Party Chat: What Does Pokemon Need?
With the nearing release of Pokémon Legends Arceus, the topic of whether or not Game Freak can do anything right seems to be rampaging across social media. However, the truth is that a series as popular as Pokémon has a diverse fanbase, and no single game will cater to all of our tastes. So, I wanted to extend the offer to our staff to discuss one thing they would either add and/or take away from the existing Pokémon formula in order to make the games more appealing to themselves, personally. This is all wishful thinking and in good fun, but hopefully it speaks to the varied perspectives on the franchise.
I am currently playing through Sword/Shield with my son and we recently finished Let’s Go before that. I haven’t touched a Pokémon game since red/blue prior to revisiting the series with my son and i’ll ask what was the big deal with sword / shield? The games seem fine to me, plenty to do, almost too much. I get for some players the game starts after you beat the story and want to hunt down the legendaries, breeding, shiny hunting, but at the point you have access to these Pokémon, I am kind of done with the game and ready for what is next.
That is probably my biggest gripe with the game, maybe there are too many monsters in a game and/or they have walled off access to select ones until way too late that I don’t care/won’t use them because I have seen as much as I want to see. So I guess that is what I would like to see changed with the formula, the ability to catch legendary Pokémon earlier.
I would honestly like for deeper focus to go into the different regions. Nowadays it feels like they create a new region, maybe make a third game and then move onto the next region. Like Rich said, they are reaching the point where they’re just…so many Pokemon. I’m hoping that they realize that with Arceus, they can go back to regions they’ve already created and do something outside of the mainline games.
I think a lot of people imagine a large spanning open world for Pokemon and while that’d be cool, I really can’t see that happening with how they pump out games every year/every other year. Unless they start relying on other dev teams to help
One thing is certain, Pokémon Legends Arceus will be a divisive game. There will be some purists who will be resistant to the change in gameplay and then there are folks like me that have been asking for a change in the pokemon formula for quite a while and here we are, the change is finally here. Can this go horribly wrong? Yes. But sometimes change hurts and growing pains are necessary for improvement. After watching some trailers, I’m actually quite excited to see these new changes. An open world action rpg in a new Japanese inspired region of Sinnoh. Did you hear what I just said? An action RPG. This is the first in the series to be designated as such and that prospect alone excited.
I’m also very much looking forward to the sweeping changes coming in Arceus, as the “tried-and-true” formula has not been interesting in the slightest for me personally for some time now. It may end up being a mess like Gio said, but it’s these kinds of changes that have the best chance at getting someone like myself to give the series a go again.
I am very curious about Arceus in the sense that from the latest Japanese trailer, does the trainer/player take damage while trying to catch pokemon? I think that would add a new and interesting twist/mechanic.
Just feel like the core experience has become bloated over the years, especially when it comes to so many Pokemon. It’s partially why I played through and enjoyed Let’s Go so much despite the ease of difficulty and diluted mechanics. Nostalgia aside, I like how straightforward the earlier games were and believe that Arceus may provide the “reset” that I personally think it needs.
As a response to your first comments, Rich, my Shield playthrough clocked in at around 25ish hours. This installment of Pokémon was rather unique in that you can’t catch the title legendaries until after the main campaign. I found this surprising and not really something I’m all that into, but then again, the DLC expansions were pretty exclusively about having and catching legendaries, so that was another structural shift.
For Arceus, I’m fairly certain that only the trainer is damaged when navigating the field, and Pokémon are damaged when you initiate combat. I am not sure how fainting Pokémon in turn-based battles affects their status in the action section of the game, but I do think it will increase their chance of being caught. I think the best thing Legends could possibly do is keep battling and catching separate, so that players must engage in both systems to obtain new Pokémon through either capture or evolution.
I recently discussed this on my podcast (shameless plug), but I think the greatest detriment to the series has been it’s increased reliance on narrative. Pokémon works best when the player is left to their own devices and objectives, which is yet another reason why Legends sounds so appealing to me.
That would be the thing I would take away, but I’m not entirely sure what I would add. I think the series has been rather bad at introducing another pillar to its gameplay- battling, catching, and gyms have been relative staples, but contests, hidden bases, underground, raids, and the like have served as temporary distractions that don’t feel well-fleshed out enough to be included in later installments. I think that’s a shame, because Pokémon does feel sometimes like it tacks on a gimmick for the sake of having “one more thing” to do, but never perpetuating that element.
I guess my biggest issue with the formula is, by the time some pokemon are available to me, i have my party set and am about done with the game. I am 26 hrs into the campaign and still don’t have the game’s title Pokémon. At this point I’ll probably catch it, but won’t put it in my party unless the DLC really grabs me. Also I think there are just too many Pokémon in an entry. If there were ~100-150 then i would have an incentive to try and complete the dex, but 400 is too many for me to care
Yeah I definitely agree with your point @Evan_Bee with other gameplay elements added feeling more tacked on than fully fleshed out. I really felt that with the contests in the BD/SP remake. It really just felt barren and I’m pretty sure (?) that the contests we’re the same between Hoenn and Sinnoh but the remake changed it (although might be wrong, who even knows at this point ).
Rich, your dex size qualms are the antithesis of what I like about this series. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, though, but I think they could do better at maybe sectioning off certain amounts for unlocking at specific intervals. I don’t think it needs to be as rigid as Regional -> National Dex, but then again, the National Dex is a thing of the past…
So there are a myriad of changes that I’m sure GameFreak could introduce to the core Pokemon games to bring some freshness to their formula, and I agree that Arceus will likely serve as a nice testing ground for some of those oft cited ideas.
For me personally, I think taking the series in a more (dare I say) Elder Scrolls type direction would be a fantastic change of pace. Give me a full day/night cycle in game (tied to the real world time or not), give me trainers in each town and along each route that refresh each new day and get stronger after you’ve defeated them. Give me a more leveled experience that grows as I do and allows more open world elements to shine. You could go full on Skyrim and just have all the Pokemon and trainers level up as you do, with increasingly hard ~strategy~ coming from NPCs as you progress through the gyms, or you could section off different parts of the region ala Into the Breach, with each new subregion being in a new level range depending on how many others you’ve unlocked so far.
Either system would naturally play into making the Pokemon League feel more naturalistic and challenging. By the end of the game, I’d like it to feel like you’ve gotten to the end of the Pokemon League “season,” where each trainer’s team of Pokemon for the year have been battling it out constantly and you’ve got trainers all over the world to practice against on a daily basis.
Ultimately what I’m getting at is that I want the world of Pokemon to feel less structured and more lived in.
That’s fair, I guess my real issue is that some pokemon are introduced too late in the game for me to get a chance to try them out and enjoy them.
Think of them less as party members and more as grinding fodder. 😉
But I get that sentiment, there’s ultimately only so many ways to build your party and it feels a bit disingenuous to state there’s a great deal of variety in that regard
I see your points, I guess my issue is just when they are finally available to me, my time with the game is about over. I don’t get any enjoyment out of them. Would like them to not be gated off by story progression and if I want to try and get them early on, even if it’s extremely difficult and challenging. I would like that option so I could then have them for the duration of the story and in my party if I chose to. Would be that BOTW-esq moment in a sense where you can go straight from the plateau to the end of the game or even fight a lionel. The challenge isn’t gated off by story progression.
What would YOU personally like to see changed in the Pokemon formula?