Let’s face it: ever since we first got our hands on Red and Blue versions of Pokémon, we’ve been fantasizing about what the franchise will do next. Before the internet became a common tool for gaming, our source of information was our fellow gamers around the school yard. Some of the myths that we tossed around near the swing sets still endure today as hopes for future Pokémon games. With every new release, Pokémon has set the bar higher and higher. It seems as though fans are never satisfied, however; we continue to toss around our ideas for what we hope to see in the next game, and what the advances in technology will mean for the series.
With the announcement of Pokémon Go!, I would like to look at some of the most popular desires circulating through the fandom and add my own personal take on some of them. I’d also like to add my own hopes for the direction that the series could take. We all have to admit to one thing though: Pokémon has come a very long way since the link cable days. No longer are we packing along a brick of a Game Boy with packs of AA batteries stashed in our bags just in case. Pokémon is an icon in the gaming community and a cultural phenomenon that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. It’s fun to speculate, but there are some harsh realities that we’ll have to come to terms with. I’m sure there’s differences in opinions in that regard, but I always like seeing what other people think in terms to the growth of Pokémon so I thought I would throw my hat into the discussion.
A Pokémon MMO?
This has to be the most discussed hope for the Pokémon series. Ever since World of Warcraft became the behemoth of a MMO that it is, there’s been a hope that Pokémon would take to a similar format. Even in WoW‘s early days, I remember hearing my classmates fantasize and speculate about an online Pokémon world where you could choose to be a trainer or a member of Team Rocket andbattle people from all over the world on the internet, trade across nations, and team up to form guilds of trainers. On paper, this sounds like an amazing idea and I would gladly throw sums of money that I have no business spending towards such a game. Who doesn’t want to have an online world with millions of other players running around through the long grass, battling out in the open fields, and running after Ho-Oh as it flies overhead? The idea is one that a lot of gamers have clung to.
Unfortunately, the reality is that Pokémon would likely die if they were to attempt such a feat. For one thing, MMO’s are not cheap to create. They have to pay not only the initial game programmers and testers, but they would need a full time staff around the clock to maintain the servers, handle player disputes, and ensure that any hackers are taken care of swiftly. Secondly, they would have to compete with games like World of Warcraft and other newer MMO’s like The Elder Scrolls Online. WoW is a monster that may never die. Players have sunk years of their lives and thousands of dollars of their income on their characters, subscriptions, upgrades, and hardware to play. Asking someone who plays WoW to devote time to a new, untested game is asking quite a lot. Without the money of monthly subscriptions and in-game purchases, an MMO can never last. It would be a massive undertaking in a field already dominated by games that have devoted followers who have far too much invested in them already.
Besides, Pokémon has already delivered some of the biggest aspects of an MMO on its own terms. With the advancement in technology, seasonal competitions hosted online officially by Nintendo allow anyone from anywhere to compete with the top trainers from all over the world. Nintendo has additionally opened up annual competitions with leagues and magnificent prizes ranging from exclusive Pokémon swag to scholarships. We are also able to trade with players from all over the world, seeking a database of Pokémon that are up for trade and skimming our boxes to see if we have what the other trainer wants. Again, the best aspects of an MMO are already available, and with this implementation, Nintendo can retain a family friendly atmosphere. MMOs oftentimes unfortunately, become cesspools of foul language, crude conversations, and online harassment. Pokémon is, and has always been, a game that anyone can enjoy regardless of age. Parents should never have to worry about what their child may be exposed to when turning on their Game Boy and unfortunately, an MMO would make that next to impossible.
Multi-Region Pokémon Game?
A multi-region Pokémon game has been on the top of the fan’s “most wanted” list ever since the second generation. Gold, Silver, and Crystal gave us a taste of nostalgia when we were allowed to return to our beloved Kanto following the completion of the Elite Four in Johto. It was amazing! Ever since then, fans have longed for a game in which they could travel to each region and battle their pokemon against the native gyms and trainers. On paper, this sounds like a fantastic idea, but putting it into execution is a little tricky.
