Let's Go Talk About Pokémon With Rob Alsbrook
June 26, 2018
Proving that we really do live in a small world, a few weeks ago I was eating lunch at my favorite local pizza joint when who should walk up and say hello but Robert Alsbrook. Long-time PTB readers may remember back in late 2010 when, in conjunction with a now-defunct local Internet television operation that predated homemade YouTube shows and Twitch livestreaming, Rob and I launched the tragically short-lived and ahead-of-its-time The Press The Buttons Show where for thirty minutes each week we would offer up gaming news, commentary, and reviews. We produced eight episodes (six of which aired), after which the owner of the network ended the operation and moved out of state on to new opportunities. Rob and I lost touch soon after, but now here we were in the same pizza place, so we got to talking and ended up having a conversation about Nintendo's upcoming Let's Go! Pokémon pair of titles based around Pikachu and Eevee.
Matthew Green: How long have you played Pokémon? I can't say I ever really got into it. I pretty much missed the boat in the beginning; Red and Blue were just coming out when I was first driving in high school, so I wasn't sitting in the backseat with my Game Boy like I had done for years on family road trips. I didn't really get to know Pikachu until Super Smash Bros. Melee, and then the other Pokémon that were in that game as well. I can recognize a Squirtle from a Charmander, but any of the newer or more obscure Pokémon? Not a chance. My first actual Pokémon game that I played was Pokémon XD for the GameCube when I was assigned to review it for Kombo years ago, and not knowing much about the world, I was totally lost.
Robert Alsbrook: I did most of my Game Boying outside before I got a Game Boy Pocket (that poor contrast in early Game Boy screens!). I couldn't play for too long in a car before I got car sick. I started playing Pokémon shortly after Red and Blue came to the USA. At the time I was in high school and I baby-sat these two boys who loved to play video games (an easy job). They were both very much into Pokémon and they eagerly showed me the game. I watched them play and I thought to myself, "This isn't a bad game at all!" The rest is history! Short answer: 20 years.
MG: What is your favorite Pokémemory? Mine is from Smash Melee when Pikachu gets hold of a Super Mushroom and becomes super large. His taunt makes him bellow out a deep-voiced "PIKA!" and it's hilarious. It was an in-joke around my office in 2002 for a while to just call out "PIKA!" in a low, booming tone.
RA: I think we had that joke amongst my friends as well! We also loved to do Kirby. That's a hard one, for me. Game-wise, the feeling of playing Pokémon X for the first time. I think they did a wonderful job with the setting and the warm tone of the story. Really enchanting, hard to describe. Pokémon-wise, I grinded out Squirtle eggs for about 4-5 months (not intensively) in my quest for a shiny Wartortle (my favorite Pokémon). In April of this year, after hatching probably 300-400 eggs, I finally got the shiny Squirtle! Then 4 weeks later I was breeding a group of Scythers to give one to a friend and the 4th one that hatched was a shiny! So now I have a shiny Wartorle and a shiny Scizor! It doesn't have ability for the build I'm going for, so I'm grinding the Battle Maison to earn an ability capsule so he can be a better fighter.
MG: Do you play Pokémon Go? I tried when it was new, but the servers were so slammed that I couldn't even create an account. I never tried again, but it was fun to see people around playing it.
RA: I did not. I'm not sure if it's because it doesn't appeal to me, or about my contrarian choice of a cellphone (Windows Phone!). I can see the appeal people have with it, but at the end of the day I enjoy the RPG gameplay of Pokémon over the collection aspect.
MG: Are you interested in the new Let’s Go game? Pikachu or Eevee? After all this time I don't see myself becoming a Pokémon player. The games just seem like they demand so much time and I already have enough games on my plate (and shelf!) that will consume so many hours.
RA: Usually they're only 30-40 hour games. I imagine the more casual friendly focus of this game might make it possible. I plan on Eevee for the starter. I'm interested in seeing what they do to make Eevee viable since they're not letting him evolve (or so I've heard, although there's speculation they're adding a new Eeveelution). Pikachu already has the light ball to boost his stats. As to whether or not I'm going to pick up the game, that one I'm still trying to figure out. I'd say tentatively yes at the moment. Let's Go game is very much a hybrid of the classic Pokémon and Pokémon Go, with a shift towards the aforementioned focus on catching Pokémon. I'm not sure how I will feel with combat's place in the game being diminished. I will say this, the ability for my Pokémon Go friends to finally give me Pokémon will definitely make them happy. And if they're happy, I'm happy. Yay friendship! I think if they enable the Pokébank, it's an automatic yes.
MG: How do you feel about the new Pokéball Plus controller? Is it worth it for exclusive Mew?
RA: I don't like it. I mean it's kind of cool that it's a Pokéball, but it rubs me the wrong way on so many levels. It represents the motion control scheme the game will have, which I just hate motion controls (sorry). Secondly, I'm not a "cute" Pokémon person. I don't want something that chirps, growls, or makes pika noises. Oddly enough, I loved the Pokéwalker, but that might have been because the thing was an actual pedometer, so it was useful in that regard and had a fun display of the Pokémon it was carrying. Finally it might be fun if it were a fully functional controller, but it only has 1 button, and maybe two at best, so I'm not going to be playing Breath of the Wild with a Pokéball anytime soon.
As far as Mew is concerned, probably not. Legendaries don't really appeal to me. It might be more worthwhile to someone who might want it competitively. Additionally, it doesn't seem like there will be a Pokébank for the Let's Go games. So it's not like I can "take it with me" when the game's reached the end of its life cycle. Now if you like the novelty of pretend throwing a Pokéball, it's great. Also I've heard that it will work as Pokémon Go Plus for Pokémon Go too. So it's likely you could be enjoying it in that regard for a while! It could win me over if I could use it as a regular Switch controller.
MG: Kids are going to love this thing, and kids at heart. Today's young gamers grew up with motion controls, so something like this is a natural for them. It's total wish fulfillment to throw a Pokéball and catch Pokémon.
RA: Definitely! And with a November release date there will be blood in the streets trying to get one in time for Christmas!