GOTTA catch ‘em all! No, we’re not talking about the various strains of flu at this time of year. We’re talking about Pokemon — the ‘pocket monsters’ that first gobbled up your wallets back in 1996.
It may be 22 years since Pokemon Red and Blue hit the Gameboy, but the brand is going stronger than ever. This week, a film trailer finally dropped for Detective Pikachu, the crazy-looking adaptation of a Pokemon spinoff, in which the titular yellow monster is now a wise-cracking detective, fully voiced by Ryan Reynolds.
If that doesn’t sound unbelievable enough, then last month’s Pokemon Go numbers might do the trick. The two-year-old mobile game, which we all expected to be a fad, made $70m in October alone.
Despite Pikachu’s ambitions, it doesn’t take a detective to understand why Nintendo have followed suit by making their first Pokemon games on the Switch a combination of new and old. Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee both release this Friday on Nintendo Switch, taking inspiration from one of the earliest games in Yellow, but nicking the battle system from Pokemon Go.
Confused? Welcome to the world of pocket monsters. Pokemon Let’s Go is an adventure RPG just like the ‘standard’ Pokemon games, in which you take on the role of an aspiring Poke Trainer and travel the world looking to recruit new monsters, level them up and take on the various gym bosses for your badges. It’s based on Pokemon Yellow, but remade in lovely Nintendo Switch 3D for a modern age.
Unlike Pokemon Yellow, however, Let’s Go uses a battle system similar to Pokemon Go, which means you’ll be ‘throwing’ a pokeball at creatures to capture them, instead of ‘battling’ against them in the traditional rock-paper-scissors, stat-based manner. Diehard fans may understandably find this compromise disheartening — at least until they realise a ‘proper’ Pokemon game, with traditional gameplay, is slated for next year.
Their apathy might be helped by the addition of a ‘real’ pokeball to play the game. If fans are willing to throw money at Nintendo, the company figured they might as well throw real pokeballs too. The pokeball accessory allows players to mimic throwing the ball to capture monsters in the game. It can also be used for Pokemon Go.
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are only differentiated by the Pokemon you start with, indicated by the title. These games represent the perfect intermediary step from the casual but hugely lucrative Pokemon Go mobile experience to more traditional console gaming. It’s the perfect crime from Nintendo — but one Pikachu won’t be investigating any time soon. Pika!
If all the different Pokemon games confuse you, then a nice palate cleanser could be the Dublin Games Festival, taking place at the RDS on November 24. Organisers have split the event into categories, so you can hunt down whatever area of gaming takes your fancy.
The headline event is the ‘largest competitive Fortnite competition in Europe’, which culminates in 100 PCs at the festival being manned in order to find an Irish champion. If modern gaming fads aren’t your thing, then there will be a dedicated Retro section too. If you prefer a suit-up to a shoot-out, then the business area might help you make connections in the industry, while there will also be children’s gaming and a ‘health in gaming’ section.
Finally, Microsoft have been treating game developers as though they were Pokemon this last week, announcing the capture of a few rare-sighted western studios. Both Obsidian and InExile have been bought by the Redmond company, boosting their potential output of exclusive old-school RPGs.
InExile developed the Wasteland games, while Obsidian created Pillars of Eternity, the South Park RPGs and the classic Fallout: New Vegas. If Microsoft are willing to give either of these companies the funding to create new, big-budget open worlds, then we can expect some exciting times ahead.
On the other hand, both companies might disappear into the aether of corporate acquisitions like many did before them, a Pikachu briefly glimpsed on the corner of Patrick Street, disappearing as your pokeball bounces to the left of them.