I don’t even need to preface this article by mentioning that I love Pokemon and consider myself a Pokemon Master of the old ways, but I’m going to anyway. I found myself extremely hopeful last week when I heard they were announcing the next Pokemon title, which everyone just assumed was going to be Pokemon Grey. That did not happen. Instead, we were told that we’d be getting Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2. Even worse, they were going to come out on the DS, not the 3DS. So much of this depressed me that all I could do was rock slowly back and forth, knowing that instead of just the “Greatest Hits” middle version (Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, Platinum), we’d be getting two “Greatest Hits” middle versions. Regardless, as a longtime fan I indeed have much to say on what would be fantastic to see in future releases. So, here are five things that should be in the next Pokemon game (but probably won’t be).
5. A More Personalized Character:
Right now the biggest trend in Western style RPG’s is the insistence on open-ended exploration over story with a huge emphasis on character creation. Oddly, Pokemon somewhat adheres to the first half of the Western trope where the story takes a far, far backseat to the goal of the game: Explore and catch everything you find.
But what seems so very pointless is the notion that it’s okay to have the majority of your character creation screen be “Are you a boy or a girl?” We’ve moved past a point where the DS could be considered a limited system in terms of power, so adding even the most basic character creation tools shouldn’t be hard. Even adding another dozen preset characters would be preferable over the measly two that are offered.
What’s most perplexing about this is that the game is all about crafting your own play style anyway as your party of six can consist of any Pokemon you want, even duplicates of the same if that’s really how you’d prefer to do things. Yet this idea that this is your adventure is cut short when you’re restricted to the default character and the default story. Maybe I don’t want to be from Pallet town. Maybe I want to grow up in Vermillion City. Maybe I want to be the son of Lance and have a backstory in the Elite Four. Give me the option to really make this my adventure, not just Random Pokemon Trainer Boy’s adventure. This isn’t my first time to the show, though this leads into something else…
4. Offer Multiple Difficulty Levels:
Pokemon games are not difficult. Following RPG standards, any obstacle can be overcome by grinding long enough and carrying enough potions. I discovered all the way back with Blue Version that the difficulty was so low that you could actually go through the entire game with just your starter. Amazing how quickly they evolve when it’s just the one that you’re training.
What would be fun is if the game opened things up and offered the chance for really difficult challenges. For instance, instead of giving you the option of just the Fire, Water, and Grass-type starters, why not begin with the choice between Fighting, Psychic, or Dark-type starters? This changes up the simple repetitive nature and offers more strategies than the previous games as it forces you to plan a different team than usual. Pokemon Yellow was one of my favorites as it gave you Pikachu, an Electric-type starter, then made you fight like mad to make it past Brock with just Pidgeys and Metapods for support.
Even better, for the ultimate challenge the game’s higher difficulty levels could restrict the number of Pokemon you carry at any one time, so for the hardest challenge on Master difficulty you only have three Pokemon at any one time, forcing you to maximize their type coverage and develop real strategies rather than the usual war of attrition many battles fall in to. And if that seems like a bit too much, then simply improve the Pokemon choices of the other characters. On the Master difficulty setting, Gym Leaders now have full teams of six with one signature Pokemon and then five other Pokemon that allow for adequate type coverage. No more sweeping Gyms with one Pokemon. We’re getting complacent with the conventions and if something isn’t done soon, well then what more can be done?
3. New Pokemon Types:
Red and Blue Versions began everything with 15 types covering pretty much everything we could imagine. Gold and Silver Versions came next and added Dark and Steel-types to the mix, making us believe that there would be another type or two added every generation. That has not been the case and we’ve had just the 17 types for over a decade now.
It’s time to change that. Add something new, like a Time-type Pokemon, or a Rubber-type Pokemon. Or even an Ancient-type Pokemon. The limits of the current set have been stretched pretty far, and we’ve learned that some, such as Ice-type, are hard to really do much with. Sure, Ice-type moves are fine, but Pokemon who are exclusively Ice-type? They can resist other Ice-type moves, but Fire, Fighting, Rock, and Steel-type moves can obliterate them.
Plus, I’m just getting bored of the same two types cropping up for most Legendary Pokemon: Psychic and Dragon. In Black and White Versions I was incredibly disappointed to learn that the cover Legendaries were once more half-Dragon-types, meaning that they would be joining the previous generation’s Dragons. Introducing a few new types adds another element that is missing, and that’s the element of freshness. New strategies will need to be formed in much the same way the Dark-type Pokemon forced a change from relying heavily of Psychic-type Pokemon to needing something that could really compete.
I don’t like DLC, but I can actually see a need for it here. I’d love it if it were free, like some event Pokemon currently are (getting Mewtwo was fun, I suppose), but there is a real strength in adding the DLC to the game to function like a lot of free-to-play games currently use it: It allows casual players to get instantly what hardcore players can acquire with time. Again, it might bring about a frustrating thought when someone pays $5 for let’s say Heatran when you struggled through the game to the point where you could fight him and then struggled once again to actually catch him, but on the flipside, a naturally earned Heatran could have higher stats by level 100 than one bought at level 50.
The main goal here is to encourage fans like myself who simply don’t have the group of friends to trade with like I used to and don’t have the insane time to play through every version in order to trade over every Pokemon imaginable. It’s not realistic, but I keep feeling like I’m getting cheated in every new game where I can’t possibly get even half of the 649 Pokemon, all because I haven’t transferred every single Pokemon from FireRed Version over to Diamond Version and then over to White Version. Adding DLC can allow for one single ultimate version where micro-transactions can more than make up for any loss of sales as a result of just having one version instead of two.
Furthermore, this allows for new challenges every so often. Want the opportunity to tackle another four Gyms in a series of islands, complete with maybe another dozen new Pokemon? Cool, you can download a new bit of content for $10. Want the starters from every version to roam freely around one special area of your game? $2 pack opens up Starter Woods. Want items to dress up your in-game avatar or your Pokemon? $1 for outfit packs. You can monetize this with zero difficulty, yet still offer the entire game to those willing to put forth the effort to collect everything. Either way, I don’t feel like I’m getting cheated.
1. A Complete Overhaul of the Formula:
Everything I’ve mentioned thus far keeps things relatively safe considering the series’ insistence upon staying the same. In every game, without fail, you will begin the game by getting a Pokedex and the choice between one starter Pokemon (Grass, Fire, or Water-types), be told to collect as many Pokemon as possible, raise your Pokemon to battle and evolve (no more than twice), collect eight Gym Badges, fight the Elite Four, defeat your rival, and beat the evil team of this game (Team Rocket, Team Plasma, Team Magma, whatever). The biggest divergences from this rigid formula have been Yellow Version (which gave you Pikachu as a starter and let you acquire Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, just like the anime), and the 2nd generation (Silver, Gold, Crystal), which connected the new continent, Johto, with the original continent, Kanto, thus doubling the size of the game and the overall number of Gym Badges you could acquire.
Something needs to change. The most we’ve seen is the addition of 100 or so new Pokemon with each new game, a few new moves, and some new hold items, plus the ability to have two-on-two battles (3rd generation) and three-on-three battles (5th generation). Why are we stopping so simply? Why haven’t we just done six-on-six battles and got them over with? Why haven’t we introduced tri-typed Pokemon? Why haven’t we introduced dual-type moves? Why are we holding back from that?
White and Black Versions did change up the story ever so slightly, allowing the usual conventions to shift a bit, but the formula still stayed the same despite the minor changes. You could select which Elite Four opponent to fight in any order, but you still fought the Elite Four one after another. You were required to catch the Legendary Pokemon for the game in order to advance, but there were still species of basic Pokemon locked away in separate versions that you couldn’t snag. You got to fight your rival in a special location with another battle directly after, but you still had to battle through eight Gyms to get all the way to the end. It was still, despite everything, the same exact game, and it wasn’t even playing up the series’ strengths.
At this point, a formula overhaul needs to happen. More types, new types of moves, new battle types, new hold items, fourth evolutions (Charlord at last?), actual Pokemon breeding (breed a Pikachu and a Jigglypuff, get a Jigglychu), a story that involves more than eight Gym Badges and has a real threat (a super Pokemon that comprises all types at once perhaps?), the ability to pick any basic Pokemon from a three-stage evolution chain as your starter, or any basic Pokemon in general for your starter. There’s so much that can be done to liven things up, switch-up the formula, and bring life back into the series.
But let’s be honest here. We all know that Pokemon White 2 and Black 2 will just be slightly improved versions of Black and White with some remixing here and there, but ultimately they’ll just be the same exact game we’ve been getting since Red and Blue. And that, to be frank, is unacceptable. Even worse, by insisting on releasing them on the DS rather than the 3DS only makes things more difficult for Nintendo in the longrun. Someone high up in Nintendo needs to go talk to Game Freaks and tell them to make some changes, ASAP.
That’s all coming from me of course. I can’t possibly be responsible to speak for all Pokefans out there. What do you guys think the next Pokemon games should include? What new features would you like to see, what new plots or starters are you hoping for? Is there any hope at all, or are you perfectly content with an improved version of Black and White? Leave a comment and let me know. In the meantime, I’m going to keep plotting for the real ultimate Pokemon experience.