What to expect for Pokémon’s 25th anniversary

by Jessica Scharnagle

It’s Pokémon’s 25th anniversary celebration this year, and the Pokémon Company International will surely excite fans with all of the new releases that are coming this year to the Switch and to mobile devices. 

Many Pokémon fans have grown up with the franchise since its launch in 1996. Over the years the anime, video games and trading card game have pulled in a massive amount of loyal fans who cherish the little pocket monsters. The Pokémon Company announced last month a global celebration that includes music, trips back to the classic regions in the world of Pokémon, a new 25th anniversary-themed TCG collection and more. 

As one of those many Pokémon fans, I have a lot of hope for the 2021 year in regard to releases. I’ve been playing the franchise since the release of Pokémon Blue, and in fact still have the game and the box! I consistently bring out the older games to play and am even playing Pokémon Soul Silver for the first time. A dear friend of mine gifted me one of her copies of Soul Silver, which she considers to be the best game in the franchise. It’ll be interesting to see how her favorite matches up against my all-time favorite, Pokémon Yellow. 

The main thing fans are focused on right now are new games, and players around the world are hoping for a new main-series game for the Switch this year. Here is a list of all of the games that are rumored and confirmed to be released in 2021.

Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remakes (rumored)

In 2019, the Pokémon Company launched the first main-series game for the Switch, Pokémon Sword and Shield. Almost every year, fans have come to expect a new main-series game. Last year there was no new game released, but instead, there were two DLCs added to Sword and Shield. 

We’ve been hearing a lot about Diamond and Pearl remakes for a while now. Centro Pokémon, a well-established rumor site, has confirmed with their sources that remakes of games originally released in 2006 are coming this year. 

While these two games weren’t my favorite, I’m still looking forward to what the Pokémon Company does with these games if the rumors are true. One fan is so excited about Diamond and Pearl he recently recreated the Sinnoh region (where the game takes place) in Minecraft.

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There are rumors that there are changes coming to the catching mechanic. Some leaks are saying that Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remakes will opt for the style of catching from the Let’s Go games. There has already been uproar in the community over this possible change, and I’m with the community on this one. 

Let’s Go was a nice gimmick that allowed you to flick the Switch controller at the TV screen as if you’re throwing the Pokéball yourself. While this was really fun for the short Let’s Go games, the experience was far different than I was used to. I’d be disappointed if this ends up being true, but I’m not sure that it would dissuade me from buying the game.

Fans can expect to find out whether the rumors are true from the Pokémon Company in late February, which is typically when Pokémon Directs are held during milestone years.

Pokemon Snap
Image credit: The Pokémon Company International

Pokémon Snap (confirmed)

Pokémon Snap is confirmed to release on April 30 this year. The follow-up to the beloved Nintendo 64 game has already been confirmed by Nintendo, and fans are eager to get their hands on it. The game is now available for pre-order and is priced at $59.99, which could be steep considering the original game was short. 

I don’t see the point to this game, but I also never played the original. I know there are probably a bunch of you out there wondering how a Pokémon enthusiast as myself can be so nonchalant about such a beloved and hyped game. For me, this just doesn’t scratch that Pokémon itch, but I will probably end up picking it up anyway just to see what the game is all about, depending on the reviews once players can get their hands on it. 

Pokémon Unite (confirmed)

The free-to-play Pokémon Unite was confirmed by the Pokémon Company but has no release date yet. It’s described as a “strategic battle game” where two teams of five players battle to defeat enemy Pokémon within an allotted time. The game will be available on the Switch and on mobile devices.  

Pokémon Unite was announced in 2020 but was met with disappointment. The overwhelming response at the time was negative, especially since the Pokémon Direct that announced the game gave no other news. The game is free-to-play, but with that comes the potential for money-grabbing microtransactions. There has been little to no hype or conversation around the title. 

This game has the potential to be a major esports title given it’s MOBA-like structure, and most likely will feature a sharp competitive curve when it comes to talent in playing the game. I’m completely uninterested in a game like this. I hate MOBAs to begin with, so this game doesn’t interest me, and I suspect there will be many Pokémon fans that will skip this title too.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Johto! (rumored)

While Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and Let’s Go, Pikachu! were successful, fans are not excited for the next iteration of this series of games. The Let’s Go series is a watered-down version of the main-series games. These games recreate the worlds of earlier generations of the main-series games, but adapt them to a more updated art style. 

The first Let’s Go was a success mainly because long-time Pokémon fans wanted their hands on the first Pokémon game on the Switch, especially since there was no release planned for a main-series game at the time. It was content that kept fans engaged in the franchise between the release of the Switch and Sword and Shield. 

Critics of the game have been unimpressed with how easy it is to get through the game, and shiny hunters are unimpressed with the incredibly high rate of encountering shiny Pokémon. My main goal is to shiny hunt in the post-game, and when the shiny rates are as high as they were in the Let’s Go games, I’m not sure that I’ll pick this up if it’s announced, and I will certainly not be alone in my anger if this is the main-series announcement for 2021. 

The Let’s Go games were a great buffer between the 3DS series games and the Switch games, but these games are more suited for children just getting to know Pokémon games. 

Pokemon Go
Image credit: Niantic

Pokémon Go updates for 2021

I’m an avid Pokémon Go player and even I can’t keep up with the sheer volume of events that Niantic releases for the game. Pokémon Go players are always in for a treat no matter what month it is with monthly Community Days.

The Safari Zone events that Niantic have pushed back because of Covid-19 still don’t have a reschedule date. Players who had purchased a ticket will still have one when the event does get rescheduled if they chose not to get a refund.

The only event that has a date so far is the Pokémon Go Tour: Kanto. The ticket is $11.99 and players can choose which version they’d like to have. Red and Green versions will have different Pokémon that spawn, and players will have to coordinate with their friends in order to catch ‘em all on Feb. 20. All 150 Pokémon will have a chance of being shiny, and there will even be a special research to give players a chance at catching a shiny Mew!

Over the past few months, I haven’t played half as much Pokémon Go as I did earlier in 2020. With everything going on, it was a great excuse to go outdoors, and it was easy to social distance because of the measures Niantic took, but toward the end of 2020, things started going downhill for players. I can’t forgive Niantic for making a transfer to Pokémon HOME cost money after I already pay a yearly fee for the service. Nor can I forget how money-grabbing the mechanic for obtaining Mega evolutions is. 

I’ll be judging Pokémon Go this year by how well Niantic does the Kanto event, and how it handles Pokémon Go Fest again, which is still pending a 2021 event date.

Lead image credit: The Pokémon Company International

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