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Plot and Pokemon: The Problem With Newer Generations

Discussion in 'Pokémon General' started by Darcy, Jul 5, 2021.

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Have you enjoyed the stories of recent Pokemon games?

  1. Generally yes

    2 vote(s)
    20.0%
  2. Generally no

    3 vote(s)
    30.0%
  3. Mixed feelings

    5 vote(s)
    50.0%
  4. Don't really care about the story

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Darcy

    Darcy Strongest Blade in Valor

    Eurydice
    (Brione)
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    Philosopher's CowlPsychium Z ★★★★Gardevoirite ★★★★Galladite ★★★★Heart Scale ★★
    With Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond on the horizon, I think this is a good time to reflect on an aspect of these games that in my eyes isn't discussed: the story.

    For some fans, the plot of Pokémon games may be unimportant. After all, who needs a thoughtful plot in a kid's game with oversized electric rats and an earth dragon with a magical girl transformation. If you're in that boat who just plays these games to battle, trade, or some other thing, I respect that. But I think just because they're kids games doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't have a strong story. What that looks like, however, is the point of contention.

    Pokémon DPP marks a shift in focus for Pokémon stories. Rather than beating up Pokémon thieves and mob bosses, you're beating up Pokémon thieves whose boss has a philosophy and tries to use legendary Pokémon to accomplish their goals (RS kinda did this too, but really what was their end goal). What came with this is a pretty dramatic change in presentation, with the foreboding Spear Pillar, N literally summoning a castle and having a climactic battle in the throne room, Pokémon wars, and actual other dimensions. This grander scale has made newer games feel very distinct, but when the story fails it becomes incredibly obvious. With that risk comes the mixed bag of games we've gotten since XY.

    Your opinion on which games fail and why is up to personal taste. I'll have my own opinion posted on this thread later, but more to the point of why I'm writing this: is continuing with ambitious, more story-focused games still a good idea for the series? Or should they step back and try simpler, small-scale experienced like in days of old? I'm curious to hear everyone's thoughts.
     
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  2. WavePearl

    WavePearl Believer in Possibilities

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    For me the problem is not so much the scope of the story, but smaller issues that add up to a larger problem.

    In XY the story felt a bit rushed to me--we didn't know what Team Flare's goals actually were, and AZ's arc just seemed tacked on. It didn't help that five party members was way too much for a traveling party, and two of the five didn't even get any development.

    Sun/Moon's story was actually pretty good, but the problem came when we got Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon--which version of the story is correct? Is Lusamine a flat out villain, as SM suggested, or was her obsession with the Ultra Beasts intellectual curiosity gone too far, as US/UM suggest?

    Then we come to Sword and Shield, which is flat out determined to keep you on one path in the story--the Gyms. Every time there's a chance to go off the beaten path, the characters tell you to focus on the Gym Challenge. I don't mind a little linearity as a sense of direction, but I felt like I was just going from point A to point B to point C because the game said so. Team Yell could've just been cut from the story and it would've still worked--your story needs reworking when I can call the plot twist months before the game releases!
     
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  3. Wizard

    Wizard Do you feel it? The moon's power!

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    The main thing I have wanted from Pokémon on the writing front since XY has not been a particular story or even scale of story, it is a skip button. I have finished two Pokémon runs in the last five years (being my initial Ultra Moon and Shield playthroughs). The amount of mashing through story sequences and text has played a small part in this. There are so many additional reasons for why I don't play Pokémon anymore, but those have been shared elsewhere. Here are some reasons I want a skip button:

    1. I already know the stories of the old games.
    2. There is too much text in the new games.
    3. I do not care about the stories of any mainline Pokémon games at this point.

    I would not call the stories in most Pokémon games bad. I mostly just view them as repetitive and uninteresting. Don't get me wrong, I love the stories in many video games. However, the stories in Pokémon do nothing to grab my attention or hold my interest at this point in my life. Stories in games do not have to mind-blowing or groundbreaking in my eyes, but I want something to engage me whether it be humor, the characters, or interesting world-building.

    And I do genuinely believe there a couple decent stories in the mainline games, but I have done so many playthroughs, they have lost a lot of meaning to me. I'm glad when people are able to find stories they like! For me, however, I just can't find that in the mainline series of Pokémon anymore.
     
