Like many gamers born in the late 80s or early 90s, the “Poke Mania” cultural obsession took over my life or a good year or so during the peak popularity. For many more kids at the time, it turned into a lifelong obsession. I don’t consider myself to be in this particular camp, as I took a big break from Nintendo in the early 2000s, but I came back to Pokemon after many years in 2015. I bought Pokemon X and it was like nostalgia crack to me – I was hooked all over again.
It was a pretty deep hook as well that lasted a fair bit of time. I ended up revisiting Pokemon Yellow (and finally finishing a game I had started almost two decades prior), then played some Pokemon Pearl in a multi-part unfinished series documented here on NostalgiaTrigger (spoiler alert: I never finished it because I couldn’t beat the Elite Four), then bathed in the hype around Pokemon Sun & Moon. About a year later, Let’s Go Pikachu let me revisit the Kanto region one more time in a gorgeous, re-imagined world with all new gameplay elements.
But then something happened – Pokemon Ultra Sun & Moon was announced, and I couldn’t see myself doing all of that again. “But that’s just a remake with expanded areas,” I figured, of course I don’t want to play that novel of text until Pokemon Sword & Shield was announced, and still, I had little interest in doing the whole Pokemon thing again. I even tried to psych myself up with some light reporting, but had to push myself to even get through that. As a matter of fact, for someone who goes bonkers every time I receive word of an impending Pokemon Direct, nothing really blew my skirt up from the Sword & Shield gameplay video.
Recently while in Newborn Care Mode, I’d been managing some short periods of gaming time, and decided on a playthrough of Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, trying to get another stiff hit of the nostalgia I got with Pokemon X. Well, I have tried and tried, but I just don’t have any interest in continuing. And I’m not even at the first gym yet. I’m just absolutely so bored.
That’s when I realized that I may have reached my Poke-pacity. Pokemon.. acity. Capacity for.. Poke… Poke–
I reached my Pokemon capacity. The games haven’t changed in ages, and I don’t think they ever really can. I had some stray thoughts about the various parts of the game where I’d like to see changes (or merely a refresh) and attempted to categorize them. Here goes:
Random encounters are a huge pain in the ass and I can’t stand them. Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee was a wonderful departure from this, as all the encounters became user-initiated. Without this mechanic, my Pokemon game playthroughs typically ended at the first cave, somewhere around the 35th Zubat encounter, so it was nice to be able to capture ones that I wanted to catch, for XP or otherwise. That being said, even that mechanic got quite old since there’s still far too much luck involved.
I still think Pokemon visible on the map with turn-based battle is the golden ticket, like in Sword & Shield, so going forward I think this would alleviate my frustrations with random encounters. Catching Pokemon could use an overhaul, as the whole “weaken and throw Poke balls” gets pretty boring, fast.
The removal of HMs was a nice change in Sun & Moon, but the issue is that the same 4-move system is so permanently ingrained in Pokemon games, that my typical routine was almost always the same. I would inevitably ditch the “lower defense” and “lower attack” moves that most ‘mon start with, and trade them for some kind of offensive move, and then try to diversity the types with some TMs.
I’ll come right out and say it, I think the Mega Evolutions and all those ExTrEmE moves are boring. Sure, they look cool, and there is a bit of strategy involved with when to use them, but I feel they’re far more important in competition, and not so much in the single player adventure. Quick question – who out there who played Sun & Moon used them outside of the Trials? Odds are, you used it to save yourself some time during a big battle, and it most likely took out your foe immediately. I would have loved to see them do more than “1 time big attack” – perhaps flipping weaknesses or inflicting different statuses? Perhaps something that can get exploited by the rest of your team? What about a move where you could employ two of your Pokemon in a team-attack, like combining Grass and Ice attacks into hybrids, shooting frozen blades of grass at an enemy? I don’t know, just some ideas to change things up from these one-off “big Pokemon make big attack!” features.
I actually really like the over-the-top gyms, to be honest. I don’t have a lot to complain about here. The problem is you can’t change these much, as the gyms basically have to exist as a metric for player progress. That and you will piss off the long-term players if you remove them. Even when Sun & Moon attempted a departure for this with Trials, they acted exactly the same. Without a massive overhaul to this metric of progress, there’s no chance that any part of Pokemon can change.
Personally, I’d love to see some sort of open-world elements. Yes, you heard it here folks – open-world is something I’d like to see in Pokemon (I typically despise open-world elements). I think a quest system in Pokemon (for side-quests other than “trade my x for your y) would really open up the possibilities in a Pokemon game. The environments are always gorgeous, and feel very homey, and a system with some creative problem solving quests would be very unique. Yo-Kai Watch did quests and I had a blast with that game – it is limitless how many Pokemon-related quests the developers could come up with.
Forever Stuck in Place?
There’s not much that Gamefreak can do to tweak core elements of Pokemon, and part of that, I believe, is due to the sheer number of Pokemon that exist out there. Unless they were to keep Pokemon region-specific, it’s simply not feasible to revisit the drawing boards for hundreds of Pokemon. How could this possibly ever happen? There’s also the inter-connectivity and trading that occurs between generations, which cements all features of the game in-place. There’s just no chance that, for example, Pokemon could have hybrid-moves, rather than a move being a) physical or special, b) of a certain type (or normal), because you can’t go back and make sweeping changes across the board. The series has gone off for so long that it feels very stuck exactly where it is, with little to no chance for change going forward.
My dreams of a more open-world adventure with non-fetch quests might be enough to bring me back, but chances of that are also pretty low.
The solution for me is either a) quit playing Pokemon for a few more years, and/or b) play a modified ruleset. I recalled reading about a fellow blogger’s Nuzlocke run over at Adventure Rules, which looked like loads of fun. And of course all of the excellent solo runs on That Extra Level! that always make me want to play another Pokemon game. I think that playing as fast as possible yields the highest chance for completion, and the solo runs are pretty easy to speed through (since you basically end up with a super-powered main, as they suck up all the XP), so maybe I will have to attempt that again.
Anyway, that’s my rant about Pokemon games! They’ll always hold a special place in my heart, but have just worn out their welcome since getting back into the franchise when I started this blog several years ago. Perhaps a good plan is to wait until my little one puts a few years on her, so that I can introduce her properly to the series? Seeing how the magic affects her might just prompt me to jump in and enjoy it with her. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting on it!
Is the Pokemon series still going strong for you? What is your favorite generation? Let me know in the comments!