Massively on the Go: The Pokemon Let’s Go-Go Connection

Time to poke on home.

Yes, we’re going to talk about Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee (or you can pretend its Pikachu if you just want to experience Pokemon Yellow again). No, it’s not an MMO, but looking at the tie-in with Pokemon Go, it does something the MMO-sphere really could explore better: cross-platform/game support. The new game on its own may be one of my new favorites in the series, but the tie-in brings both games to a new level.

The nuts and bolts

I know we have Pokemon series fans here, but for this article, I want to focus mostly on mechanics and what it means for gaming. You’re probably vaguely aware of POGO at release and probably played it. Last year’s updates drastically changed that game for the better. Without a doubt. The game doesn’t feel like a full blown MMO, but there’s better multiplayer support and above average innovation. Not only do I feel better about recommending POGO in its current form, but assembled and updated a guide for new and returning players.

Here’s your tl;dr summary: POGO got more MMO-y last year. The new Pokemon Let’s Go games bring that to levels reminiscent of the Monster Hunter series. In MH, you play solo so you can be ready for group play. However, single player has always been the core of Pokemon until your pets are strong enough for proper blood sport PvP, so Let’s Go mixes things up: POGO takes what you’ve probably earned socially and makes your single-player account stronger for story mode and/or 1v1 battles. Let’s Go acts as a kind of “Valhalla” for POGO hoarders and gives additional value to some already high-value trade Pokemon.

Not only can your Let’s Go game get high-tier Pokemon you’ve probably been holding onto for months or even years, but you can move your personal favorites and have them remain intact. Unlike player-to-player trading in POGO, transferring Pokemon to Let’s Go allows them to retain most of their stats. A perfect IV Mankey I traded from POGO (for science!) kept its stats during the move, aside from “speed” which isn’t a stat in POGO. I won’t lie, I am tempted to send over more valuable Pokemon I haven’t been able to part with, like my second perfect Articuno.

For non-Pokemon fans, think about randomized value gear from your favorite MMOs. Not just that perfect critical hit sword you have, but your first mount that you never use any more. Imagine if a new game was made and you could lighten your inventory by moving it to that new game, or even giving it to a friend, without it suddenly losing its value. It’s a one-way trade, and you’d never have it in your MMO again, but pack-space is already limited and you might have thrown it away anyway. This gives it new life in a way that it doesn’t inherently threaten the base game.

Yes, trading’s always a thing in Pokemon. Shinies (recolored variants) and legacy moves make the collection game strong in POGO, and the former is something the main series has had for a while. I mean, an orange Charizard is cool, but a dark black Charizard is way cooler. One of those two I’ll put into gyms for fun, but honestly? I rarely use anything that isn’t top tier. Not only because it’s inefficient, but the real-life, location-based component of POGO means I only have so much time to get anything done. The recolors are mostly just for fun.

Now drop that sweet-black Charizard into the Let’s Go games where you can ride that Charizard to move faster. While access to your POGO collection occurs around half-way through the game, the moment it happens can have a huge impact for hardcore POGO collectors/trainers. I generally don’t need a whole team against the AI, especially when I have high-tier Pokemon already. A sweet ride’s both fun and useful.

And that’s where trading in POGO gets a shot in the arm. I know several people (myself included) who’ve gotten to the point where they’re throwing away rare Pokemon. High-value ones. Our communities aren’t quite as ever-changing as a popular MMO might be in its hay-day. Trade restrictions slow things down even more.

However, the Let’s Go games help bypass that. Maybe you don’t have a shiny Charizard, but you have a perfect Sandslash, and I’m a Sandslash fan. I can give your Let’s Go account my Charizard and you can give my Let’s Go account that Sandslash. It takes both out of the system where they probably were just taking up space, but makes the effort we had obtaining those Pokemon relevant still.

