Ever since the Switch was announced, the longest-running dream of Nintendo fandom seemed to finally be an inevitability. Finally, a console-style Pokemon game, a true one, pretty much had to happen. If the Switch truly is a console and handheld in one unit, there would no longer be an excuse. Then the Pokemon Direct happened, and everyone came away confused and disappointed. Then E3 happened, and the dreams finally came true. A core Pokemon game is coming to Switch, and only to the Switch. And it’s going to blow our minds.
A recent interview with Pokemon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara with Bloomberg really got me thinking about the possibilities. He spoke about the visual possibilities, particularly citing a “higher level of expression.” Obviously this can be interpreted as just like, “Pokemon on Switch will have the good graphics,” but I think it can be looked into deeper than that. This is especially true when you look at how big, core games on the Switch have been so far.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey have both been all about scale. These games are huge! And both games are extensions of series that have had histories of finding new ways to present themselves and have reached new heights in terms of smaller details like animation and aesthetic design. Think of the little details like Link shivering in the cold and Mario’s little parts bouncing as he hops about the world and changes into various outfits. Now think about that mindset applied to Pokemon.
The biggest hurdle in a Pokemon game is rendering the hundreds and hundreds of creatures. Games like Pokemon Stadium and Battle Revolution opt for a more “realistic” style and can only do so much, due to all the data having to be crammed on disc. But using a more cartoony style, like in traditional Pokemon core game fashion, with the power and storage of the Switch means a lot can be achieved.
Just look at Pokemon Sun and Moon, the latest entries in the series and most ambitious at the same time. They are loaded with style and personality, particularly with the re-designed classic Pokemon as they shift form in the game’s new region. Think also of Team Skull, the goofy beat-boxing hip-hip villains who dance awkwardly in each encounter. That’s a 3DS game, and that piece of hardware is junk in terms of power.
This is the first big chance for Nintendo to present a core Pokemon game with real horsepower and make a living, breathing world the likes of which we’ve seen in works like the Pokemon anime or the Pokemon Adventures manga that has run just as long as the games. It’ll still inevitably have the same flow and structure of all the other games, but the level of detail on display has my imagination running at full steam.
This generation of Nintendo games has started with a bang. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild blew people away with its incredible sense of scale and mystery. Super Mario Odyssey has been capturing hearts with its new avenues of play and wonder. The next core Pokemon will be coming out a couple years into the Switch’s life most likely, and will change the game in the way people hoped of Pokemon X and Y. It won’t be the 3D debut for core Pokemon, but it will be the console debut, the shift in hardware and fidelity we’ve only seen afforded to spinoffs. Whatever it ends up being, it will be a big deal, guaranteed.