For one, the data required would be immense. Maybe technology, more specifically handheld technology, will get us to where a game could handle the capture of 700+ Pokémon across several regions, but currently, such a game would be a challenge. As it was, the second generation had to nerf a lot of the Kanto region in order to allow us to have a second region. Places like the Safari Zone were closed so our return to Kanto wasn’t the full experience that we had been hoping for. On top of that, games are now pushing high-definition graphics, 3D (in Nintendo’s case), orchestrated soundtracks, and online capabilities. They’re data monsters as things stand, and expanding into multiple regions would really push the realms of possibility—at least for now.
Secondly, the level curve would be insane to figure out. In the more recent games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, Pokémon could easily get up to level 90 before reaching the elite four…at least mine did. With the experience. share now being a staple to the games (seemingly), it would be hard to make a multi-region game fun or challenging following the completion of even the first region. Fans have suggested several ways around this, but they each have a problem.
If Pokémon leveled up slower, the games would feel like a grind. If you halved the experience your Pokémon would receive, you’d likely not have a Wartortle until your fourth or fifth gym, and your precious Blastoise wouldn’t be evolved until the elite four or sometime after. Most gamers can get their starter into its second stage by the first or second gym easily. The gym leaders would also have to be nerfed so their Pokémon would be at lower levels. The canonical problems of this story-wise are pretty obvious. This method would kill any fun in both the story and in the actual gameplay. It would also make it impossible for competitive gamers to even begin working towards their teams until they’ve played the equivalent of two or three full Pokémon games in playtime.
If Pokémon upped their level cap, things would simply turn into a chaotic mess. Stats, evolution, and everything else associated with leveling Pokémon would become a nightmare. This method would easily run into the same problems of halving the experience gained in battles while further complicating competitive play.
If Pokémon required you as the player to start with a new team for every region, it would be like running through another Pokémon game within a Pokémon game. The monsters that you spent 20+ hours of gameplay time bonding with, leveling up, and battling beside would be dropped into boxes while you struggled through another region starting from the ground up. This works in the Pokémon anime…sort of, but it would easily detour veterans to the series. This suggestion is perhaps the only one that I have seen that could be executed successfully, but it would likely only frustrate a good chunk of the fan base.
Pokémon has, however, been sensitive to the fan base’s desire to revisit older regions. They have re-released nearly every single one of their games onto the new platforms as they become available. When their modern technology was no longer able to play one of the older games (like Pokémon Red/Blue), they released a polished up version of the older games for the new platforms so fans could revisit these regions. On top of that, the new releases were given new features and, like in the case of the recent Ruby and Sapphire re-releases, new plot devices to give a new feel to an old game.
So What is Actually Possible?
Now, I’ve spent a lot of time destroying the hopes and dreams of Pokémon fans, but there are a lot of things that could reasonably be included in the games to make something truly amazing. Essentially, every single Pokémon game has introduced an element to their games that fans have loved that have vanished in the next installment. If just these features made a return, all at the same time within a future game I think that fans would be absolutely blown away.
First on my personal list of things Pokémon needs to do is to bring back Pokémon followers. Heart Gold and Soul Silver are my all-time favorite Pokémon games. I was beside myself to see that my Pokémon actually followed me around. Pokémon Yellow was technically the first to do this, but you were restricted to only seeing Pikachu following you. In HG/SS your lead Pokémon would follow faithfully at your heels. You could turn around and interact with them, they would respond to certain events, and it was just so nice to see. There isn’t a single player out there that didn’t want to have their favorite pokemon physically standing beside their trainer. When this feature was scrapped in the next release, fans were more than a little disappointed.
