Pokémon is 20 years old in 2016. Even though Pikachu is now old enough to drink and vote this year, I think it’s time the yellow mouse and his friends went into the Daycare for a period, in order to rest, level up and really redefine Pokémon as a game.
This all comes from my experience playing Pokémon X last year and realising, after beating the main story in less than a week and discovering that the endgame was paltry, the core of Pokémon is really starting to feel dated and has not had much innovation since maybe Gold and Silver. Hardcore Pokemaniacs may debate me on this issue, saying tweaks to the metagame like the split of attacks into physical and special categories or the recent Mega-Evolutions changed the way how people play competitively but at its core, Pokémon’s battle system has not changed in over 10 years and it needs a good revision to stay current. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Pokémon X but it felt empty in some way, it did not have the same lustre it had when I played Emerald or Pearl back when I was younger.
The recent Pokémon games just don’t have the same pull they once did, the main game just feels like you are going through the motions. Sure, there’s a new criminal organisation to thwart and new gyms but it all feels the same. The previous 3 games of Black and White, Black and White 2 and X and Y have just blended into one homogenous blur of gym battles and ball throwing. Pokémon designs don’t seem as interesting as they used to and while people may say the first generation had a magnet as an inspiration, when you start using household appliances and a ring of keys as basis for some of your designs, it’s time you step away from the pen and paper.
X and Y did help in getting people into the metagame of Pokémon by making EV Training much easier and breeding Pokémon with perfect IVs less of a chore, it still locks off much of the breadth of the metagame by not allowing you to catch all the Pokémon without going to special Nintendo events or going through older games to import Pokémon which are not available in the current version.
It doesn’t have the presentation I grant you, but Showdown is the place for quick competitive battling.
That’s why, if I do want to play Pokémon now, I will play games like Pokémon Showdown as I can instantly create the team I want, without having to go through hours of breeding and training just to get one Pokémon to battle standard. Of course, people will argue that is the point of Pokémon, the grinding to get your team in tip top condition but why then, do so many people use programs like Pokémon Showdown to play competitively without the hassle?
My solution is for Nintendo to do two things:
1- Give us the Pokémon MMO that we want or at least let us visit every region in one game.
I know Nintendo seems to be allergic to online, but I still don’t understand why a Pokémon MMO doesn’t exist. It would print money and if released on the Wii U, would cause sales to skyrocket. Allow players to start in any region they want and go through the adventure at their own pace, make it so dungeons and gyms are like personal instances while the rest of the world is open for everyone. Let people make community gyms to pit their teams against random players, make it so the Champion for each league is the last person to beat the Elite 4 and have it so they stay the Champion for that region or that server until they are beaten and allow it so you can catch every Pokémon in the wild! Call it Pokémon Chroma and the fans will lap it up.
2- Make a licensed version of Pokémon Showdown.
Make a game designed solely for fans of competitive battling. Sell it for £10 on the eShop, give all the capabilities that games like Pokémon Showdown have and release it as a licensed title. Not only will you make money off people who just want to play the metagame, you open up the competitive scene for more players, getting more people to attend your yearly tournaments and championships. Everyone’s a winner!
After you’ve done that, you can then put the series into the Daycare a bit, allow Game Freak to focus on other games besides Pokémon and give the guys at the Pokémon Company the chance to go back to the drawing board and give us a brand new, refined version of Pokémon for the next 20 years.