Nintendo has told us to expect a new Pokémon game in 2019, promising an RPG instalment for the Nintendo Switch that will usher in the next era of pocket monster adventures. In terms of actual details, fans haven’t been given much to go on. This game is sure to be a big one, though, and it’s easy to argue that the pressure is on for Nintendo.
After all, the last few years have seen the Pokémon franchise taking big leaps forward on technical level, while simultaneously leaning hard on nostalgia instead of forging ahead in the overarching story: 2016 saw the launch of Pokémon Go, for example, which introduced AR to the franchise and helped Nintendo reach a huge audience on the smartphone market; and 2018 saw the series segue onto the Nintendo Switch with Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu (which are, essentially, glossy remakes of 1998’s Pokémon Yellow).
All three of these games were marketed heavily on their links to the original 151 Pokémon, as were Pokken Tournament and Pokémon Quest, with Nintendo embracing the sentimentality that surrounds the original iteration of the franchise rather than looking ahead towards the future.
Will the 2019 Pokémon RPG change that focus? Will it forge a brave new forward path for the franchise? It’s hard to say for sure, given that we only know a very small pile of facts about the game. Until we find out more, these are the things that we actually know for sure about the upcoming game…
It’s an “all-new core series” title
Back in May 2018, an official Tweet from the Pokémon account offered this brief tease of the game: “Trainers can look forward to even more [further to the experiences of Pokémon Quest and Pokémon Let’s Go] with an all-new core series Pokémon RPG title in development for the second half of 2019!”
The words “all-new core series” and “RPG title” will stand out to fans of this franchise, as they imply that this won’t be another nostalgia-centric Pokémon experience that stands apart from the mainline series. Instead, this will be the first proper new chapter in the franchise’s overarching story since Pokémon Sun and Moon launched for the 3DS in 2016.
Adding a new title to the core series, traditionally, would mean that Game Freak and Nintendo introduce a new region for players to explore, tonnes of new characters to meet, eight new gyms to beat, and a whole load of brand new Pokémon to catch.
Sun and Moon, incidentally, took the task of updating the series rather seriously. Its region was inspired by Hawaii, and the game had more of a focus on completing island trials and defeating Kahunas as opposed to battling through traditional gyms. It remains to be seen in which ways the 2019 Pokémon RPG will attempt to reinvent the wheel, and it’ll be interesting to see if it keeps any of Sun and Moon‘s changes.
It’s aimed at “longtime fans”
“The new title coming out in the second half of 2019 will be a completely different game [to Pokémon Let’s Go],” the big boss of the franchise confirmed, before stressing that this “is not an entry[-level] game, but a game that we want longtime fans of the Pokémon series to look forward to.”
After Pokémon Go, Pokémon Let’s Go and Pokémon Quest – a series of games that seemed to be focused on educating younger players about Pokémon and indoctrinating them into the franchise – the suggestion that this next game will have longtime players in mind will come as music to the ears of a lot of seasoned veterans of the franchise.
Ishihara also added this, doubling down on those statements: “The game will give a good understanding of what an evolved Pokémon game looks like after it has continued to succeed the traditions of Game Freak. We want to make Pokémon fans say ‘this is what I’ve been waiting for’ by delivering a brand-new product packed with gameplay elements and plenty of new Pokémon to encounter.”
Of course, these quotes offer a lot of hype and not much in the way of actual details, but Ishihara is still pressing all the right buttons there.
You should be able to take your old Pokémon with you
Junichi Masuda, who has worked at Game Freak since 1989 and has contributed in various capacities to numerous Pokémon titles, has assured fans that they should be able to take their old Pokémon with them into this new adventure.
Offering connectivity between new titles and their predecessors has been an important part of Pokémon since the franchise first started spawning sequels, and the paid Pokémon Bank service (which launched in 2013) represents Game Freak’s most ambitious attempt yet to connect all of its titles.
And now, speaking to GameSpot, Masuda has promised that Game Freak is working on connecting the 2019 Pokémon game up to previous titles.
“We’re definitely always thinking of that kind of forward-moving functionality, especially since we’ve introduced Pokémon Bank,” Masuda explained in the interview.
