Nintendo has brought Pokemon as close to a reboot as the series has ever come by announcing three new games.
Pokemon Quest, which is available immediately, is free to download on Nintendo Switch.
It tasks players with befriending new Pokemon across a blocky world reminiscent of Minecraft.
Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee will launch in November offering a more traditional RPG experience with a few key twists.
These include couch co-op, mobile integration, and the ability to play on a big screen.
This marks a shift in Pokemon’s formula that coincides with its debut on Nintendo Switch – the console that can be played in handheld mode or docked to a TV.
“With these games specifically, we’re trying to introduce an all-new play style,” Game Freak director, Junichi Masuda said on stage at the reveal event in Tokyo, Japan.
“It’s really a much more simplified experience compared to the traditional series.”
The new games draw heavily from the Kanto region, home to the original 151 Pokemon, that players from the 90s will be familiar with.
Samantha Loveridge, Associate Editor of GamesRadar+, believes this is a strong draw for lapsed fans of the series who may have avoided recent games due to too many characters.
“It won’t feel like having to learn a new language by picking up these games,” she says.
“I know people got fed up that there are 700 odd Pokemon in recent games, but they know the Squirtles and the Charmanders and the Bulbasaurs.”
She points to Nintendo’s recent ventures into mobile development as evidence of a continued push to expand its player base.
“Pokemon Go became this transitory nostalgic thing that brought people back into Pokemania,” Samantha says.
“They [Nintendo] saw a surge of new players that maybe hadn’t picked up a Pokemon game for 20 years and wanted to get back in.”
Let’s Go includes significant crossovers with Pokemon Go, which has received over 750 million mobile downloads to date. Players will be able to transfer caught Pokémon from the mobile game into the Switch experience.
“I think Nintendo saw the success of Pokemon Go and wanted to cash in on it,” Samantha says.
Nintendo also confirmed that an “all-new core series” title is in development, which will continue the tradition of in-depth Pokemon RPGs begun by Red and Blue in 1996.
Some Pokemon fans have reacted positively to the news online, but those who are passingly familiar with the brand will have to be convinced to buy a Nintendo Switch to play.
The decision to release these new Pokemon games aims to dismantle any barriers to entry for those without a Switch by tempting them to purchase a Switch ahead of the core RPG launch next year.
“Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu have the Pokemon you know,” Samantha says. “My Mum even knows who Pikachu is – she can’t spell it, but she knows who Pikachu is – and that’s the sort of experience they want to deliver people sort of to wean them back into the experience and maybe even get a few more people playing on Switch too.”
Nintendo remains tight-lipped on how Let’s Go will actually play for now, with more information expected in the coming months.