Nintendo and GameFreak have announced 2 new Pokémon games for the Nintendo Switch, Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee and Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu, scheduled for release on November 16, 2018.
Prior to the announcement of this pair of games, the Pokémon community was excited for a “core” Pokémon game returning to home consoles, as the last game of the series which retained the classic catching and training elements had been Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. Gale of Darkness was released over 13 years before the announcement of these games, and fans were quite optimistic about these upcoming titles.
Eventually the games were announced officially, however much of the fan community was left disappointed. While the announcement trailer demonstrated the game’s excellent visuals and the battle system was retained, the catching mechanics fans have known since the series inception was completely altered. Rather than the classic battle system, where trainers would whittle the Hit Points of the opposing wild Pokémon until they were suitable to catch, Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu employ the catching system of Pokémon Go. The system utilizes the Switch’s Joy Con controllers, which have a built in gyroscope to track motion. The player is prompted to do a throwing motion towards the wild Pokémon, similar to how the player character from previous games would throw their own Pokéball.
Due to battling only occurring against enemy trainers, catching Pokémon in this manner is based on luck and not skill. Junichi Masuda, Director of Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee and Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu stated in an interview with Famitsu magazine (translated by Atheerios of ResetEra) that the original mechanics were too hard for some players, especially children. While it was a controversial decision in-house, Mr. Masuda said that he would take responsibility for the changes as director. He also wanted to shake up the system, fearing that the games were becoming too stale.
For many long time fans of the series, the games had been a major part of their childhood, and the notion of the catching mechanics being too tough is outrageous. While the games have been selling well since the series began, the first two generations had astronomical selling numbers, especially for video games in the 1990s, and slowly the figures have been decreasing over time.
It makes sense for GameFreak to target a newer and younger audience, however they do so at the risk of alienating the current fanbase. While it seemed that the franchise was steadying it’s sales numbers in the 3DS era with Pokémon X and Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and Pokémon Sun and Moon doing very strong numbers, the release of Ultra Sun and Moon was extremely disappointing. The series was already criticized for dumbing down the games, as Sun and Moon were considered the easiest games of the series, and with the upcoming games, this trend seems likely to continue.
Pokémon Company has confirmed that there will be a release in 2019 that will follow “in the tradition of Pokémon X and Y and Sun and Moon” so they are implying that Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu might simply be an experimental title. If that is the case, it should that a successful launch and life cycle for the games would indicate that the experiment was successful.