It was December 1998. My family and I were a day away from a trip to South Africa, where my parents were born. It’s an 18-hour journey from Sydney to Cape Town, a long flight made worse by the non-existence of smartphones and the existence of two children, one of whom, me, was just 6 years old.
It’s for that reason, I think, that dad surprised my brother and I with an early Christmas present: A Gameboy Color with a copy of Pokemon Red, by far the most extravagant gift we’d ever gotten. For my parents, it meant less time dealing with their menace children (which we absolutely were). For me, it was a life changer.
My earlier memories of gaming are often opaque and hard to place. But the time I spent with Pokemon Red is crystal clear. It formed the foundation of my lifelong, sometimes concerning passion for gaming.
Pokemon Red (and Blue) was an 8-bit game, but the imagination of a child, even a dull child like me, can do a lot with 8 bits. In my mind, the game was as fully realised as the newly revealed Pokemon Let’s Go titles.
Yes, in case you somehow missed it,. Like, for real. Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee! look like true Pokemon RPGs, in the style of the ones you actually like, built from the ground up for the Switch.
That said, they’re not the all-new, core RPGs for Switch that have been promised.
The games are based on Pokemon Yellow, which was a slightly updated version of Pokemon Red and Blue. It’s set in the Kanto region, which means there’s 151 Pokemon and not 800-something. In other words, the games are love letters to people who grew up with the originals and who complain that .
Most importantly, it looks the way I always imagined it would. We see the player riding an Onyx, battling trainers in beautiful 3D and making friends with other people. All things I’ve dreamed of but have never been able to do in real life.
Fun fact: When I was about 10, my brother told me my dog would turn into an Eevee if I prayed hard enough. I prayed for weeks.
It’s frankly astonishing that Game Freak, the studio that develops all the core games, has taken so long to bring Pokemon out on a home console. During the time it took, Nintendo figured out how to cram the power of a home console into a handheld, which is what the Switch is. Traditional Nintendo handhelds were best described as “the thing you play Pokemon games on,” though. So it makes sense that that the company kept the games as handheld exclusives.
But no more. Even though it’s taken literally 20 years, a true Pokemon game is on a home console. Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee! launch on Nov. 16. That’s potentially the most exciting thing ever.
I’m not the only one excited. Pokemon games are still huge sellers, with Sun and Moon, the most recent generation of games, moving a combined 16 million units. But Pokemon Go showed that there are millions more — as in, hundreds of millions — who were, or still are to a smaller degree, Pokemon fans. It was downloaded over 500 million times.
It seems that, by taking it back to basics, Nintendo is hitting two Pidgeys with one stone. It’s introducing Pokemon to a new generation in a more palatable way: “Gotta catch ’em all!” is a fun catchphrase when there are 150 Pokemon, but it’s terrifying with 807. It’s also luring older players who may have become jaded by the series but still lust for the nostalgia. .
Let me tell you, Nintendo. If you think you can win me back by updating the graphics and dropping 600 Pokemon, you are absolutely right.
It looks like there are no wild Pokemon battles, for one thing. All the encounters with wild Pokemon look to be Go-style affairs, where you flick the Switch’s Joy-con controller to throw a ball at your target. (Although this time, you can team up with a friend to capture the little beasts.)
Then there’s this, a message posted on the official Pokemon account: “Trainers can look forward to even more with an all-new core series Pokémon RPG title in development for the second half of 2019!”
Similarities to Pokemon Go and this tweet give me the uneasy sense that this is more of a warm-up to a true Pokemon game than a true Pokemon game on its own right.
But those are worries for another day. At the very least, I’ll get my own pet Eevee. And I didn’t even have to pray, or sacrifice my dog to the Poke-gods.
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