Growing up, I spent as much time playing Pokémon as anyone else. In 1998, Pokémon was a great new idea, and the game deserved the acclaim it received. I’ve continued to play the Pokémon games since that time (though I have not played the latest games: Pokémon Black and White), and I have enjoyed each one. However, beginning with Pokémon Sapphire, the game design began to feel old.
It’s natural for games within the same series to play similarly, but those series still change over time. While there have been some changes made to the Pokémon series, most notably the inclusion of online battles and trading, the games have otherwise stayed the same. Eventually, all major video game series need an overhaul, and I think it’s Pokemon’s turn.
What needs to stay the same?
Before I get into major changes, there are some basics that don’t need to be changed.
The huge number of Pokémon to collect is something that adds some replay value to the game. You aren’t stuck using the same Pokémon each time you play through the game because there are tons to collect. Of course, it’s also just fun to have a huge number of Pokémon to collect.
Furthermore, the basics of training Pokémon ought to stay the same. The evolution and breeding systems are well designed, and the four-move limit on each Pokémon leads to some tough decisions and adds extra strategy to the game.
Lastly, trading needs to continue to be a primary focus of the games. Having multiple versions of the same game that contain different Pokémon is the biggest incentive to trade, so Nintendo should continue to develop multiple versions.
Pokémon needs a true 3D world.
I hope I’m stating the obvious, but with the advancements in technology it’s time for Pokémon to have a true 3D world. The graphics used in each Pokémon game have gradually been improved to include some 3D elements, but every game in the series is played from an overhead view. I’d like to see a new Pokémon game with some basic camera controls and gameplay from a 3D Legend of Zelda-esque viewpoint.
The switch to a true 3D world is essential for the series to evolve.
Replace randomly generated battles with an active overworld.
Pokémon certainly isn’t the only series clinging to randomly generated battles, but I think it has the most to gain by ditching them. Ever since the very first Pokémon games were released, I have been regularly frustrated by the random battles that occur too often in cave areas when all you really want to do is get from one side to the other as quickly as possible. Each game offers an item to reduce how often the random battles occur, but I think that the developers had to include such an item should have told them the battles happened too often to really be fun.
One thing the developers did well when choosing to use random battles was limiting the battles to the tall grassy areas in outdoor zones. Without this feature, the frequency of the random battles would be unbearable.
Instead, Pokémon should be visible on the overworld. Common Pokémon could appear randomly each time you enter the zone, but I think a new approach should be taken for some of the harder to find Pokémon.
I’m sure anyone familiar with Pokémon Red and Blue has spent more than their fair share of time inside the Viridian Forest trying to find one of the oh-so-elusive Pikachu. I’m also sure that zero people actually enjoyed walking back and forth through the forest waiting to randomly run into one of the famous electric mice. Likewise, I don’t believe entering and re-entering a zone waiting for a rare Pokémon to appear on the overworld is going to fun for anyone.
Instead, I think the mainstream Pokémon titles ought to learn from Pokémon Snap. Pokémon Snapwas all about taking photographs of Pokémon, but you often had to lure the Pokémon out of hiding before they would smile for the camera. The same idea could be applied to a mainstream Pokémon games. The possibilities are endless, but I’ve quickly thought up some ideas:
- Lure a Pikachu out of hiding with ketchup…or other kinds of bait.
- Catch a Remoraid using a rare or expensive lure.
- Shake a tree to find a Kakuna…or an angry Beedrill.
- Examine rocks in a cave to find a Geodude.
Having players actually look for the Pokémon they need to catch would add a fun new element to collecting all the Pokémon. Of course, once you find the Pokémon you’ll have to fight them before they can be caught.
The battle system needs to introduce real-time elements.
Have you ever watched the Pokémon cartoon? Have you ever seen the way that Pokémon battles take place on the cartoon? Creating battles like the ones shown in the cartoon should have been one of the developers goals from the beginning. However, over ten years later we are no closer to real-time Pokémon battles than we were when Pokémon Red and Blue were released.
I’m not proposing that the turn-based battles be thrown out entirely, but I think it is past time for players to have direct control over the Pokémon they command. Dodging should be handled in real-time and not by math taking place in the background.
I’d like to see a closed arena (though it would ideally look like the same area where you met the wild Pokémon or Pokémon Trainer) with a mostly zoomed out view. Each Pokémon would then take turns attacking just like they do in the current turn-based system. The difference is that now your opponent is able to freely move around the arena and dodge your attack. Better yet, each Pokémon has four moves and there are four face buttons on the latest handhelds. Each move can be mapped to one button (this is very similar to what was done in Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Colosseum).
The battles won’t be any fun if your opponent is running away during the entire fight to dodge your abilities, so each move should be designed to have a different effect and hit a different area. I’d like to use Pikachu as an example:
- ThunderShock strikes a straight line in front of Pikachu.
- Thunder strikes the area directly around Pikachu and creates four lighting bolts that hit the edges of the arena (one in each cardinal direction).
- Quick Attack is a dash attack that never misses (but is no longer always first because stats will not dictate turn order).
- Double Team creates three copies of your Pokémon that mirror your movements until they are attacked.
My ideas are fairly basic, but I think they make it clear that I am talking about a complete overhaul of the battle system. The changes would add new strategy to the battles because it is impossible to predict every move that your opponent will make. Should you run away to avoid an attack that hits close to the source? Should you avoid the lower half of the arena or take cover in one of the cardinal directions? Pokémon has always required the use of strategy, but a real-time battle system would require more strategy and be more fun at the same time.
I need a better reason to go on a journey.
The story has never been Pokémon’s strong point, and I don’t think it’s something that the series should heavily focus on, but it still needs some serious improvement. I can quickly sum up the plot of every Pokémon title: a boy or girl sets out with his or her first Pokémon to visit the gym leaders in each town to earn a badges and train Pokémon so that he or she can become the very best like no one ever was. On the way, the young Pokemon trainer encounters a team of evildoers who are up to no good and puts a stop to their plans.
It’s been over ten years. Can we please get a new story?
Handhelds are awesome, but I enjoy console gaming too.
Every mainstream Pokémon title has been a handheld game, and I think that’s a tradition that should continue for the most part. Unfortunately, traditional handheld gaming is on the decline due to the rise of tablets and smartphones. I’d like to see a traditional Pokémon game released on a console. In the past, we’ve received battling games like Pokémon Stadium and even adventures like Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, but none of them allow for the true collecting and adventuring that is available in the handheld titles. With handheld gaming on the decline, Pokémon could find new life a major console game.
Pokémon isn’t going anywhere.
I’d like to see tons of changes made to the Pokémon series, and I believe they are necessary to keep the series interesting in the future. However, it’s clear that the series has remained incredibly popular despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that is changes very little. Regardless of what changes are made, the Pokémon series has become a gaming legend that isn’t going to disappear any time soon.