PaigeFTW: ‘Let’s Go’ Into The Unknown

My feelings about the decline of the Pokemon franchise have been well documented in this space. Dear reader, you won’t be surprised to learn that my initial reaction upon hearing of Pokemon: Let’s Go! Pikachu and Pokemon: Let’s Go! Eevee was cynical. This is the franchise’s Nintendo Switch debut? This?

But let’s look at it from a different angle today.

The game is clearly a reaction to the overwhelming success of Pokemon Go. The trailer strongly implies that catching Pokemon in Let’s Go! will be closer to Pokemon Go than Pokemon Yellow, from which the game obstinately takes its inspiration. There’s a lot of motion-controlled throwing involved. There’s a lot less battling. There’s an extensive co-op feature.

Nintendo, which has announced that a “core” title will come out in 2019, clearly is hoping to ensnare some of the 100 million users who, at one time, dabbled with Pokemon Go and entice them to play heftier games.

It’s an unusual approach — simplifying a console game’s mechanics based on a mobile title, rather than taking advantage of the platform to expand on the premise.

But will it work?

While I never doubt Nintendo’s ability to sell people on nostalgia (the game’s big gimmick is the Poke Ball controller that you can “throw” and carry around with you), I do question Nintendo’s ability to make coverts out of non-console gamers.

The appeal of Pokemon Go was “Pokemon on your phone.” It wasn’t really the mechanics of flicking your finger to catch things. It was the ability to play some semblance of a classic that appealed to people anywhere in the world — like Pokemon were real after all, like we always dreamed.

Though Nintendo touts the portability of the Switch, it isn’t mobile in the sense that a phone is. The key appeal point simply isn’t there. Let’s Go! may simply be heading … nowhere.