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  4. Gazi

    Lilith
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    With the games themselves I don't mind the kinda boring stories, since I play Pokémon for the training of the Pokémon itself. I've never played for the plot. However, what I have a problem with is when the plots of the games get put into the show. The XY episodes are just a bit too plot heavy for what I'm looking for in the show. On the other hand, The new seasons that are supposed to be in Galar, but mostly aren't, are focused on everything except for the plot, and not even in the fun way that they did in Sun and Moon.
     
  5. Darcy

    Darcy Strongest Blade in Valor

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    Philosopher's CowlPsychium Z ★★★★Gardevoirite ★★★★Galladite ★★★★Heart Scale ★★
    I'll add my two cents for those interested in my babbling.

    To me, it feels like XY and the games that came after were trying to emulate the feeling of DPP and BW, down to XY and DPP even having fairly similar plot lines. What it boils down to is three things: buildup, believability, and payoff. If there's a problem with stories in Pokémon games, it comes down to these things.

    Let's deconstruct what I mean by going through the story of Pokémon Platinum specifically. Buildup is fairly self-explanatory. We see the progression to Cyrus's end game pretty early on, with Team Galactic targeting sources of energy like the Valley Windworks and taking an interest in Pokémon from space. Their efforts accumulate in capturing the Lake Trio, creating the Red Chain, and summoning Dialga and Palkia at the Spear Pillar. Essentially, there's the early establishment of something fishy going on and we see how events logically lead to each other. Believability is probably the most subjective of these three key things, but how I'm defining it is this: does your main bad guy have an established, understood motivation and a plan that makes sense? You probably don't agree with Cyrus, but his reasoning for what he's doing is well explained, and his methods would reasonably get him what he wants. Payoff is also subjective but basically amounts to if the events are resolved in a satisfactory way that makes sense. Personally, kicking Cyrus's ass in the Distortion World and leaving him there is very satisfactory.

    Starting with XY for me, newer games really struggle with these three aspects of a story. I played Pokémon X at least three times and I still couldn't tell you how Team Flare got from point A to point X with their plan. Lysandre basically pulls the ultimate weapon out of his ass after some vague proclamation about beauty because... why? You never actually get a good answer as to what the heck he wants. And at the end of it, he just blows himself up with his own laser. Three strikes on all accounts here.

    Sun and Moon were mostly good, and I am biased here as I love these games (Professor Kukui is the best professor). I don't remember a lot of the story differences in USUM so I'm not factoring that in. I'd say that the buildup with the Ultra Beasts was interesting, but the Aether Foundation being evil was really obvious and Lusamine is a mixed bag of a villain. It's unclear what she really wants and whether or not she's just crazy (which I don't find very satisfying as a motivation). The strength of the story really comes from Lillie and her touching resolution with her mother.

    SwSh depresses me. Playing the game for the first time, I honestly thought there wasn't going to be a solid plot. All you had until maybe the last hour of gameplay are some conflict with Bede and Team Yell being nuisances. Then you get to Wyndon and suddenly the League staff is evil and Rose is trying to summon the end of days because of...resource shortages, I think. For what little we learn about Eternatus and the Darkest Day (which might as well be nothing), we have no reason to think Rose's plan would solve anything. I also don't think that the whole segment has a good message, especially with Leon (who is being cast as the good guy) says we shouldn't worry about running out of resources since it's so far in the future - which is a bunch of bull. It comes from literally nowhere, makes no sense, and actively hurts the game in my opinion. It gets resolved so fast with an honestly really easy boss fight and Rose being arrested, and you wonder why it was included in the first place.

    I do think there is still potential for them to tell strong stories of a big scale like they've been trying to do, but in SwSh particularly the whole thing feels like an afterthought. If they want to have a meaningful narrative, the work has to be put in, or it can really sour the whole experience for those of us who want to be invested.

    Edit: I wanted to add to what I said about SwSh here because I probably come off as being needlessly harsh on the game. It can be argued that they were going for a smaller scale experience with the focus being on the gyms, which I think the game only partly succeeded in. The issue, to me, is that SwSh doesn't know what it wants to be. The majority of your focus is on the gyms, but at the same time, they force you through a ton of lore through Sonia's research, not to mention the encounter with the box art legendary at the beginning of the game. I would dismiss it if they didn't actually become important during the fight with Eternatus. I also think that if you're going to try to push a message - which SwSh did - that you should develop your story so that message has a payout. The story of SwSh seems small because of its own failures, not just because it was meant to be, and I don't think that's entirely a good thing.
     
