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Why Pokemon Should Try More

Discussion in 'Pokémon General' started by DuoM2, Feb 25, 2022.

  1. DuoM2

    Groudon Egg
    (Groudon Egg)
    Level 18
    Jul 7, 2019
    Hey guys. Pokémon's a series I've been thinking about a lot lately for reasons you'll come to see if you end up reading this whole post, but to sum up this post, Pokémon has been a series I've been quickly losing interest in. The main series games are all objectively good, even if sometimes only in a vacuum and not when compared to one another, but it's recently had a set of problems that's been completely blocking me out from playing them. I've typed up a pretty lengthy explanation in my own time about my thoughts on the series's direction lately and how I think they should improve it.

    So, to preface all of this, Pokémon is a game series that has had a really unique dynamic with my life. It was my favorite thing for the longest time, I’d get angry at people for not wanting to talk about it with me as a kid, and I’ve become really enveloped in its online community. It’s basically the sole reason I’m into pixel art and it has created so many friendships for me. It’s also by far the biggest reason for my online presence as a whole, as I am a moderator for a few Pokémon forums and have an up and coming YouTube channel centered around Pokémon. Despite all of that, times change. I still have many of those friends that this series helped me make, and all of the other Pokémon-related hobbies I have are still there. But at this point, of the few core series of games that I regularly play, Pokémon is my least favorite.

    When you first start playing the main series games, all of the difficulty comes from finding out the type matchup chart and not having your team overlap weaknesses too badly. If you fight all of the trainers, then good for you, you’re probably overleveled. The exception to that is the late game where there’s often a really scary difficulty curve, at least on paper. In some games your team will become underleveled, and in some your team will match the opponents’, Even in the games where your teams are more prone to being underleveled, though, the fact that your team has boosted EVs and the fact that your team is being controlled by a human brain both give you a much bigger advantage than you’d think at first.

    Once you understand the game’s type matchup chart, then as long as you don’t actively skip every trainer battle possible, the main series games should be a cakewalk. The stories are not interesting save Gen 5 and the gameplay becomes a monotonous grind where you beat up all of the braindead easy trainers, then the braindead easy gyms, and finally the braindead easy Elite Four and Champion. Not even the hardest games in the series are ever difficult unless you do some self-imposed challenges, which for someone like me, requires very heavy restraint. If you play the games enough like I do, you’ll also need a lot of creativity to keep things fresh. After playing the series for so long, I am out of ideas to keep things fresh.

    On top of all of this, I feel like I would be just the kind of person to not care about any of those issues. Games or even series being repetitive is typically not an issue for me. I could happily replay through every single main series Mega Man game back to back despite playing hundreds of hours of those games lately and I would still enjoy them. I have become pretty good at some of the entries, enough so to the point where I can run through many stages without practice and take no damage, but games like those still take execution to not get punished. With Pokémon, it feels like once you’ve “solved” the games, it becomes impossible to have any trouble and it turns into you clicking through menus until the game crumbles.

    I think competitive Pokémon has its own separate issues as well, and those of you who know me especially well will know where I’m going with this. It’s so close to being a perfect game for me; it has several aspects to it that you need to be good at, between building good teams, finding good game plans in a given scenario, and getting into your opponent’s head, and almost nobody will be limited by physical execution. There’s a lot that needs to go on in your brain both within and outside of the game and it’s really unique for what it is. But the heavy RNG the game has completely kills it for me. Most good players are able to play around RNG, especially if there’s a big skill gap, and I do keep this in mind while playing. This doesn’t stop the fact that RNG will decide many games, though, especially when you’re not a top level player. Most games where this is not the case feel unrewarding at best, one misplay can spell doom for you which I as a person am pretty prone to, and any game where either side gets hit badly by RNG just ends up leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    It goes without saying that my interest in the series has gone down a lot over time. The last time I genuinely enjoyed a playthrough of a Pokémon game was my first playthrough of USUM because I limited myself to just using a Grovyle, and that was the good and unique challenge I really needed. Without overleveling, which I still had to stop myself from doing, Grovyle’s stats are terrible, few of its moves are above 70 base power, and pure Grass is a historically terrible type for playthroughs. Grovyle is so bad that even some regular trainers required X Items so you didn’t instantly lose. But this was one playthrough, and beyond that, I have not had an enjoyable playthrough of a main series Pokémon game in a long time. I’ve tried doing other solo runs but haven’t enjoyed those the same, the charm of that Grovyle challenge really wore off. Otherwise, the competitive gameplay is always very disappointing to me, and it doesn’t help that seeing people talk about Pokémon on websites like Twitter will often leave a bad taste in my mouth. I would probably not be involved with Pokémon at all had it not been for some of the Pokémon forums I use, but wouldn’t know about those communities had it not been for Pokémon being my favorite game series for such a long time beforehand.

