Pokémon is the second-highest grossing video game franchise of all-time (right behind some Italian plumber fella), so when a press conference was focused on it last week, all eyes and ears were astute.
At that fateful conference, Nintendo unveiled Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! as the first main series style Pokémon games to make their way to the Switch coming in November. At the same time, they announced the RPG-esque Pokémon Quest would be available that day for download and would later be available on mobile devices.
Now, I am enormous Pokémon fan. I marvel at every creature in every game that has been introduced and am generally extremely easy to please when it comes to Pokémon so long as Pokémon are in them, no matter what creatures may be. Except Licklicky. That thing can burn.
So when the announcements dropped, I immediately downloaded Pokémon Quest and jumped right in. After a week of play, this lifelong Pokémon fan has just this to say about the game: it sure does exist.
Pokémon Quest cannot be motored through, rather having a limited number of plays every two-and-a-half hours or so. That, mixed with the way you acquire Pokémon being entirely random based on creatures you’ve seen that are attracted to your camp based on cooking, the game feels exactly like I’m sure it was meant to be. It’s a placeholder to keep your appetite up until November.
Unfortunately, because of this status as a sort of limbo game, it doesn’t make me feel anything. I have written and rewritten and tried a dozen ways to organize my thoughts on this game to try and really say something about it, but that’s just it – this game is the first Pokémon game I’ve ever played that has just felt empty to me.
Part of it may be because it does seem a pit paltry, currently only focused on Gen I. That said, it could/should be expanded, as the mobile format of it all makes it easy to add more as time goes on (there’s also the fact that it’s been datamined and essentially confirmed, but don’t trust everything you read on the internet).
But Pokémon, especially for I and many others, is an emotional experience. Sure, some of it is the nostalgia if you’ve been with it since the beginning, but this game currently contains only the original 151, so that shouldn’t be an issue. The repetitive style of play is fun for a little bit, but it just feels so detached. So even though the first Pokémon game proper on the Switch is a few months off, Pokémon Quest does set a milestone for this PokéFan – it is the first time I’ve felt nothing playing a franchise I utterly adore. In fact, the only time I even feel like smiling while playing this game is going into my Main Camp and seeing the blocky, Minecraft-style Pokémon stacked atop one another like they’re about to bust into “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”
This would be a bit troubling if I didn’t have the utmost faith in the Pokémon Company, Game Freak, and Nintendo, but since I sold my heart and soul to them some two decades ago, I am utterly devoted. But I’d be lying or painfully oblivious if it didn’t raise the red flag of the idea that maybe, just maybe, Pokémon is a property that Nintendo doesn’t have to try with. Sure, Pokémon has dozens of spin-offs, but at least those have been some measure of fun and made me at least feel like I’m having fun. Quest does not. And in the era of the mobile cash grab game, I’m hoping this isn’t a stain on such a wonderful franchise. Maybe I’m late to the game to make this realization, but you must also understand that I am someone who is still playing Pokémon Go long after the rest of the world was done making fun of it.
All that said, don’t let me wanting to love Pokémon games like my firstborn and then being disappointed when they don’t become starting quarterback stop you. Pokémon Quest is free to play and does not include microtransactions, rather, you can spend in-game currency to help you out. Of course, you can pay real money for expansions, but there is no paywall whatsoever. Dropping a one-time purchase of $30, which is half the price of a retail Switch game, does make it a bit easier and probably is a good long-term investment given the generational updates to come.
Maybe with each of those updates, the game can give me some semblance of enjoyment. Or at least leave me less disappointed. As it stands, the game’s blocky graphics are a hint that the game is as much fun as the empty cardboard it resembles.
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