Pokémon Wonder: Gotta See 'Em All
Updated: Sep 15
A gorgeous forest in Japan sets the stage for adventure, observation, and natural wonder.
Over the years, Pokémon has tried so many spinoffs, gimmicks, and shameless cash-ins that sometimes it is hard to keep up. In the pre-mobile days, when consoles were the only way to play officially licensed Pokémon games in their natural habitat, a new game or experience had a little more weight to it. Novel concepts like Pokémon Snap, or even accessories that promoted exercise like the Pocket Pikachu, a Tamagotchi-like device.
These days, though, you can't throw a stone without hitting one of the countless TV adaptations, merch offerings, or of course, video games. As of writing this, the official Pokémon website boasts well over a dozen mobile offerings alone - and with Pokémon cards once again reaching a new peak in all-time popularity, we're very much at a fever pitch. Humankind loves Pokémon, and that's that.
The recent New Pokémon Snap title for the Switch scratched a specific itch for me that I hadn't experienced in a long while - a game that let me stop worrying about min/maxing a team in Sword/Shield, or how I'm going to scrape together enough Pokécoins to buy my next inventory upgrade in Pokémon Go. For once, I could just enjoy the ride and let those adorable little critters do their thing - sure, I could grind each stage to find that marginally better photo, but I didn't need to. (And I didn't.)
That's why when I first heard about Pokémon Wonder, a nature walk in Japan that aims to reconnect families with nature by exploring a largely untouched forest that spans over 40,000 sq. ft., that sense of relaxation around a Pokémon experience washed over me a second time. This was something I didn't know I wanted, albeit something I certainly won't be traveling to Japan specifically to experience.
As reported by Kotaku, Pokémon Wonder is an event in which small groups progress through "courses" set in a vast forest, with the goal being to search for and find as many Pokémon as they can. This won't be a simple task, however, as these creatures aren't going to just be hiding in plain sight. Many of them are mini-art pieces that are made from the forest itself. Take, for example, this Metapod that appears to be crafted from leaves:
Yeah, I'd probably be missing that one.
As gigantic as this forest is, you can imagine how locating something like that might be a challenge. And I think that's the point - the intention of this experience isn't some grand Pokémon experience with special effects or a smartphone/AR gimmick that takes you away from the gorgeous scenery around you. Wonder seems to be aimed at simplifying the equation so that to spot these elusive beasts, you'll have to pay very close attention to nature - and maybe appreciate the world around you a little bit more. I have to imagine this is what my character must've felt like going through Viridian Forest for the first time, minus the awkward Kakuna vs. Metapod battles.
. . . Ok, yeah, I'd be missing that one too. It's SO TINY.
When I first imagined myself going through such a gauntlet of nature and discovery, my mind instantly went back to early 2016 when the first trailers for Pokémon Go were released. Trainers were shown going through sprawling fields and hiking trails, seeing Pokémon along the way waiting to be captured. As we all soon learned, though, the summer of 2016 wouldn't be like that at all. When we could get the game working, the only real way to play the game was to be in large cities and crowded areas with lots of Pokéstops and spawns. The game was less Pokémon Go and more Pokémon Stay.
Even when I was going on walks at my local park (or distant parks when I was looking for a specific nest) I found myself staring at my phone, engaging in the micromanaging that came with the experience. There were Pokémon to be transferred, evolutions to be triggered, and radars to watch closely. While I certainly had the option of enjoying nature, I had ulterior motives for being outside in the first place.
Even if you don't find many Pokémon, views like this will make the experience worthwhile.
Looking back on my time with the game, I think that Pokémon Wonder is exactly what I truly wanted my Go experience to be. A curated adventure that lets me blend two worlds in an outdoor setting. In a way, I think my introverted side would prefer it over muscling my way into a crowded theme park to enjoy a "real life" video game experience like Super Nintendo World.
And by the looks of it, many agree - the initial round of tickets has already sold out for the attraction. Pokémon Wonder will be available well into 2022, so hopefully, everybody who wants to experience it will get a chance. I'll just be quietly appreciating it from here in the USA, glad that people of all ages are getting a chance to reconnect with nature in quite possibly the coolest way ever.
Listen to our conversation about Pokémon Wonder in our recent QTB podcast episode: