Going Forward with Pokemon

4:16 PM

Image by Donnpati

Pokemon, as a series, is extremely slow to change. Likely due to a fear of alienating an audience and impacting sales, the series has stuck remarkably close to its roots, keeping the original 2D sprites, first debuted in 1996, up until White/Black 2, which came out in 2012. While the sprites definitely improved, 16 years without a major change in the series is perhaps one of the longest spans in the industry for a series to go sticking to it's guns.

It was 2014's XY that broke the mold, launching Pokemon into the "modern" era.

This all changed with Pokemon X/Y. GameFreak's first Pokemon entry to the 3DS was amazing. Gorgeous 3D graphics made the game feel so much more modern compared to White/Black 2 which was only a year prior. The changing camera views let them do some interesting things with caves, and also imparted an almost cinematic feel to certain areas. Areas like Route 7, where the camera pans out and drops for a side-scrolling effect, really lets you enjoy the quality of the art that GameFreak made for the game.

X/Y had the NPC friends that helped break things up. Sana's friendship scenes and a decent story helped break the mold a bit. ORAS, however, due to it's nature as a remake, felt old despite looking as good as X/Y did. ORAS's post game, the Delta Episode, however, was where that game shone. The story was fascinating, forging a link between all of the games' 18 year long span, took you into SPACE, and had you acting as the usual saviour, but as the champion of the league (the important bit).

What Pokemon needs is to keep changing. There's a lot of hold over from the old games, some of which would be real cool to change. They've got a great model to work off of, and it certainly has changed for the better, but that model, at it's core, is still very much the same model.

Here's what I think would make Pokemon a "new" feeling game.

First, if they want to keep the 8 gym and E4 route, they can keep it. Instead of interweaving the story with the big bad team into the route progress, just leave the 8 gyms as it own thing. Maybe have some lesser thing, perhaps not a villain, but a group of rivals or something to gate progress through the gyms. One thing that has always irked me was that you play as a kid who's somehow (or is supposed to be) better than everybody else. Rather than saving the world before getting the 8th gym badge, save that supervillain stuff for the post game. It makes a whole lot more sense to ask the Champion for some bad guy thwarting business than some kid on the up and up. ORAS' Delta Episode was told this way and I think it was effective that way.

1. Change the Structure
Pokemon has been 8 gyms, Elite 4 for as long as the game as been around. The structure itself is fine, but it made little sense when they threw a (usually) barely serviceable story into the game. A (opinion) better method to meld story and structure together would be to approach story via ORAS' Delta Episode method - that is to leave a major part of the plot for post game. It makes much more sense to ask the League Champion for help with saving the world, instead of a no name trainer with 6 badges. It'll free up the story, allowing them to work more outside of the strict structure, while keeping all that familiar old stuff. They could probably throw in some foreshadowing little plot points while you're running around doing gym stuff as set up, and do a big reveal once you're done thrashing the Elite 4.

2. HMs
Possibly one of the more archaic and annoying systems, HMs represent, in my mind, Pokemon's clinging to it's origins. It's inspired by things like Metroid Zelda, where new items open up new paths and areas, except those items are directly tied to Pokemon. Its not the idea that I dislike, but rather the execution. Does Lapras, the "transport" Pokemon, really need me to teach it HM03 (Surf)? Making these an innate ability tied to specific, but many, Pokemon would not only make more sense, but also would mean that you could (or would need to) have a more diverse party, rather than one Pokemon knowing 4 different HMs. Specific meaning that the Pokemon would have to be physically capable of doing the action. Surf, Fly, Dive and Waterfall would require that the Pokemon be big enough to carry a person.

For example, Lapras should innately have Surf and Waterfall, Scizor should have Cut and Rock Smash. Braviary would have Fly (which would be restricted to flying Pokemon large enough to carry a person).

Image from Phatmon66

3. Explore new Pokemon
You wouldn't have to look hard to find someone complaining about how the new designs for Pokemon are uninspired. Pokemon are typically inspired by real animals or things, but some of the more recent either look too much like their inspiration, or are, well, kind of dumb. They've got mythology of the entire world to work with, and I really do hope they start exploring creatures from various cultures to add into the already pretty huge Pokedex.

4. Pokemon as Transport
In the latest games, you've been able to ride on top of Pokemon. In X/Y, you hopped on a Mamoswine for a short walk. In ORAS, you have Latios/Latia, in addition to the special surf sprites for Lapras and Sharpedo. Having a section that requires a certain Pokemon, like a desert requiring a Ryhorn or a volcano-y area needing a Camerupt would be a cool addition. The Mamoswine section in XY was a neat addition, and I really wish that you could do more in that style. It could be tied into puzzles, you could have minigames like races; the possibilities are endless!

On that note, I also hope that more Pokemon will get overworld sprites so that you have a bit of choice in what Pokemon you could use for those sections.

4. Things that should (need) to return
XY and ORAS added things to the series that would make it very hard to go back to a time without them.

Super Training: This likely will never go away, as it demystifies the EV/IV system, making it easier to understand and work with. While there are quicker ways of EV training, Super Training was a feature that could help even out the playing field in competitive or even pseudo competitive play.

DexNav: Honestly one of the greatest new features. It lets you find rare and uncommon Pokemon without all of the fuss and hunting, while also letting you see additional details about them, such as IV, moves, etc. It's really quite a deep and useful system that I can't imagine going back to a time without it.

Secret Bases: A hold over from the original Ruby/Sapphire. ORAS made the Secret Bases into Pokemon's streetpass mechanic, letting you make pseudo gyms and customizing your little base. There's a lot more that can be done with these, and ORAS has only scratched the surface.

Things to change with the bases would firstly be allowing trainers you recruit to keep their Pokemon. Currently, recruited trainers get a preset team based on their chosen avatar. I get that they probably made it so that you couldn't go online and just download a bunch of  high level trainers to guard your base, but it really is a bummer to not be able to have a base of you and your friends.

Secondly, being able to do more with the base would be nice. Adding things to make it more useful as an investment, such as adding a PC, or even having a little system where an NPC can be sent out on assignments and return to the base when they're done. Making them a little bigger, and varying up the furniture could be nice. Bringing a little bit of Animal Crossing to Pokemon sounds like a win-win to me. At the moment, the choice of furniture is rather limited, and frankly, not very nice looking.

Image by Skyloop19
The Eon Flute: The Eon Flute in ORAS let you ride on Latios/Latia as you flew around the overworld on the jet-dragon. It served as a really cool replacement for Fly, as you didn't need to have Latios/Latia in your party to use the flute. It didn't have the convenience that Fly did, which let you fly instantly and directly from the Map. You had to generally know which direction places where, and getting to some of the routes was difficult because of how small they are from up in the sky where Latios flies. For it's return, I'm hoping you get the ability to fly on a larger variety of Pokemon, maybe even just getting a saddle item that would work with certain flying Pokemon.

The Eon Flute unlocks near end game to post game, but is one of my favourite additions to ORAS.

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I'm really hoping that Pokemon keeps iterating on it's model. It's game play keeps it firmly anchored in tradition, but that also keeps it feeling archaic and handicaps it from becoming an amazing game.

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