Nobody knows what the future of Pokémon might hold, but that doesn't mean we can't speculate on it!
What I’m going to do here is not look at one specific game and what I would want out of that but talk about a few features that I think all Pokémon games going forward should have, regardless if it’s a remake, a Let’s Go game or a new entry entirely. Pokémon has a bit of a history of introducing features, mechanics and gimmicks in one set of games only to drop them from the next entry without warning, even if they had been very well received. This list will include things that the franchise have left behind but I want to see back, stuff that I never want to see dropped and things that I have thought of myself that I would like to see happen rather sooner than later.
Now, sit back, relax, put on some (Pokémon) music and enjoy what I have to say!
A Difficulty Setting
Let’s not beat around the bush here and immediately start with the reason I came up with this post and the one feature I want to see happen above all else: a difficulty setting. The older the Pokémon franchise has gotten, the older its fans have become. While Pokémon is still primarily something for children and I don’t mind the fact that these games are designed with the first and us older fans second, it has come to a point that the balance between the two groups is WAY off. The games themselves have become increasingly easy and simple to the point that someone like yours truly has to go out of his way to make these games challenging. As long as you understand type advantages and disadvantages and keep your team relatively steady you can breeze through the battles one or two-shooting each Mon without much thought.
And look: I’m not saying we should go back to those earlier days of Pokémon with lots of grinding, unfair level spikes etc. I’m happy with all of the quality of life and user experience improvements the franchise have made in the last decade or so. A lot of the challenge boiled down to you just having to have to do a lot of grinding and that’s something I’m certain nobody likes. Combine all of these types of things getting phased out over time and the Pokémon franchise’s increase in opening up the game to as many people as possible and the games have, in my opinion, become way too easy.
I, again, understand why this is done and I do believe that it’s important that the Pokémon games remain fun and easy to pick up for kids especially but this approach is pretty frustrating for a large part of the franchise’s audience. Yes, Game Freak has been making it easier for players to get into the competitive scene but I feel that this is really only something for a small but dedicated group of people. This isn’t a replacement for how easy the single-player experience is for many. Letting the player choose the difficulty of the game for themselves allows the older crowd to be challenged by a Pokémon game while not compromising on the experience for the kids at all.
Game Freak has already done this once with Black 2 & White 2 with the key system. After finishing the story you’re rewarded with a key that unlocks either a hard or easy mode for future replays respectively. That these difficulties were locked behind these keys were unique to each version was frustrating but how the difficulty was ramped up in these games was done very well. Opponents, primarily Gym Leaders, had more Pokémon in their team whose levels were higher and had held items, while the AI was smarter and could recall Pokémon just like the player. The game increased the difficulty not by simply increasing the level of anything or starving the player from opportunities, but by giving the opponents access to a wider variety of tools. Give this approach some more polish, dish the key system entirely and extend it to every NPC instead of just the important ones and you will have one helluva difficulty setting that will be appreciated by many older (and new) Pokémon players.
had multiple difficulty settings once. |
Why this hasn't become a standard is beyond me.
Another ‘feature’ introduced in the Black & White games that have never been used since are seasonal changes. Just like the generation 2 games Gold, Silver & Crystal introduced a day & night cycle the generation five games went one step further and introduced a seasonal cycle. The games cycle through each season every month not only changing up the look of the Gameworld but also opened up, or closed, the path to areas, items and changed the type of Pokémon that appeared. With the addition of seasons, I felt that the Pokémon world felt that much livelier and that much closer to the real-world. It gave each route, town and city a nice change of pace when you visited them in a different month and added replay value or at the very least, made replays of the games feel that much more different.
With the coming of generation six with X & Y and the franchise moving from 2D sprites to 3D animated models, the seasons were left behind. I was disappointed but I understood the reason why. Creating a 3D world is something else then the 2D sprite-work the developers had worked with for years and would require a lot more work. Having to create not one but essentially four worlds while you’re not familiar with the technique in the first place is a bad idea. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it return. Game Freak has almost a decade worth of experience when it comes to creating 3D environments by this point, more than enough to have another crack at the concept again.
