Exciting news for Pokemon fans and/or people who primarily use their smartphones to recapture their ‘90s childhood (hi, hello, it’s me): A new mobile game called “Pokemon Quest” has just been released. Available for the Nintendo Switch right this very second and with a version for both Android and iOS devices set to arrive at the end of June 2018, this new Pokemon adventure sets you loose in a place that looks familiar… yet different. If the phrase “Minecraft, but with Squirtles” appeals to you, then you’re probably going to dig this game.
Developed by GAME FREAK, which has been the main developer for the Pokemon games since Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue (also known as Green in Japan) way back in 1996, “Pokemon Quest” is set in a location known as Tumblecube Island. The island is populated by the variety of Pokemon found in the in-game world’s Kanto region — except they’re in a slightly different form: They look like they’re made out of little cubes.
“This new Pokemon title … lets players explore the island of Tumblecube with their team of cute, cube-shaped characters known as Pokexel,” GAME FREAK’s director, Shigeru Ohmori, said according to CNET. “Players will be able to personalize their Pokemon and develop a strong bond with their Pokemon friends while battling their way through the adventure.” The gameplay is based entirely around the use of the touch screen — no need for controllers or anything — which, said Ohmori, makes it “a game that Pokemon fans of all ages can pick up and play” with ease.
With a team of three Pokemon at your side, you can explore Tumblecube Island, hunt for hidden treasure, and battle with wild Pokemon. (The Pokemon apparently move on their own, although they rely on the player to direct their attacks.) You can also set up camp on your journey, where you can equip your Pokemon with Power Stones you win during your travels, as well as synthesize recipe ingredients into treats that will attract new Pokemon to you.
Important to note: The game terms itself a “free-to-start” title — not a “free-to-play” one. It will reportedly rely on players purchasing various in-game “packages,” of which there are currently nine. According to Stevivor, the packages range in price from $2.99 to $17.99, with most of them being on the lower end of the scale. What’s not known, however, whether these packages will be required in order for players to progress. At least one other Nintendo app, “Super Mario Run,” is only free to play for a few levels before a purchase had to be made to unlock the whole game; as such, it’s possible that “Pokemon Quest’s” packages might be required purchases. However, Nintendo apps like “Pokemon Go” and “Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp” have featured in-app purchases which, while fun, aren’t necessary in order to enjoy the complete games. In the case of “Pokemon Quest,” it could go either way.
Of course, the one question that keeps popping up whenever another Pokemon mobile game comes out is this: Will it reach the same level of popularity that “Pokemon Go” did at its height? And, truly… I don’t know if it will. Although player numbers for “Pokemon Go” have dropped off pretty dramatically from where they were during the summer of 2016 — according to gaming website VG 24/7, the game had been downloaded 30 million times by the end of its first month, but had only five million active daily players by April of 2017 — there’s no denying what a splash it made at the time. However, a lot of its appeal had to do with the augmented reality aspect; being able to go out into the physical world and find Pokemon in it was truly a novelty, and no one else has been able to execute the gimmick quite as well as Niantic did.
Another Pokemon app released not too long after “Pokemon Go” arrived on the scene, “Pokemon Duel,” failed to take off; receiving only mixed reviews (my favorite headline about the game: “What On Earth Is ‘Pokemon Duel’ And Why Do I Hate It So Much?”), it was more like a board game than anything else, without the freshness and originality of the AR that made “Pokemon Go” so special. It’s true that “Pokemon Quest” feels a bit more unique right out of the gate...
...Or at least, unique in terms of the Pokemon franchise — so it does have that going for it. However, it’s almost certainly not going to get people out and exploring the real world the way “Pokemon Go” did.
Then again, a Nintendo app doesn’t necessarily need to have the augmented reality aspect to be successful. Anecdotally, I’m still playing “Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp,” which definitely doesn’t require me to leave my couch to enjoy, even though the game was released over six months ago. (I definitely didn't stick with "Pokemon Go" for that long.) Maybe all a Nintendo app really needs to do in order to gain a loyal audience is, in some way, to capture the essence of the original IP on which it’s based. And maybe “Pokemon Quest” will do just that.
“Pokemon Quest” is currently available for download on the Nintendo Switch; the Android and iOS versions will be released at the end of June. Now go out and there and be the very best.