“Pokemon” is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary. For 25 years the monster-catching phenomenon has made its way across every form of media possible. From animated series to a successful trading card game. Pokemon seems to be firing on all cylinders. However, is it all sunshine and rainbows as it may seem? With rumored remakes of one of the most popular regions floating in the air, it’s time to pull out the rug and take a look at some of the worms that might have an impact on the future.
Hand Holding and Handouts
“Pokemon Sword and Shield” suffered from a variety of gameplay problems which were only intensified since the previous entry of “Pokemon Sun and Moon”. Nonstop tutorials and dialogue were quickly intruding on what used to feel like an adventure of your own. You were no longer setting off on your own after receiving your first Pokemon. Instead, you were being chaperoned around the region by Professor Kukui and slammed with blocks of texts by characters wherever you went.
“Pokemon Sword and Shield” continues this trend by spoon-feeding players who just want to explore. Characters will spew dialogue every time you enter a new town. This is used to either dump lore or to tell you where to go next. The game also goes out of the way to make you feel less important than previous protagonists. Red took down a building being held hostage by Team Rocket in the first game. In Sword and Shield, Pokemon are dynamaxing and causing havoc. However, instead of taking part in this adventure, Champion Leon will arrive and deal with it off-screen.
Legendary Pokemon used to feel like an adventure all of their own. They were present yet separate from the main story. Pokemon like Giratina, Zygarde, Heatran, and others were hidden around the region. Some required you to do some exploration in order to discover their location. Others required you to track them down by chasing them all over the region. Nevertheless, it felt like a quest. If you managed to snag one of these legendaries it felt like an accomplishment. Nowadays legendaries are handed out left and right at GameStop or through mystery gifts. Even the main legendary encounters feel like a formality when you were given a master ball right before the battle or, worse yet, their capture is scripted.
The best example to show when talking about the decline in the difficulty of “Pokemon” games is Sword and Shield’s Victory Road. Pokemon Red and Blue established the concept of a final gauntlet before challenging the Pokemon league. This was a cave known as Victory Road. Inside were a bunch of high-level wild Pokemon and strong trainers. There were also a bunch of environmental obstacles that required players to use the different HM moves they came across to reach the end.
“Pokemon Sword and Shield” however, doesn’t have this. Instead, it feels like a literal road where players simply walk forwards while being challenged to the occasional battle. The area has no twists or turns or puzzles to solve. High-level Pokemon can be avoided simply by walking around them in the overworld. Seeing as this is supposed to be in the late game it’s surprising to see such a lack of effort being put in.
Some would argue that the games are made for kids, therefore complaining about the difficulty is nitpicking. However, if that is the case then how come previous games were harder? Perhaps kids nowadays are dumber than they were before?
The National Dex
One of the main complaints with Sword and Shield was the lack of a national dex. For a series that is well known for its motto “Gotta Catch Em All,” it came as a surprise when suddenly you couldn’t. Of course, the controversy was then muddled as fans of the series defended the decision to not include every Pokemon by stating that “you never could catch them all anyway”. Thus ignoring the fact that you actually could catch them all by transferring Pokemon over from other games, an option that was nonexistent at launch.
Pokemon’s Other Remakes
Now we can focus on a remake that happened after X and Y. “Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire” were always beloved entries into the series. Hoenn was the first region released on the Gameboy Advance and it brought a whole slew of new and interesting creatures to collect. It featured weather systems, newer sprites, as well as an introduction to the battle frontier during its special edition. Naturally, finding out those games were getting a remaster was fantastic news. However, what we got was a washed-out version of what we loved.
“Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire” offered very little new content for those who played the original. However, it also detracted from the original experience. Exp Share made training Pokemon way too easy which ruined the challenge. This wasn’t the only difficulty change. One of the fan-favorite post-game hunts came from catching Latios or Latias. This involved extensively searching the tall grass and then hopefully catching the elusive beast. With the remake, the legendary Pokemon joins your party midway through the journey. There is no hunt or sense of achievement anymore.
“Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire” also cut out the battle frontier. For those who are unaware, the battle frontier was first introduced in “Pokemon Emerald” which was the special edition of Ruby and Sapphire. It offered players the opportunity to have special battles with a variety of different rule sets. In terms of gameplay, it offered a challenge during the post-game to keep players invested. The remakes however tease fans with an “Under Construction” sign and a lackluster battle Maison which is copied and pasted from Pokemon X and Y.
Complacency with mediocrity
So naturally, a decline in quality should result in a decline in sales? Right? Well, so far Sword and Shield have sold 19 million copies as of November 2020.
What happened? Well, like many big companies, the name alone is enough to mask the quality of the product. Iphones still make big money due to their association with Apple. Disney is also guaranteed a pass and an award for best-animated feature whenever they release a film. Pokemon is no different. It doesn’t matter how much effort is put into the product because it is guaranteed to sell. The term “Vote with your wallet” means nothing if no one commits to it.
Impact on the Future
As of now, there are no confirmed remakes for any of the mainline Pokemon games and the next generation of Pokemon is still far off. However, there are still leaks that a Sinnoh remake is on the horizon. Seeing as a gen 4 remake is one of the most talked-about hopes from the fans, the question arises. Will it be good?
It seems “Gamefreak” has no reason to put in the effort. Whatever the next game is will already be guaranteed to win big. Based on previous remakes mentioned earlier, XP Share could be on without the ability to toggle it on or off. Legendary Pokemon might just be handouts given away at Gamestop or over Wi-Fi. For all we know, the underground from Sinnoh might be downsized as well as any post-game content introduced in “Pokemon Platinum”.
So for now we can only speculate on what’s to come. Whether or not future installments are more polished is up to the consumer.