With the introduction of the Wild Area and how much weather plays a role there, seasons could enhance the experience even further. It would indeed require some effort on part the developers, but I think the results would be worth it. And hey, with how Pokémon likes to reuse its engine and assets means that if they put in the work now they can reap the benefits for quite some time.
More Version Differences
The last point that can (somewhat) fit into ‘stuff I want back’ is an increase in version differences. What started out as … wanting to promote face-to-face interactions between players has become something that Nintendo and Game Freak mainly keep alive because it means that many people will essentially pay for the same experience twice. Is it a shrewd business practice? Undoubtedly. Is it something that I actually want them to change? No. That each core series game comes in two versions is something that has been ingrained so deep within my mind, something that I feel is part of Pokémon’s identity, that it would be jarring to see them drop.
Doesn’t mean I can critique it though! If they’re satisfied to keep people paying double for version differences then they better up their game when it comes to these differences. While there are exceptions to the rule, like Opelucid city being either a very modern or very old city in generation five or the different gym leaders in generation eight depending on the version, the difference doesn’t go much deeper than just a dozen or so exclusive Pokémon including the version’s mascot. Increasing the amount and type of version differences, like different scenery, characters and maybe even slight changes in plot beats will give buying both more value to those who do.
Getting into the ‘things I don’t ever want to see them drop’ territory now with the regional forms. Game Freak has introduced a new gimmick to the franchise to the franchise ever since X & Y. First it was Mega Evolution, then it was the Z-moves and now it's Dynamax/Gigantamax. I don’t like this overabundance of gimmicks and I feel that they’ve backed themselves in a corner with them. Now that they have introduced something new every new generation, it’s something that people expect so they’re will be disappointment/backlash when there won’t be a new one. At the same time, there are plenty of fans of the old gimmicks like mega evolution and you can already see the demand for this gimmick to make its return. In other words: however Game Freak decides to approach a gimmick they’re will always be disappointment from the fans.
What many also consider a gimmick, though I think it deserves better than that, are the regional forms. Introduced with Sun & Moon, regional forms are essentially Darwinian Evolution in the Pokémon world. Pokémon who have adapted to different environmental factors and have a (slightly) different look, typing, abilities etc. I personally ADORE regional forms. Unlike with the others, which are something that I feel is definitely something ‘unexpected’ regional forms fit within the lore of the Pokémon worlds naturally. It’s a logical extension of what Pokémon are and how they evolve (not that one, the other one) over time. It gives older Pokémon a chance to shine with a fresh coat of paint and it helps to mitigate both the ‘evolution conundrum’ with regional exclusive evolutions as well as help fill out a new generations Pokédex. For these reasons (and just how much I love the concept) I think regional forms is something Pokémon should never stop doing from now on unlike they have done with their other gimmicks.
Mythical Pokémon Events
Let’s finish the list with something short, something that doesn’t need a lot of explaining for you to understand. Mythical Pokémon distributions need to come with a little story element as well. I find that the road to receiving a Mythical Pokémon has always been more fun than actually getting one. Why? Because the road towards it is filled with speculation and anticipation. The Pokémon is revealed, small tidbits like it’s typing, moves and personality are given out until Game Freak gives out a code or WiFi event that lets you download it on your copy of the game …. And that’s it. It’s an anticlimax!
After all that build-up the Pokémon is simply dumped in your game and that’s all that they wrote. Not really exciting is it? This hasn’t always been the approach though, just take the Celebii distribution in the Japanese and Virtual Console versions of Crystal. You’re given the GS Ball, which first needs to bring to Kurt for inspection after which you had out to Islex Forrest and interact with the mysterious Shrine there you encountered early on in your journey. Celebi then appears, you battle it, captured it and done. It won’t take you longer than 10 minutes, tops, but it does give you some neat extra info on Celebi itself. Something like this for every Mythical Pokémon distribution from now on is enough I feel to give each Mythical Pokémon distribution a lot more memorable.
So, those are some of my hopes for future Pokémon games. I have a few more ideas about swirling in my head but these are the ones I wanted to share with you all for now. Do you agree with them? Or do you have your own ideas about what type of stuff Pokémon should do in future games? Let me know in either the comments below or even on places like my Twitter and Facebook accounts!