2016 is a big year for the Pokémon franchise. Not only are we getting what looks to be the first Gen VII installment in the well-loved line of 3DS games — Pokémon Sun and Moon — we're also getting the very first augmented reality Pokémon mobile game, the long-awaited Pokémon GO.
Neither games have a solidified release date yet, but we know they're coming sometime this year, and Pokémon GO is a good month into field testing across Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But which one are we more excited about? Let's take a look.
We've learned a lot from the gameplay leaks coming out from the field testing (and you can click on over to here for details on those) but at its core Pokémon GO will bring us what every child of the '90s had on their christmas lists — the opportunity to catch virtual Pokémon in the real world.
The AR tech going into Pokémon GO is nothing to be sniff at — it's being developed by Niantic, Inc., who previously topped the mobile AR board with its critically successful and hugely encompassing Ingress. And what we've seen of the mobile game so far looks incredibly promising, from the more reactive combat mechanics to the interesting spin on the leveling system.
Pokémon Sun And Moon
There's a lot to say about Pokémon Sun and Moon, and you can clickity-click here for our full rundown of everything we've learned so far about the upcoming Pokémon 3DS games.
The successor to the middling Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, the new Pokémon games are expect to land "holiday 2016." We don't know a whole lot about them yet, except that they will introduce more mythical Pokémon, might include useable vehicles, and will have trading compatibility with the recently released Nintendo eShop versions of Red, Blue and Yellow.
Maybe it's just because we know more about it, but when it comes to the crunch, we're more excited for Pokémon GO right now. Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby — though fun remakes of a couple of classic Pokémon games — really failed to inspire, and same goes for the better-received Pokémon X and Y. Fun and well put-together, but still really just more of the same.
Pokémon celebrates its 20th anniversary this year; that's 20 years of many, many games all based upon the same basic formula. While the basic idea is a great one — clearly it has to be to have stood the test of 20 years — it is now starting to wear a bit thin on the ground, at least for those of us who have been playing since the Red, Blue and Yellow days.
Pokémon GO could be the antithesis to this; it's certainly a pretty clean take on the subject. Sure, it's the same basic idea, but the gameplay mechanics have been massively changed up.
Evolution is different, based on the collecting of shards rather than grinding away at XP. The battle formula is changed up, made both simpler (Pokémon are reported to only have two moves) and more reactive with the new real-time dodge option. And of course there's the highly customizable Trainer player character, which also works on its own leveling system.
Pokémon GO isn't a main series game, and sure, it's not going to be as narratively interesting as the Pokémon games have been. But the core concept of Pokémon has always been about the journey, with the gameplay itself taking precedent over the narrative.
In this way, in delivering a fresh take on the gameplay, we think Pokémon GO could be the breakout game of the series.