the puzzle was that the game was coming to Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s thus-far wildly successful hybrid at home/portable console. With Mario Odyssey and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild blowing away expectations as open-world RPGs already on the system, the potential for an explorative Pokemon game seemed immense.

This had fans, particularly the 20- and 30-something-year-olds clamoring with anticipation. We were finally going to get another hardcore, in-depth Pokemon adventure.

That will have to wait until 2019, apparently.

With rumors running wild, Nintendo announced their decision two weeks before this week’s big conference, debuting “Let's Go, Pikachu” and “Let’s Go Eevee” as the next installations in the Pokemon universe.

The companion games will be set in Kanto and will have features reminiscent of Yellow version, like your chosen titular Pokemon following you around on screen rather than being trapped in a Pokeball.

The hard-core nature of the game was lost, however, as Nintendo elected to capitalize on the massive new audience introduced to the world through the success of Pokemon GO, pushing back a mainline installment to 2019.

Rather than focusing on natures, battle stats and EV training, the Let’s Go games will center on exploration, integrating the augmented reality of Pokemon GO, emphasizing the capture and collection of Pokemon rather than a story-driven quest to become Champion.

The games will still feature battles, online training and even online CO-OP modes, and will, I’m sure, be entertaining.

Longtime fans of the franchise are feeling cheated out of their return-to-form title in HD, but this is the obvious move for Nintendo. Capitalize on the millions of casual or new fans with a futuristic take on the title to get as many people in the fold as possible, then bring out the big guns a year later.

All the traditional fans will still be waiting, cash at the ready, to jump on the new mainline game. Hopefully, so will an entirely new crop, even generation of young fans.

So, to all the older fans ready for a new adventure, one that finally can play out on the big screen and on the road – take it slow, bro. To all the Pokemon GO’ers new to the franchise, stop Mankeying around and introduce yourself to one of the GameBoy classic titles. Pokemon is back and I’m thanking my lucky Staryus.

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