Today’s Pokémon Presents delivered a treasure trove of new knowledge about upcoming Pokémon games, including Sword and Shield DLC, Pokémon Smile, and even the highly-anticipated sequel to the classic Pokémon Snap. But there was one more surprise in store—another “project” announcement, one so big it needs its own presentation next week on June 24th. Not even the monumental New Pokémon Snap was deemed so big to get its own presentation, so what could it be? Based on host and The Pokémon Company President Tsunekazu Ishihara’s setting, seated in front of various Pokémon merch, people have begun wildly speculating—could a Let’s Go! set in Johto be in store?
Despite the launch of the Sword and Shield Isle of Armor DLC, the shelves behind Ishihara are oddly devoid of Sword and Shield merch. The Galar first partner Pokémon plush and game boxes are on the highest shelves, barely in-frame. To their right, however, are some plush of Politoed, Sudowoodo, and Ampharos—all Johto Pokémon. On the shelf directly below, and much more visible, things start to get interesting. The Johto focus nearly overtakes the entire shelf—the final stages of the Johto first partner Pokémon are seated beside all of the region’s legendary Pokémon. The Kanto Pokémon on display on that shelf are arguably all highly connected to Johto as well, with Sandshrew and Lapras being iconic encounters in Union Cave, and Slowpoke from the aptly-named Slowpoke Well in close proximity. Mewtwo’s Berserk Gene is obtainable in the classics, Gold, Silver, and Crystal, while Mewtwo itself is obtainable in the remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver.
This by itself is already quite notable, but the lowest shelf is also very interesting. It is again far more visible than the highest, Galar-themed shelf, and it comprises entirely of Let’s Go!-themed merch. The Detective Pikachu amiibo are admittedly not as direct, but they match with the Pikachu plush, classic Pikachu GameBoy Advance SP, and Let’s Go! Pikachu box. There is also a Let’s Go! Eevee box with some plush placed in front of it—namely, Eevee and its Johto evolutions, Espeon and Umbreon. Being from Johto, Espeon and Umbreon were not even available in the game they are placed in front of, but they do match the Johto-centric shelf above them.
While there is no guarantee that this means anything, the set-up for this room was very intentional, and could very well mean a Johto-related announcement is on its way. Considering the Sword and Shield merch is being “pushed away” by being on the higher, less-visible shelf, along with the more blatant placement of the Let’s Go!-themed shelf, a Johto Let’s Go! announcement seems likely. The newest Sword and Shield DLC containing Apricorns and Pokémon following the player on the overworld also naturally brings Johto to the forefront of peoples’ minds.
The Crown Tundra DLC for Sword and Shield is still on its way, meaning Sword and Shield are still very much relevant games for the series. Although Let’s Go! games are officially categorized as “mainline” titles just like Sword and Shield, their gameplay “style” is drastically different. As such, a new mainline title announcement in the “core” gameplay style like Sword and Shield seems highly unlikely, as it would detract from Sword and Shield‘s future DLC, but a new Let’s Go! title could safely coexist alongside Sword and Shield in the meantime. The “another big project” wording from the Pokémon Presents also hints that the announcement is something new, and not just going over the already-announced Crown Tundra DLC. In addition, based on past interviews, Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda is not against continuing the Let’s Go! “sub”-series if there is enough fan interest—and Pikachu and Eevee sold close to 12 million units as of March, definitely showcasing fan interest.
If it turns out to be true, the first partner Pokémon would be a total mystery. Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee are remakes of Yellow, making the unique starter situation applicable. But even if the Johto-based Let’s Go! games were to be based on Crystal, there is no “special” situation regarding the starters to make. Would we get a special set of two unevolving starters, like Marill and Snubbull, or Togepi and Pichu? Or would we get an Eevee that would have a forced evolution into either Espeon or Umbreon depending on your game? Or would we just get a more simple Let’s Go! Gold and Silver with no special starter and you can simply pick from the Johto trio? There is really no way to know right now, because both the Johto first partner trio and Espeon and Umbreon are shown behind Ishihara throughout the video. Aside from Pokémon GO capture mechanics, an announcement for a new Let’s Go! game would start revealing what other gameplay elements will be “sub”-series mainstays.
In the meantime, Game Freak is hiring for 23 new positions starting on June 25th, among which are technical artists and programmers. Whether these positions will be involved in the upcoming project is unclear, because we do not even know if the project will have a 2020 release date. But just like next week’s announcement, this is something to keep an eye out for as well.
Edited by bobandbill and Zach.