    That was how I felt about the series, at least, until Pokémon Legends Arceus came out. I had zero expectations going into this game and actually almost didn’t buy it. But of course, I did, and seventy hours later I’m calling myself done for now. This game is such a wonderful breath of fresh air that this entire series has really needed for quite some time. This game is seeing just about universal praise online and sales that are expected to greatly outperform the other Pokémon games on Switch so far. I could not be happier with how any of this has played out. The game is great for more reasons than one, but the big hook for this game is definitely its core gameplay.

    This game is just fun in a way that I can’t even really describe. One of my more unpopular opinions is that I loved Let’s Go for pushing the player to complete the Pokédex, since the Pokédex was small and the game encourages you to catch Pokémon, and that’s exactly what this game does as well. None of this is in a way that’s at all easy to explain, so this little review of Legends Arceus will be brief, but this game just drags you right into its world and makes sure you’re immersed in it. It’s very easy to go crazy running around and catching a bunch of stuff, and up until the point where you’re nearly done with the Pokédex, it always feels like there’s something productive you can be doing. It really helps that the catching mechanics are really enjoyable even if they are a bit janky sometimes. This isn’t the most fun game I’ve ever played, but it definitely has had a bigger grip on me than other games. It’s also kept that grip for the whole seventy hours I mentioned before, which makes that even more great, since that is significantly more time than I’ve sunk into any single playthrough of any other game I’ve played.

    The world they set up is such a breath of fresh air from what Pokémon usually does. I like the older setting, I like all of the little worldbuilding details, and I like what all gets implied about the differences between this world and the modern Pokémon world. The fact that Arceus directly gives you a motive is really cool to me, and I love that you start out as an outcast and have to work your way into society, it’s all a really nice tonal shift from how cheery the main series games mostly are. A lot of the characters being ancestors of the main series characters is really nice as well, although it sucks that most of them will be remembered as “oh that’s Clay’s ancestor.” Most of them are pretty uninteresting and one-note, but there’s at least a few interesting ones in there.

    This game is not perfect at all, though. It is VERY rough around the edges, both graphically and functionally. You will encounter some kind of bugs or other weird stuff while you play through the game, no questions asked. The battle system is interesting for the purpose of ingame, but would be extremely broken no matter how you implemented switching if there were PvP, so you cannot play with friends outside of trading. This is lame. Battling in general does have a similar issue to what I mentioned before with it becoming brainless, especially with how easy it felt like it was to overlevel, but is functional here because it shows up so little. Even the toughest battle in the game wasn’t really an issue to me despite being very poorly designed, but I can honestly excuse it just because of how awesome the presentation of it all was. This is also the first game in the series where I’d call the new Pokémon designs a mixed bag at best, they’re really not great.

    But in spite of all of that, the few strengths are big enough to outweigh the many flaws. It’s not my favorite out there, that’s for sure, and I’m not going to play it again for a very long time without DLC to push me, but I did enjoy my time with it. As of right now, though, I would definitely choose replaying it again before playing through any of the other main series Pokémon games. I don’t really have any ideas of how to replay through the existing Pokémon games in such a way to make them interesting again, but the gameplay of Legends Arceus would still be what it was even if I’m honestly a bit burnt out from it.

