Why Pokémon should change the way they approach remakes

The next set of remakes seem inevitable, but it may be better if those remakes were more than just that.

Note: this post was written before the announcement of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. However, this post is still relevant as it talks about my own views of the direction remakes should take, with Diamond & Pearl simply serving as my example.

After months of waiting, today finally sees the release of the Isle of Armor, the first part of the Sword & Shield expansion pass and the first piece of Pokémon DLC ever for that matter. While I could use this time to do something like summarizing my thoughts on Pokémon doing DCL I've already done just that, but I still wanted to celebrate its release in some way. That's why I'm going to talk about something Pokémon-related that I've quite frankly been thinking about ever since the release of Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon and something that I feel has become more relevant today than it was back then. I think that Pokémon needs to reevaluate, needs to change, the way they approach and make remakes.

Let's dive in.

The history of remakes

Before the Sword & Shield Expansion Pass was announced, many people were convinced that the next games in the series would be remakes of Diamond & Pearl. Remakes have been incredibly popular ever since their introduction in the early 2000s with Fire Red & Leaf Green. When the 3rd generation of games rolled around with Ruby & Sapphire, due to hardware limitations, all of the previous Pokémon couldn't be transferred to the new games.

To make all of the older Pokémon accessible to old and new players alike and to give said new players a chance to check out the older games, Game Freak decided to remake the original Red & Green (Blue here in the West).

With their success, Heart Gold & Soul Silver were released only a few years later and are still considered to be one of, if not the best, games in the franchise. Ever since then, not long after the first games in a new generation is released, the conversation inevitably turns to when the next remakes are going to be here. While Heart Gold & Soul Silver so popular and still getting such high praise, It's ironically with their follow-ups, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, were the flaws of the traditional model of a Pokémon remake start to become clear.

For all of the improvements and extra content, these games boasted, these only scratched the surface. They were very loyal to the original games up to a fault. They had some very cool new things like the Delta Episode but they also left out plenty of things or didn't take the improvements as far as they could have. There was no Battle Frontier for starters, introduced in Ruby & Sapphire's improved 3rd version Emerald and beloved by fans, yet Game Freak chose to recycle the Battle Maison from X & Y. While the standard, the approach, were the same as with the other remakes, the fact of the matter is, because Red & Blue, Gold & Silver were so much older they came from a time that many improvements and features weren't the standards yet. The leap that they made was thus bigger with these games and without such a leap, the problems of Game Freaks approach became much clearer.

The Diamond & Pearl remakes

I think that with the hypothetical Diamond & Pearl remakes these issues would be even more apparent. Diamond & Pearl are the foundation of modern Pokémon games. They introduced online connectivity, started to focus more on the older fans and the competitive scene etc. Not only that, but I feel that the original reason for the remakes, to give people access to these older games, don't really apply here. I don't know how the 2nd hand market is in every region, but here the Netherlands & Germany copies of Diamond & Pearl are flooding resale places. It's very easy and cheap to get your hands on these games and a (3)DS system to play them on. I've seen people who have come back to series and have picked up the games alongside the newer ones for cheap to scratch their renewed Pokémon itch and parents who buy them for their kids for similar reasons.

A Diamond & Pearl remake would still have the advantages of being on the Switch and it's much better hardware, but if you combine the original games easy accessibility with the fact that the improvements would not be as big as a leap, it makes them less enticing for the more casual Pokémon crowd to buy them. In short: I don't think just remaking these games the way Game Freak is used to will result will cut it this time, both in sales and moving the franchise forward. If they want these hypothetical remakes to be a big success, if they want to keep pushing the franchise forward, they need to up their game.

So how do I think Game Freak should handle remakes going forward? One of either two ways. The first one is that they simply alter the remakes more than they've done up until now. To circle back to Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, Game Freak has stated they didn't implement popular and requested features like the Battle Frontier because they wanted to remain faithful to the originals. This way of thinking is what, in my opinion, held these remakes back. Their faithfulness to the originals made them feel outdated. These changes were implemented and are popular amongst the fans for a reason and Game Freak way of thinking here is, I feel, actively limiting the potential of these games. I mean, would be able to customize your character be that hurtful to the original spirit of the games? I think it wouldn't have even dented it.

Pokémon Diamond 2 & Pearl 2?

Just a day after I started writing this, I saw a post floating around on twitter by Parker Ortolani, Product Development Lead at BuzzFeed, who spent his weekend retooling the Sinnoh region. If you want to know more about this little project, you can read all about it on the Jubilife Gazette which I highly recommend you do, but the important thing for us here is that it gives us a glimpse at what could be.

The redesigned Sinnoh map by Parker Ortolani.

So in this redesign, the core of the region remains intact. No cities are moved, added or removed and the basic outline of the region has stayed almost the same. What has changed though is that the routes have been streamlined and some landmarks changed to make way for much larger areas to become Wild Areas. The southern and western portion of the region, which are cut off by the map, is cleverly used to expand the region. As you can see, the changes are simplistic but very effective. This is definitely the Sinnoh region, just larger and more in-line with recent games and adding in open-world sections. These games would already have a different feel to them thanks to such updates. If they also added a bunch of Pokémon to Sinnoh that couldn't be found there before and use the already much improved 3rd version Platinum as the foundation and you could end up with remakes that keep the identity of the originals intact while simultaneously feeling fresh and modern.

The 2nd option is the more drastic of two: the games won't be remakes at all but full-fledged sequels. Instead of retreading the same story as the originals, Diamond 2 & Pearl 2 will revisit the Sinnoh regions a few years later. These games would utilize the same improvements we just discussed, but would have even more changes like entirely new settlements and will feature an entirely new story with a new cast of characters. Pokémon has done true sequels once before with Black 2 & White 2 and while I like these games, I feel that releasing only 2 years after the originals hurt their impact. They looked and sounded almost the same as their predecessor for starters and used the same assets. It has been, at the time of this writing, almost 14 years since Diamond & Pearl saw release in their native Japan, an entire generation of children ago. A remake would definitely give the players who have been around ever since then a fond sense of nostalgia but a true sequel to these games would do something that due to their quick release after their originals Black 2 & White 2 just couldn't: the sense that this world has grown up alongside them.

One common criticism that Pokémon has gotten in recent years is that is very slow in adapting to the times, that it refuses to grow up if you will. The franchise seems determined to keep to its traditional and old way of design and while that did have somewhat of endearing quality to it, these days it has become more of a hindrance than anything else. Making a full-fledged sequel, giving the games a much bigger story-related overhaul on top of it all won't alleviate these problems but it would be a start. They would already feel much different than what fans are used to, requires some larger adjustments already and some of the problems might be present but to a lesser extent. Plus: I really just want to see Game Freak have another crack at the sequel idea. As I've said earlier, the Pokémon Diamond & Pearl are widely available and already have a superb third version out there so they are the perfect games for sequels.


With Pokémon having had its second-best year, financially speaking, I think it's time for Game Freak to become bolder when it comes to the franchise. With the standard formula of a remake starting to run out of steam yet fans eagerly awaiting the next ones I think it's the perfect opportunity for them to do something new. By making the remakes much more extensive than before, or better yet, full-blown sequels they get the change to do something different. To give returning fans a new experience that builds on the one they had before while simultaneously moving the franchise along. Will Game Freak go into such a direction? At this time I think it’s doubtful, but they've already broken the mould with the Expansion Pass and a man can always dream, right?