Translating Go-crossover mechanics into MMOs

I’ve talked about other IPs getting the “Go” treatment in the past, and we can kind of build on that. See, Nintendo initially got into the mobile market to offer its IP to a broad audience that might decide it wanted a more premium kind of experience on a dedicated gaming platform.

Let’s Go does that. Well. Very well. My local POGO community is mostly retired people, young families, and some couples. Few are core gamers, but some are hardcore Pokemon collectors. I showed my long-term Pokemon walking partner (who still thinks of levels as World 1-1) Let’s Go Eevee when trying to help her get the new Pokemon, Meltan.

And then the world of Pokemon really hit her: my avatar could move on its own. My buddy wasn’t just an icon but something I could dress up, ride, or just talk to. I could do so much more in that world than I could the mobile version. It’s a bit intimidating, but I told her she could play with her grandson, since the new game has local multiplayer. That seemed to catch her attention. At her age and with her schedule, I don’t know if she will buy a Switch, but her grandson who has one might end up with the game.

Now imagine if MMOs, instead of getting mobile versions, got mobile spin-offs that interacting with the base game. MMO mobile games aren’t doing badly, but imagine if the trash you got from grinding made the PC/home console game you play more fun. Fun, not required.

See, one thing about Let’s Go is that it takes a very fresh spin on the series. There’s less fighting, downplaying the animal cruelty we all joke about. EVs, one of many deeper systems that’s hard for new players to grasp, has mostly been replaced with “candy” or “Awakening Values (AVs),” earned through normal gameplay in Let’s Go, not Go. If you don’t have a perfect Mewtwo, that’s OK, as you can grind candy and boost your Mewtwo’s strength by 200 points in each stat, well beyond what we’ve seen in previous games.

There are other changes in Let’s Go that might destroy grind nostalgia for some players, but not only does it make the game feel accessible, but it allows it to work well with POGO without either one really threatening the other. The stats are similar enough, but translate differently.

Not everything is perfect. Special moves (like Pikachu with Surf) and the “lucky” status (cheaper leveling) from POGO ‘mon don’t have those special properties when moving over to Let’s Go, and the POGO player only gets 100xp per trade session, not per Pokemon. The rewards currently are interesting enough that, while I’ve traded some high-value ‘mon to Let’s Go, I still value my POGO account enough to keep my best Pokemon there.

A sense of wonder

Again, Pokemon in any form still isn’t a traditional MMO, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. The new games actually don’t interact with the Pokemon Bank, the online system allowing players to keep their ‘mon from one generation to the next, which did make the other games feel sliiightly MMO-y, with each new game kind of feeling like an expansion with a story reset.

But POGO requires you to either be rich, live in a city, or make a community to access the best Pokemon. Let’s Go takes those earnings and expands on their uses. Even better, it offers local, drop-in multiplayer at almost any time. You can’t change player 2’s avatar or outfit, and they can’t use Pokemon as mounts (but any other Pokemon in the third position will follow them), but it does add something to the game.

Single battles become 2v1 and you can catch Pokemon with a synch throw (both players hitting the target Pokemon with their ball at the same time). Both of these make Let’s Go easier but more interesting. It’s not just that you can plow through content faster, but requires some coordination while rewarding you for the attempt alone.

This may be scary to write publicly on this site, but maybe this is something we could use. To do grinding on our phones and get our nice, big virtual worlds with housing and pets when we get home. Your “non-gamer” friends who spend hours upgrading their farm might want to send some extra virtual cows out another game to raise funds to build a house for you to virtually hang out in before, say, doing a multiplayer-maze.

Cross-over rewards are nothing new, but cross-over items that largely work in similar ways are uncommon to say the least. The attachment you had to the item can carry over to a new game, rewarding the company with more money and you with the feeling that your work before can come into new virtual worlds with you. For virtual denizens, it’s easier to migrate when you can keep somethings with you. I only hope Nintendo not only continues this with other IPs but does so in ways that make other developers realize how strong a feature this is.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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