“Now, up toUltra Sun and Ultra Moon, you’re able to store your Pokémon, and we know they’re very important to everyone”, he added. “I mean, obviously, people would be very sad if they couldn’t use their Pokémon in a future game. So, it does get complicated when you talk about the details, and we’re still figuring it out, but we do have plans to find ways to let players use their Pokémon in the next game.”
Exactly which older titles will be able to transfer Pokémon into the 2019 game remains to be seen, but we’d be very surprised if connectivity with Pokémon Go and Pokémon Let’s Go wasn’t included. If Game Freak could find a way to connect all the older titles, too, it could please a lot of returning fans.
It could have “highly strategic game systems”
Outside of those three statements, we haven’t heard much in the way of official comments about the 2019 Pokémon game for Nintendo Switch. But there was a glimmer of potential info in some job listings on the Game Freak website, which The Daily Star picked up on.
Apparently, the developers at Game Freak were looking for new employees who had “Experience with creating highly strategic game systems.” These new recruits would work on “Planning and creating specifications for a new RPG (consumer game) development project”.
Of course, Game Freak works on a few different franchises, so it could be possible that this job advert was pertaining to something other than Pokémon RPG that’s slated for 2019. However, the suggestion that there could be some “highly strategic game systems” in this upcoming title is an exciting proposition.
After all, in recent years, there’s been a sense that anyone with a basic knowledge of type match-ups could win basically any battle in a Pokémon game. Some new systems, that would force us all to think a bit more tactically, could help to make the next Pokémon game a little less easy than its recent predecessors.
And, speaking of recruitment, reports from December 2018 suggested that The Pokémon Company was hiring some localisation experts late last year to translate an upcoming Japanese game into numerous languages. Again, there is no confirmation that these job openings were linked to the 2019 RPG, but it certainly seems possible. Perhaps this game is already at that stage.
There have been plentiful rumours and wishlists
It may be hard to track down any official info on the game, but you don’t have to look far on the internet to find speculation and rumours about this upcoming core series Pokémon title. There are also plentiful wishlists out there, with fans needing little encouragement to put their hopes for the game on the line.
One rumour, stemming from JeuxVideo, claims that the game will have a “redesigned capture system” and the “best graphics ever seen” in a Pokémon title. The latter point there seems very plausible (given that the Nintendo Switch is capable of handling some very impressive visuals), while the former claim is arguably a little less easy to swallow. After all, why would Game Freak and Nintendo go to the effort of putting Pokémon Go‘s catching mechanism into Pokémon Let’s Go if they weren’t planning to use it again?
In terms of fan wishes, one of the most commonly stated dreams among players is that the 2019 Pokémon RPG will do for the Pokémon franchise what Breath Of The Wild did for The Legend Of Zelda. This, basically, means that fans want Game Freak to deliver a huge leap forward for graphics as well as splicing in some imaginative reinventions of the franchise’s core mechanics… and that’s without losing sight of the core story of the series or what makes this franchise great. No pressure, then!
A less common but still very tantalising fan wish is this one: as we haven’t seen such a structure since Pokémon Gold and Silver, could it be possible for the 2019 Pokémon RPG to visit more than one region? It would be particularly epic if this story could span continents like no game in the series before it, which would certainly provide a way for Game Freak to significantly increase the scope. Fingers crossed.
It’s still expected this year
We may not know the 2019 Pokémon RPG’s official release date, but, barring a shock announcement, it will be this year. Although information is indeed very thin on the ground, everything we hear about the upcoming game continues to point towards a 2019 release. Even though we’re well into 2019 now and we haven’t seen a trailer, or even a screen-grab, that’s still something to cling to.
Whether the game will live up to fan expectations – completing that tricky task of reinventing the wheel whilst simultaneously respecting what made the wheel such a great invention in the first place – remains to be seen, but it’s impossible to deny that this is the most exciting and intriguing Pokémon launch that we’ve seen in a while. Pokémon Go and Pokémon Let’s Go both had a lot going for them, but this could give the core series a long-awaited shot in the arm.
As we hear more about the game, you can bet that we’ll keep you updated. This article will evolve over time, as more details come to light and press materials (hopefully) begin to appear.
In the meantime, please feel free to leave your own wishes for the game in the comments below…