    Despite the fact that I enjoyed it, I don’t think Pokémon should make another Legends game for quite some time. I fear that a new Legends game would be way too similar to the last one, which would eventually lead Game Freak into the same pitfall that the main series has gone off into. I think the core gameplay requires just enough thought to not have the same issue as the main series for me, but it’ll be pushing it and I’m sure other people wouldn’t like it. I would love it the most to see another one of these games very far off into the future, but this game is a great, unique experience thanks to its mechanics and I doubt Game Freak would be able to change it enough to be worthwhile unless it’s for the sake of reintroducing the game’s formula.

    Beyond Legends, I think Pokémon should use this game’s success as a sign that they need to explore their property further. Make more series that infrequently pop up and differ from the main series on a similar level that Legends does and you’ll be set. Maybe make a third Shadow Pokémon game, for example; one of those would definitely be different enough to satisfy Pokémon fans who are tired out by the stale main series. Beyond that, everyone loves them, so you’d get good attention from the internet right out of the gate, especially if you kept the more shady atmosphere, but still kid-friendly feel of those games. Either way, this can be explored in so many ways, and I’m hopeful Game Freak sees this game for that creative opportunity rather than seeing dollar signs in this game.

    Game Freak is also open to giving their IP to other people, as shown with ILCA and Brilliant Diamond Shining Pearl. Say what you will about BDSP as games, but this shows a potentially very interesting opportunity. Game Freak got to release two major games within three months of one another, and this will obviously lead to more profits, which they would obviously want. I would hope that they maybe alternate years instead so the people working on these games get more time to polish them and to relax, but as sad as it is, I think that’s way too unlikely. I think the best thing to come from this is if Game Freak lets some other company, ILCA or otherwise, make a second main series game for them in some years. It’s very possible that fans of the series may feel burnout if they go too crazy with new releases, which is another pitfall they may fall into here, but it’s also very possible that they give the other development team less of a time crunch to polish the game in such a way that the Switch Pokémon games haven’t really seen. But regardless, giving your IP to another creative team could lead to some interesting games coming out of it, and we didn’t really get to see that with BDSP.

    I think the future could be bright for Pokémon fans. There’s no one good thing that could come from this, and a lot can go wrong if I haven’t made that clear enough, but Pokémon’s recent direction in a few aspects has shown me a lot of promise, especially if Legends Arceus is anything to go by. This could end up leading to nothing, especially if Game Freak looks at the immediate money they could get from making more Legends games, but if Game Freak looks into exactly why this game succeeded, then they have an absolute golden opportunity on their hands.

    And what’s even crazier is that there were so many people who were starting to completely give up and constantly say negative things about the series. I haven’t spoken much about it until this post, but as of recently I have been one of those people. The fact that Pokémon can pull such a massive 180 after Let’s Go, Sword and Shield, and Brilliant Diamond Shining Pearl says a lot. You should never give up on a group of people to change given enough time and the right mindset. Pokémon wants to be successful just as much as you want them to be, and you could definitely argue that they can just look at the immediate money right now, but if anything I’m honestly more expecting this to not be the case.

    Game Freak is not a completely soulless and pent up company like some people think they are. They have clearly listened to peoples’ complaints, as things like the balance changes across generations and the quick, albeit bad response to the BBND posts should prove. Part of me feels like Legends Arceus comes from the complaints that the series has been too stale, and if so, they would know exactly where to go from here. They’ve also said that it’s more fun for their development team to work on other projects than the Pokémon they need to do, and if that’s the case, they may have made the game out of a desire to actually have fun with themselves and would want to do more judging by the game’s success.

    But even if they didn’t make the game with either of those motives, Game Freak has a decent amount of employees even if not as many as other major development teams. I don’t fully know how directing a video game works, but expect at least one person on the development team to be smart enough to see this pattern and push them to act on it in a way that the community will like. I doubt Game Freak will budge on some things, like the yearly releases, but they may be able to learn from their recent releases. Not only could they be able to bump up the quality of their releases, not only could they make Game Freak a better place to work for, and not only could they create more jobs by giving new people a chance to work with the IP, but they could be able to fix so many long-running issues people have had for at least over a decade. I’m not saying that all of this is going to happen, and maybe I'm being optimistic but I am pretty confident that at least some of it will, even if it may take some time to pop up.
    RadEmpoleon and Wizard like this.

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