The Problem with Pokemon: Ten Changes to Make For the Next Generation
The Pokemon series has a lot of tradition that has been seen in every game in the main series: you get one of three Pokemon at the beginning of the game, each of which is either a fire, grass, or water type; you battle through eight gym battles to collect badges; an evil organization is up to no good trying to harm everyone’s Pokemon; apparently you, a young child, are the only one who can somehow manage to collect and/or see every Pokemon in the land, even when capable adults can be found everywhere.
But you know what, that’s what made the game’s great. They were a blast to play because they were so fun and simple. I bring this up though to say that I am desperately craving something new from the franchise. I know Nintendo has to stick to some tradition with each game, but switching things up a bit can make a huge difference. I’m not even going to fault the game for having some ridiculous Pokemon either (I’m looking at you, Trubbish!). I’m sure it’s hard to come up with new species of tiny creatures after you’ve run through the hundreds they have so far. Here’s some examples of things that will make the next Pokemon game amazing:
1. Instead of being a brand new trainer in the story, why not have the player be one of the gym leaders? He or She can still quest to be a Pokemon Master, but will have to periodically return to their gym to battle ever-more challenging trainers seeking a badge?
2. Give the storyline a much needed facelift and make things a little more dire. This was hinted at with Pokemon Black/White’s Team Plasma wanting to “free” (and by “free” I mean enslave, basically) Pokemon. Maybe in the new game have a group stealing Pokemon, and have them steal one of the player’s Pokemon. If a group stole my starter Pokemon while I was playing, I’d be so enraged and into the story that I wouldn’t put the game down!
3. Just a thought, but maybe experimenting with live action battle would be a fun move forward. Instead of simply tapping “Tackle” and having your Pokemon tackle the opposing Pokemon, maybe you could have the player control their Pokemon, forcing them to physically get in line with their opponent to execute the move properly, while avoiding the enemy’s attacks. The spinoff Pokemon Conquest attempted this to some degree, being a tactical strategy game in the Pokemon world, but a full fledged, main series game might benefit from this as well.
4. There are WAY too many trainers in the game that have incredibly easy teams to overcome. Why are there like, sixteen Youngsters on a route that all have a team of one or two weak Pokemon? Throw in some variety! There’s freaking 600+ Pokemon! Show off some more, make the game a bit more challenging, and give each trainer a unique team.
5. Running off of the above statement, why not include an adjustable difficulty setting? There actually is a difficulty setting in Pokemon Black/White Version 2, but for whatever reason you unlock it after you beat the game! Why they did it this way is beyond me, but having it at the beginning of the game would be a smart idea. Higher difficulty settings increases the levels and skills of opposing trainers throughout the entire game, giving gamers that want more of a challenge the added difficulty, while players that want the same experience can still get that.
6. There are so many trainers in the world of Pokemon, but you are almost entirely adventuring by yourself. The anime and manga have Ash traveling with a handful of different friends at any given time, so why not have a basic party system in the games? This was kind of toyed with in Pokemon Black/White 2 as you occasionally teamed up with your rival in two-on-two battles, with your rival controlling his Pokemon and you yours. I think this is a brilliant idea that gives the game a lot more depth and characters more life.
7. Not really a change, but more of an addition, Nintendo needs to utilize the 3DS in the next Pokemon game and turn the handheld into a functioning Pokedex. Think about it: in the game, when you want to use your Pokedex, you can just turn the system sideways so it looks like the red Pokedex from the first games/series, and the system will register your movement and switch to the Pokedex. You can then scroll through the options of the Pokedex, even using the 3DS’ rear camera to see and look up information on special Pokemon AR cards. The Pokedex can be fully voiced, as it is in the anime and manga, and it will have tons of information about all Pokemon. Fans would simply eat this up, and it would be a very cool feature for the game.
8. You know how with each Pokemon game you can’t actually catch ’em all unless you have both versions of the game, or a friend has one and you have the either? While it’s likely a gimmicky way to get more money, it actually is a neat feature that makes you seek out friends to trade with. Since it’s already a staple of the series, and there are plenty of Pokemon already, maybe try having one version of the next generation have 300 distinct Pokemon, and the sister version have 300 different and distinct Pokemon? Fans will likely be upset to a degree by not having their favorite Pokemon included in their version, but it would be no different than not having their favorite one or two appear in a version. And you can make this an aspect of gameplay and story: one version takes place on one part of the land where they have these distinct Pokemon, which just so happens to be at war (or something less severe for a children’s game, like simple bickering) with the other half of the land, which houses the other 300 Pokemon. Then maybe you can play as a hero that has to unite the lands. You can of course catch all Pokemon and trade with friends, but now the source of Pokemon appearing or not appearing in the game has changed in a more sensible way.
9. Another idea would be to make each version of a respective generation of Pokemon games different perspectives. How cool would it be to play, let’s call it Pokemon Rainbow Version where you are a trainer (or gym leader, haha!) much as you are in past Pokemon games, and then you could also play that game’s sister title Pokemon Grey in which you are a member of Team Rocket (or Team Plasma, or whatever Team is running amok this time) trying to stop the hero of the other game? It’s not as kid friendly as past titles, but Nintendo could easily chalk up the ending and make the evil Team guy have a change of heart and become good in the end.
10. Thinking of my past experiences with MMO’s, it would be very cool if the new Pokemon game had an online feature like an auction house. I’m not endorsing penning up Pokemon and selling them for money, no, but what if players around the world could list a Pokemon for trade, and another player can see their listing and invite them to trade? It’d be a neat way to collect and train Pokemon. Regulations would apply, sure, but trading with players via Wi-Fi would be excellent. And why does it have to stop there? Maybe you can even trade and/or sell TMs and items. Maybe instead of TMs being readily available in the game they are much harder to find, and can only be used a select few times instead of over and over again? Just some thoughts…
Most of these ideas were thoughts I had while playing through Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2 (you can read y reviews of those games here). The series has been living off its laurels for some time now in my opinion, and I would really like to see the series takes steps in the future to expand upon its gameplay and become something truly better, as opposed to just the definitive version. Pokemon is a fantastic series of RPGs that no one can deny has changed all of gaming, portable or otherwise. And with so many dedicated fans in waiting year in and year out for a new Pokemon title, I think making a drastically different game would be a risky move for sure, but one that could pay off huge for Nintendo. Time will tell, but for now just keep enjoying Pokemon, and maybe the next version of the game will be one that actually does something new.