    #5 Jul 5, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2021
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  6. Captain Comet

    Captain Comet Fallen Star Baby

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    Basic Gary Oak ★Rage Candy Bar ★★★Jaw Fossil ★★★Galladite ★★★★
    Whelp, prepare the torches and pitchforks, because I'm probably about to make a lot of people angry.

    Oof I need to use a spoiler tag too.

    So first off, I've just about beaten Platinum (just have to get through the E4). It's a great game, but I think everyone raving about it nonstop made me expect it to be a masterpiece. But in the end, it kind of felt basic to me. But just might just be because I'm a Gen V baby so I'm used to very non-basic stuff. On to more specific critiques, Team Galactic had zero subtlety. Sure their goals were well defined and everything, but fron the first time you see Cyrus it's so obvious he's the bad guy. And every time you meet the grunts, they always talk about how they're going to change the world or that the worlds belongs to them. It's almost like game is trying too hard to tell you they're the villains. Though tbh that might just be because I already knew the entire story going in. Oh well.

    Now Gen V. That my friends, is perfection. I haven't played the sequels yet though, so I'll just be talking about og BW. Team Plasma from the start is all about Pokémon. They don't necessarily have any evil motivations or anything, they just believe Pokémon and humans should be separated, with N being the perfect way to personify this. He's a genuinely nice guy, even though his ideals clash with the player's. Then of course Ghetsis comes in at the end revealing the entire thing was a set up so he could easily take control of the region. And him alone, along with maybe the other sages. He doesn't care about N, he doesn't care about the rest of the team, and he doesn't care about Pokémon. N is a great puppet villain and Ghetsis is a great mastermind, and the entire game has a wonderful theme of how opposites need each other to survive. The rivals also have smaller arcs just about growing up and learning what they want to do in life. It's all very down-to-earth and human, and you can tell those themes were the main focal points of the entire game, what with the legendaries being based off Yin and Yang and small difference between versions.

    Then we move on to XY. What a mixed bag for me. These games seemed like they were trying to do what Gen V did, but on a bigger scale, while also catering a bit more towards kids. But in the end, it didn't work out. Team Flare is basically just Team Galactic again, but with somehow even less subtlety and trying to be more relatable. Lysandere is just Cyrus but with emotions. Admittedly this is all I remember as it's been a very long time since I've played them, but I think it speaks volumes when the post-game storyline is vastly more memorable than the main story. Now I still like XY, but not for the story. I like the mons and region.

    SM definitely are a step up from XY. Not perfect, but much more respectable. At least with SM. USUM kind of ruined the story imo, but had a lot more stuff to do in-game. Anyway, while it was pretty obvious from the beginning that the Aether Foundation would be the villains, it's still nice that that isn't the case at first. Like they act very nice to you at first. It's not until later that they get evil. Honestly I think the main reasons it was obvious they were the villains were just because they're designs look too nice to be nice, and because it was very obvious Team Skull wasn't the main threat. Team Skull was great btw. Such good comic relief, while also still very capable of, oh I don't know, taking over an entire town with towering walls around it? Oh yeah does anyone stop to think about the fact that there are literal aliens from across the universe in these games? Because there are. And it doesn't feel ridiculous and out of place. Which is an accomplishment in it's own right. But these games aren't perfect. The family dynamic between Lusamine and Lille (and to a lesser extent, Gladion) doesn't really feel that significant to me. I mean the end after Lusamine is cured of the Nihilego toxins (which is the reason she was crazy btw) is definitely nice, but the stort leading up to it feels... I don' t know, a bit forced imo? Nebby is great though.

    And last we have SwSh, aka the games that everyone will hate me for.
    I love these games. For many reasons. But focusing just on the story here, I found it incredibly refreshing that they went back and focused entirely on the Gym Challenge. Getting told several times throughout the story that "You're just a kid. Let the adults handle this. You just go continue your Gym Challenge." was such a breath of fresh air for me. Sure the climax completely came out of nowhere, but is it really fair to judge an entire story based on how it ends? Plus I thought the battle was cool and epic and cinematic. You asking if Pokémon should go back to small-scale stories I find interesting because, well I feel that's exactly what SwSh was for the most part. They're the only games thus far to make the Gym Challenge itself the main point of the story. Even back in Gens I and II, the story was about Team Rocket and you were just battling the gyms because that was what kids your age do.
     
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  7. Katanaeyegaming

    Katanaeyegaming #FEARTHEWYVERN

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    For me gen 6 and 7 really disappointed me (haven't played gen 8 yet so can't say) but honestly when it comes down to it the story is far from my biggest issue with the more recent games.
     

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