Second on my personal list of things to see in a Pokémon game is a feature that we were teased with in Pokemon X and Y: riding. When I saw the official art and trailers with the trainer actually riding a Skiddo and a Gogoat, I thought that at long last the trainers of the world could pitch their clunky bikes and climb on the backs of their faithful pocket monsters. Fans have wanted this feature for forever. The anime certainly didn’t help with whole episodes devoted to Pokémon racing and riding certain Pokémon around. At first, I thought perhaps only Skiddo and Gogoat could be ridden. They are, after all, classified as “THE MOUNT POKEMON.” I learned that this was only…half true. You could ride Gogoat, but only certain Gogoat in the confines of a single city. You didn’t even control where the Gogoat went—he walked in a straight line from point A to point B. Skiddo can be ridden, but again, only in one area. You can control the Skiddo, but other than obtaining an unreachable item, the Skiddo ride is just a gimmick that leads nowhere.
We did get to fly on the back of Mega Latios and/or Latias in Omega and Alpha, but again, it was limited to one Pokémon and only in a certain terrain. I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but it seems like they’re just teasing us at this point. Riding Pokémon would just make travel enjoyable in the games. They could do this easily by using a hidden machine (HM) for riding…or not.
This leads into my third suggestion. I know Nintendo has addressed but it remains very doable. Get rid of the HMs. No One loves them. HM moves are required to progress in every single game. You need surf to cross water, rock climb to get up steep hills, cut to move past saplings (…really?), and fly to essentially fast travel. The HMs take up a valuable attack slot on one of your pokemon. If you obtain the HM and reach a point where it’s needed, you’ll either have to make a long trip back to the Pokémon Center to get out an HM slave Pokémon to use, leaving one of your team members missing out on a route’s worth of valuable experience points, or you have to sacrifice a valuable attack for a useless one. HM attacks are horrible. Even Surf, formally a wonderful attack, now strikes everyone but the user. For one-on-one battles this is fine, but when you get into a team battle it could put you in a tight spot, especially if surf is the only water-type move on that Pokémon. HMs have always felt unnecessary. I have a scyther in my party. It’s limbs are SCYTHES. Why can’t it just lop that sapling away without needing a special move to do it? Fans have complained about this for years, and I could go on, but Nintendo seems to enjoy trolling us with HMs.
Lastly is character customization. Again, this is a feature that we got in Pokémon X and Y, but it was extremely limited (especially if you had a male trainer) and we did not get it back in Alpha and Omega. I had a lot of fun visiting towns to see what clothing they had for sale, knowing they rotated styles. I had to make a point to turn on my game every day and make the rounds to complete my wardrobe. Finally, I had a trainer that felt (mostly) like my own. I know I’m not alone when I say that I have a handful of trainer OC’s (“Original Characters” for those out of the loop), and when I finally could make my avatar reflect them, I was beside myself. Of course, you could never remove the darn hats and boys especially were limited in hairstyle, but this was a step in the right direction. I would personally love to see this feature make a return and expanded further. Let us create our trainers, Nintendo! If we can do it on Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, it’s really not much to ask here!
(Okay one more thing—I need a gryphon Pokémon. Nintendo, we have enough darn penguins and food-based Pokémon. Give us something awesome.)
Let’s Give Credit Where Credit is Due.
Pokémon has really been amazing when it comes to releasing great games. They follow their community and their games have adapted with them. Yes, the games are aimed primarily at children but Nintendo also knows that there are adults that still play their games; we worked out ways to make them appeal to us as we grew, and Nintendo helped that along. Back in the day, there was no super training. There was no NPC that stood around to tell you if you had bred that squirtle with perfect IV’s (or “individual values” for you less-than-nerdy people). Nintendo saved us from literal hours of EV training, complicated math problems, and buggy online calculators when they released super training and the IV checker.
Pokémon has also taken a completely fan-made word, “Shiny,” and made it part of its canon. They know we love our little pocket monsters so they brought us Pokémon-Amie, a way for us to more intimately bond with our Pokémon. With Pokémon Go! on the horizon, Nintendo has the potential to revive the Pokémon craze from the 90’s and fulfill a lot of dreams that fans have had as they grew up.
No matter what’s said, Pokémon is awesome. The creators are always pushing the limits of technology to give us a world as close to what we want as possible. They may not include everything we want, yet they know what they’re doing and they have made sure that every game is better than the game that came before it. There may never be a perfect Pokémon game, but with each new release, Nintendo improves on an already fantastic series.
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