With the highly anticipated Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee! due to release for the Switch in November, Nintendo has been showcasing demos at this year’s gaming expos, including EGLX, which took place in Toronto last weekend. The 8-minute demo gave fans a chance to try out the basic mechanics and new features like the Poké Ball Plus accessory. Replacing the Joy Con as your game controller, the Poké Ball Plus fits in your hand and allows you to move and catch Pokémon with a flick of your wrist. It takes a bit of practice to get the movement down, and the position of the Switch’s receiver in relation to the Poké Ball Plus can affect the success of your throw, but it makes the act of catching a Pokémon even more tactile that swiping up on you phone. During a catch attempt, you can feel the Pokémon moving inside the ball and if the catch is successful, the ball makes that Pokémon’s sound. You can pet and interact with your Pokémon, or upload a Pokémon from your collection to the Poké Ball Plus and take it with you as you go about your day; this will provide in-game rewards for the favoured Pokémon when you return. The accessory also lets you transfer a Pokémon from your Switch game to Pokémon Go on your phone.
Catching Pokémon in-game has been significantly streamlined. Instead of having to battle every wild Pokémon you come across, you can now just flick your Poké Ball Plus (or your regular Joy Con) to catch the Pokémon, just like in Pokémon Go. When you successfully catch a Pokémon, all the other Pokémon in your team get a share of the XP. Now, the only time you battle is against a trainer. You can see the Pokémon as they move around in the world, so you can choose whether or not you want to engage, and they emit a coloured aura that indicates its relative size in relation to its species: blue for a smaller rattata, red for a larger one, for example. I’m not sure if the size will affect things like difficulty of catch or prowess in battle, or if it’s just another stat for data-loving players.
The battle system is the classic turn-based battle from the original Pokémon games. You can pick from moves, and counter Pokémon type with move type. The animations for the attacks are beautifully rendered with lots of motion and detail. It really makes me want to see the wide variety of attack animations that will be available.
8 minutes of gameplay wasn’t a long time to get much of a sense of the story, but Nintendo says the games are based on the classic Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, which is welcome news to nostalgic gamers of a certain vintage, like myself. Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee! will be released on the Switch November 16.