Pokémon, as a series, is a difficult beast for me to tackle.
As an avid video game, Nintendo, and JRPG nerd, I respect the sheer impact and cultural influence that Pokémon stamped on the video game industry. You don’t become the highest-grossing franchise in the world for no good reason. I also recognize that before Pokémon, RPG’s on handhelds were never really a thing. Before Pokémon, there was… um, I don’t know… Final Fantasy Legend? But then Pokémon came along and showed game developers that handheld RPG’s were a viable market. So after Pokémon, you started to see classics like the Chrono Trigger DS port and a number of PS Vita Persona games, not to mention Dragon Quest. I, and many others have Pokémon to thank for that – and I couldn’t be more thankful!
But I just can’t bring myself to say I like Pokémon.
A Couple Years Late…
See, I was born in 2000, a full 2 years after the Pokémon gen 1 craze of ’98. I missed the anime, the cards, the video games – everything you could possibly want as a kid in the late nineties. By the time I was even aware of my passion for gaming, I was in my early teens. Pokémon, when I found out about it, was only an undercurrent; it was still selling just as much as the glory days, but it wasn’t in the popularity limelight. It wasn’t until 2016 that a had a real side-swipe with Pocket Monsters…
Say what you will about its quality, but Pokémon Go was a cultural phenomenon that I doubt will ever be replicated. I played the ever-living heck out of that game at its peak. And because of that, I wanted to give a “real” Pokémon game a shot. So I popped open the good ol’ 3DS, gave Nintendo my ten dollars, and sat down to play some Pokémon Red. Twelve hours later, I had come to my conclusion. (Trigger warning, by the way)
I actively hate Pokémon Red.
Disappointed… and Bored
With no nostalgia-tinted glasses, I genuinely couldn’t understand why Pokémon Red was so highly-praised. By all means, feel free to disagree with me (I’m in an extreme minority here anyway), but for me, Red took everything I hated about old-school JRPG’s like Final Fantasy VI and Earthbound, and clumped it into a single, colorless package. I’ll cut my criticisms short here (I’ve already written about my confusion and boredom of Red in the past), but sum it up to say I was severely disappointed. I made it to the final steps of the elite four, fought the first boss, and quit out of complete frustration and boredom.
That, in a nutshell, is my familiarity level with Pokémon. I’m one of those “casuals” that people keep talking about. I liked the crappy mobile game, and I hated the “good” RPG’s. What’s wrong with me? I don’t know. I guess I’m just allergic to fun. Or maybe I’m not handicapped by nostalgia. You be the judge.
Well, what’s my point? Just this: despite my extreme criticism for the franchise, I’m still very excited for Pokémon Let’s Go. As a lapsed player of Pokémon Go, I’m more attracted to a Pokémon-lite game than I am to a full-on Poké-RPG. This introductory mid-step might just be the stepping stone I need to appreciate “real” Pokémon – and I feel that that’s indicative of a larger audience’s opinions, as well.
Like I mentioned before, Pokémon Go pulled in an astronomically large crowd two years ago. People who couldn’t tell a Pidgey from a Vileplume suddenly knew the entire 150-item Pokédex. Hundreds of people gathered in New York’s Central Park to catch Vaporeons. There’s a new wave of Pokémon fans to potentially go all in on the main-line series, if only there were a middle-ground. Well, as one of those people, I think it’s safe to say that Pokémon Let’s Go is that middle ground.
Let’s Go really should be called Pokémon-lite – and The Pokémon Company is absolutely marketing it that way for a reason. Simpler RPG-less mechanics, motion-controlled Pokéball throws – even something as simple as the ability to see Pokémon in the overworld. It all screams “accessible” and “familiar” for people who have played Go, and frankly, it’s genius. With a “core” Pokémon RPG set for next year, there has never been a better time to create an introductory Pokémon game until now. If Nintendo and The Pokémon Company can sell the Go players on Let’s Go and eventually the main-line games, they’ll have a set of new additions to their fanbase for a very long time.
So, as a Pokémon skeptic and critic, I applaud the brilliance of Pokémon’s strategy. They’re shamelessly playing off the success of Pokémon Go, and they just might find a new fan in me, and plenty of people, because of it.
As always, I want to know what you think! Am I stupid in thinking that Pokémon Let’s Go will revolutionize the series? Am I stupid in not liking Pokémon Red? Or am I just stupid in general? Let me know! And if you don’t agree with any of my opinions, I know a co-writer who absolutely adores Pokémon, and he wrote an entire article of his take on Let’s Go right here. Give it a look-see!