“Pokémon” is one of my favorite franchises of all time and one that has changed a lot within the last decade. I loved it a lot, the whole franchise, but I felt like it’s changed ever since “Pokémon Shuffle,” “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon” were released.
At this point, I don’t even know what format I prefer with “Pokémon.” Nowadays, I feel like it’s for me, but at the same time, I feel like it’s not because of the changes the franchise has had.
When “Pokémon Shuffle” launched on February 18, 2015, the change in the franchise didn’t feel that impact. Mostly because the game was also released that year was “Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon” on September 17, 2015.
“Pokémon Shuffle'' was a puzzle game, and “Pokémon: Super Mystery Dungeon” was a dungeon crawler game with a narrative. “Pokemon: Super Mystery Dungeon” was released on the 3DS, while “Pokemon Shuffle” was released on 3DS and mobile. That was where the change started in the franchise, but there wasn’t much of an impact overall yet.
In 2016, the change started to take effect in terms of the “Pokémon” franchise as a whole. Although “Pokémon Go” came out on July 6, 2016 for smartphones, it was a worldwide phenomenon that brought people together by spending a lot of time outdoors.
That phenomenon didn’t last long as there is so much you could do when flicking Poké balls, taking over gyms and participating in raid battles. When fall 2016 came around, “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon” were released on November 18th, 2016, on the Nintendo 3DS.
“Pokémon Go” along with “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon” was where I felt like the franchise started to change as a whole due to the success of “Go” being a mobile game. Mobile games are what people carry with them daily, and Game Freak, the company behind “Pokémon”, wanted to capitalize on it.
I felt like this was a good year for “Pokémon” for both the mobile and the console game market. “Pokémon Go” had people start working out, and “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon” brought changes to the franchise with the introduction of trials, Totem Pokémon, and Z Moves that replaced the features that came in the previous Pokémon games. Those features are gyms and Mega Evolution.
2017 involved releasing a mobile game called “Pokémon Duel,” essentially a “Pokémon” board game. Released on January 24, 2017, it felt like it was a game of Monopoly to me. Unfortunately, “Pokémon Duel” had its server shut down on October 31, 2019, and I didn’t play that mobile game that much in general.
The main Pokémon games released on the 3DS were “Pokémon Ultra Sun” and “Pokémon Ultra Moon.” These two games came out on November 17, 2017, and there was another shift for the mobile game and console game market again. That shift occurred when the Nintendo Switch came out on March 3, 2017.
When Game Freak saw the popularity of the Nintendo Switch in 2017, they wanted to capitalize on it at some point. They first thought the Nintendo Switch would flop and end up like another Wii U at first. It made sense since third-party companies didn’t know how to develop their games for the Switch’s predecessor, and the Wii U lasted from 2012-2017.
The Wii U’s marketing campaign was bad for consumers to get interested, and Game Freak didn’t want it to be a “bad” idea. So they decided to test the waters of the Nintendo Switch by having Bandai Namco port a game called “Pokkén Tournament'' to the console by calling it “Pokkén Tournament DX.” That idea had turned out well by getting over a million copies sold by March 2018.
2018 was when Game Freak decided to have games developed in-house for the Nintendo Switch, and it was a worldwide phenomenon. I felt like it was a good idea with the idea of “Pokémon Quest,” which was released on May 29, 2018, on both the Nintendo Switch and mobile.
In my mind, Game Freak found the perfect balance in bringing mobile games to the console format, even if it wasn’t perfect at first. “Pokémon Quest” was an action-adventure game with an art style similar to “Minecraft.” That mobile game had over 7.5 million downloads within its first week of launch.
Later in 2018, the game to capitalize on the success of “Pokémon Go” was called “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” and “Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee!” was released on November 16, 2018, on the Nintendo Switch. That game had you explore the Kanto region, catch “Pokémon” in the “Pokémon Go” format and battle gyms. I liked the idea of these two “Pokémon” games as they felt a little different from what fans were used to, and you were still in a familiar setting if you grew up playing “Pokémon Red” and “Pokémon Blue.”
