Pokémon Gives Little Reason for Newcomers to Jump In

This past Wednesday, I decided to catch the Pokemon Direct despite never completing a Pokemon game before. The Nintendo Switch has become precious to me because of the brilliant games that have come out for the system and because my friends are unequivocal Nintendo fans. As an outsider wanting to feel that spark from the Pokemon series, I was excited to see how Game Freak was going to handle their first ever mainline console entry. Will they make me care enough about the Pokemon, my trainer, and the world surrounding them to see their upcoming game through to the end? This remains to be seen, but Pokemon Sword and Shield seems to be sticking to conventions much more than I would have hoped. Here are five things that I would like to see in a Pokemon game that would delight me to no end.

MAKE PHYSICAL ATTACKS CONNECT

It’s a pet peeve of mine that the Pokemon stand in place and do a canned animation rather than actually hitting their opponent. I understand there are hundreds of Pokemon that have to be accounted for, but the game would look and feel so much more impressive and surely capture the attention of countless Switch owners. From a cost and benefit outlook, Game Freak probably does not have much incentive to incur a cost for animations when the expected profit is uncertain. However, after many years, the Pokemon franchise would take on a new and improved tactile feel that could go a long way to prevent the series from stagnating.

MAKE POKEMON FEEL LIKE LIVING CREATURES

Pokemon feel like they are in the game for two main purposes: for the turn-based battles, and for their aesthetic appeal. Once in a while, you will see the Pokemon show sentience. For example, within the ten hours I put into Pokemon Yellow, it was nice being able to check up on Pikachu and seeing his adorable reaction to Clefairy. Those little snips of gameplay ended up being some of the most memorable takeaways for me.

For a future entry, have set locations throughout the game where Pokemon are out in the world. Either you or your pokemon can interact with it to varying results. Also, when you are navigating the world, it would be awesome to be able to throw a pokeball while jogging and have that pokemon begin running alongside you in one fluid motion. Additionally, it would be neat if a fatigued pokemon can fall behind and get lost if you set it to follow you. Lastly, having ample cutscenes with your starter throughout would give the game an extra sense of budget. Cutscenes for reaching new locales and during pivotal story progression points would be a fun incentive for the player to not put their Switch down. A pokemon betrayal system would be awesome as well. The pokemon you let go could get special buffs that he picked up from another trainer out of spite against you.

ADD A GREATER FEELING OF CULMINATION

From my limited experience with Pokemon, the gameplay loop is steamrolling through a bunch of pokemon and fighting gym leaders/high ranking pokemon trainers until you become the champion. That may be the tried and true formula, but the concept can be expanded more. Emphasize the friendly or intense nature of pokemon trainers, give the gyms personality in ways other than aesthetic, have the gym leaders interact with others and diversify the strategies the trainers use against you based on their temperament. Entering a gym should be such a big deal that an npc does not have to tell you, you can just feel it. Same with the dungeons and the end game. Also, climbing rank should be more significant, and losing rank should come into play if you lose too many times consecutively.

TOWNS & RELATIONSHIPS

Towns need to be more than a pit stop with a few distractions. The towns should be a character in itself. Back when Pokemon Red and Blue came out, I can see how Game Freak absolutely nailed this aspect of the game. After a long stretch of trainer fights, stepping into that town was the biggest breath of fresh air. The npcs roaming the stores, the people in their houses, and the people outside going about their day were all beautiful touches. Fast forward to current day, games are giving players a plethora of dialogue from npcs to flesh out the world. Many times, some of the most memorable missions in the game come from those npcs. Returning the golden claw to the Riverwood Trader in Syrim, investigating people’s troubles in The Witcher, getting jobs to complete quests in Persona, doing the loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 and hanging out with Iris in Final Fantasy XV come to mind. Building a bond with the denizens in an rpg is a magical feeling that Pokemon has a golden opportunity to capture in a game.

The last aspect I’d like to see improvement on is building relationships. My favorite games of all time are not my favorites just because the game is fun, but also because of the people and/or creatures I became attached to along the way. Sure, you may get attached to the Pokemon you catch, but they come off as disposable. If you need a different pokemon type, you are going to drop a pokemon that you have been using for hours so you can obtain that type. You may have a friend or rival that recur throughout the story, but their inclusion are painfully obvious story devices. The journey to becoming a champion would mean so much more if you were not such a lone wolf and had others helping, caring, and sacrificing for you. That way, when you finally become the champion, you can relish it with everyone you’ve become fond of.

Those are just a few things that came to mind that I believe could broaden the appeal of Pokemon video games. Are you already a fan of Pokemon or are you debating whether you should give the series a shot? Did a Pokemon game ever nail a feature I brought up in a previous installment? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

 

I do not own these images. Images retrieved from The Pokemon Company International Official Press Website

2 thoughts on “Pokémon Gives Little Reason for Newcomers to Jump In

  1. I’m certainly not an avid player of any Pokemon games, but I pulled on my memories of playing as a kid, and I feel like you made some really valid points. I used to feel puzzled by the way Pokemon would “attack”. While we’re used to seeing physical connecting attacks in other games and media, Pokemon are unique in how they fight. I’m curious: what would make the end game or rank increases more worthwhile to you? There’s some interesting features in this classic series but, perhaps, it holds less appeal in the plethora of current games unless you grew up with Pokemon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pokémon do have a unique way of fighting. Although I believe they never physically hit each other due to graphical limitation and workload, changing it now could sever its appeal to young audiences and long time fans that simply do not want to see their Pikachu get kicked in the face. The repercussions are greater than I originally thought.

      As for the rank increases, its worthwhileness would be player incentive. Battling trainer after trainer can be a slog, so rewarding you in between gyms for doing well by increasing your trainer rank would encourage people to keep playing that aren’t too fond of the grind. It would also provide the feeling that others in the world aren’t your stepping stones, but your competitors.

      Like

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