‘Pokémon Unite’ Is Unlike Any Other Pokémon Game

For over 25 years, the Pokémon series of video games has entertained players everywhere with its tried-and-true formula of collecting your own monsters and battling other trainers. Pokémon has since become a worldwide phenomenon with TV shows, movies, and merchandise, but its video games remain the core of the franchise.

Pokémon Unite, released on Nintendo Switch in July 2021, seeks to upend many longtime conventions from Pokémon games of the past.

Pikachu are displayed at Pokemon Center Shibuya at Shibuya
Pikachu are displayed at Pokémon Center Shibuya | James Matsumoto/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pokémon games on Nintendo Switch

When the Nintendo Switch was first announced, many fans were excited by the console’s versatility, able to be played on a large TV screen or in a handheld device, switching (pun intended) between the two with ease.

Pokémon games had been limited mainly to Nintendo’s handheld consoles over the years, with its home gaming consoles being a home for spin-off games and other Pokémon-related fun. With the arrival of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! on the Switch in 2018, it showed just how much potential the future held for Pokémon games on the Switch.

In 2019, as it has done with generations of Pokémon games before, Nintendo released Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield simultaneously and introduced players to a new region of the Pokémon universe. But Sword and Shield also represented a shift for the series: they were the first major Pokémon games to be released on a home game console, rather than handheld.

Pokémon video game characters
Pokémon video game characters are displayed at a Pokémon store in Tokyo | Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images

‘Pokémon Unite’ is something new for the series

When Pokémon Unite was announced in 2020, it represented the first of its kind to come to the Pokémon universe.

The game is free to download — also a first for the franchise — and consists of battling other players online in five-on-five matchups. This is known in gaming jargon as a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), not unlike League of Legends. Players run around a symmetrical map with each team having a base on each side and must catch Pokémon for their team, which can be done on certain capture points or by taking down enemies using your Pokémon’s moves.

Players can choose from a handful of different Pokémon that have various combat skills, such as speed or attack power. As of July 2021, the available Pokémon include Pikachu, Charizard, Snorlax, Crustle, Greninja, Eldegoss, Talonflame, Lucario, Venusaur, Mr. Mime, Slowbro, Absol, Machamp, Wigglytuff, Ninetales, Cramorant, Gengar, Gardevoir, Garchomp, Cinderace, and Zeraora.

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‘Pokémon Unite’ isn’t the only new Pokémon game in 2021

Nintendo plans to bring Pokémon Unite to mobile devices in September 2021 so players can battle their friends who might not have a Switch. But Unite isn’t the only Pokémon game that Nintendo is releasing for the Switch this year.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are slated for release on November 19, 2021. Just like Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and others before it, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are remakes of beloved Pokémon games from many of its adult players’ childhoods. Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl were first released in 2007, so the release of their remakes are long overdue for fans.

And just two months later, in January 2022, Pokémon fans will get to spend even more time in the Sinnoh region. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a new action role-playing game — a first for the Pokémon series — that serves as a prequel to Diamond and Pearl. With an open world format and quick battle scenes, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a reimagining of the Pokémon universe as we know it.