In 2019, I felt happy to be a fan of the franchise “Pokémon” in general. And the changes to it made me content despite other fans being against it. In terms of mobile games, there were two that were released that year. One was “Pokémon Rumble Rush,” which had a Nintendo Wii game called “Pokémon Rumble.” “Pokémon Rumble Rush” was released on May 15, 2019, before the servers were shut down on July 22, 2020. I loved the art style and gameplay as I had nostalgic memories of “Pokémon Rumble.”
The other “Pokémon” mobile game released in 2019 was called “Pokémon Masters” and released on August 28th, 2019. “Pokémon Masters” played like a role-playing game with Gacha game mechanics built into it. In simple terms, it’s gambling combined with role-playing game elements and fan service in the form of “Pokémon.” The effort put into the 3D model clothing for the “Pokémon” trainers in “Pokémon Masters” was amazing, and the game is still going on today. I loved how “Pokémon Masters” expanded on the franchise’s lore, in general, and had characters that never interacted before interacting with each other.
The only “Pokémon” game released on the Nintendo Switch in 2019 was “Pokémon Sword” and “Pokémon Shield,” released on November 15, 2019. Unfortunately, it felt a bit lackluster despite it being part of a new generation of the franchise. I liked it for the music, but the gameplay felt the same for me. At least I’m finally able to play the game on my TV or on the go due to the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch.
A lot happened in 2020 in terms of releases for Pokémon in general. And this is where I felt like where the home console and mobile releases merged completely. February 12, 2020, was the release of “Pokémon Home.” That service is available on the Nintendo Switch and mobile, which allows you to move Pokémon over from a storage system on the Nintendo 3DS called “Pokémon Bank” to “Pokémon Home” before being able to send those “Pokémon” to “Pokémon Sword” and “Pokémon Shield.” I love that service a lot as it meant that I could see the “Pokémon” I’ve had over the years on my phone now.
A “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon” game remake called “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX” was released on March 6, 2020. It was a complete reimagining of the original “Pokémon: Red Rescue Team” released on the Nintendo GameBoy Advance and “Pokémon: Blue Rescue Team” released on the Nintendo DS. “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX” played like a dungeon crawler and filled me with a lot of nostalgia and made me cry a lot. It is a spin-off series that gives me a lot of sentimentalities.
Two DLC packs were released for “Pokémon Sword” and “Pokémon Shield” called “The Isle of Armor” and “The Crown Tundra.” “The Isle of Armor '' was a more story-based DLC released on June 17, 2020. And “The Crown Tundra '' was a more exploration-based DLC released on October 22, 2020.
This finally brings us to 2021 with the release of “Pokémon Unite” and “New Pokémon Snap.” Again, two games with different mechanics and are a lot of fun in general, gameplay-wise.
“New Pokémon Snap” was released on April 30, 2021, a remake of the original for the Nintendo 64, and is a game where you take photos of “Pokémon.” It’s pretty relaxing, and being able to see your favorite Pokémon up close in high definition on the Nintendo Switch is amazing.
The “Pokémon Unite'' game was released on July 21, 2021, on the Nintendo Switch and later released on mobile on September 22, 2021. The game as a whole played similarly to a game called “League of Legends.” A fellow managing editor, Delaila Aguilar, talked about this game in-depth in a review on the third issue of the paper released this semester.
Regarding the stuff I don’t like about “Pokémon” taking this route for home console and mobile gaming, I’m not happy with how things are locked behind paywalls with microtransactions for you to access everything. It wasn’t too prevalent for the “Pokémon” games released on the Nintendo 3DS, but it became prevalent on the games released on the Switch and mobile.
The gameplay for each “Pokémon” game is unique, but it can be tedious at times, depending on the mechanics of each game. Another thing I felt doesn’t work having everything for the Switch “Pokémon” games locked behind paywalls to get all the content for the full game experience.
I don’t like how greedy Game Freak has gotten with “Pokémon,” but I get that the franchise has gotten so popular where they have to be that way to outsource their assets to other companies. Game Freak gives companies their assets to allow “Pokémon” fans like me to get fun spin-off game experiences.
In short, I may not like the route “Pokémon” games take now and again. It may frustrate me as a long-time fan of the franchise, but I am excited for the release of “Pokémon Brilliant Diamond” and “Pokémon Shining Pearl” on November 19, 2021 on the Nintendo Switch. These games allow me to go full circle and explore my first “Pokémon” region, the Sinnoh region. I am hopeful too that things might change for “Pokémon” in the future.