Pokemon 3DS - What we want from the next entry in the franchise
The very best
With Pokemon Black and White Version 2 about to launch for the DS in North America, we’re looking to the future and thinking about what we want from the next new Pokemon game. The RPGs have followed the same basic structure for over a decade, and we think it’s time for the series to get some big changes in order to avoid getting stale.
While a Pokemon title beyond Black and White 2 hasn’t even been announced yet, we all know it’s coming eventually. And when it does, here’s what we want to see.
Pokemon games use a lot of the same assets in each game, so players see the same sprites and repeated environmental details as they progress. This was fine in the earlier days of handheld gaming, but it’s time to push the series forward graphically. The same generic Pokemon trainers scattered throughout the region just aren’t going to cut it in 2012 (or 2013, or whenever they release it).
Since the next Pokemon game will probably be on the 3DS, the most obvious change would be to deliver 3D graphics. Black and White had locations that would have translated perfectly to 3D, yet Nintendo developed the sequel for the DS instead of their new handheld, which has been out for well over a year. When used correctly, the graphical capabilities of the 3DS can really enhance a game, so let’s see Pokemon standing out against their backgrounds, animated moves flying across the screen, and a visual style that looks like a real step forward instead of a marginal upgrade.
A much better menu system
The menu for the Pokemon games is, and always has been, totally clunky. Players need to scroll through several screens just to get to their inventory, switch out Pokemon, or assign items to their fighters. Sure, some items can be assigned shortcuts, but they’re all assigned to the same button, which means more menus and more scrolling.
This system should be streamlined, making it less of a chore for players to manage inventories. Saving should be mapped to the start or select button, instead of in the same screen as all of the other options. Switching Pokemon should also be easier, with one button taking the player directly to the Pokemon screen to view their health and status effects and change their order. By making it quicker and easier to do all of these things, the game’s pace won’t be slowed down by simple commands, so players can make their changes and get on with the battles.
Even more Pokemon variety
Every player has his or her favorite Pokemon. Unfortunately, if your favorite is in the original 150, or not specific to the region where the game begins, good luck getting it in your party. Every new Pokemon game boasts a higher number of Pokemon, but if that makes it harder to find the ones you want, more doesn’t mean better.
We’d love to see a better mix of all of the Pokemon in the next game. Yes, we know--every new region comes with newly discovered Pokemon (and apparently none of the old ones). But just because the developers want to show off their latest pocket monsters doesn’t mean they should forget about the Pokemon that came before. We know that many Pokemon are specific to certain regions, though, which is why Nintendo should…
Make Pokemon a less linear game
Despite different names, most Pokemon games are essentially the same in structure: Start in your character’s hometown, make your way from gym to gym, and badges in the order predetermined by the game. Throughout your travels, you’ll see forests, caves, and large bodies of water, but only when the game’s structure allows you to do so.
Instead of having to progress through gym battles in a straight line, it would be great if the player had more freedom. What if the path between towns wasn’t so direct and obvious? Pokemon doesn’t need to be totally open world, but if there were several major areas in the next game and each gave you some room to breathe and make your own decisions about who to fight, it would take some linearity out of the game while still retaining Pokemon’s core gameplay.
Let us choose the order of gym battles
This goes hand-in-hand with making Pokemon less linear, but still needs to be said. Every game makes players battle for gym badges in a specific order, with the opponent’s Pokemon at a level the game thinks you should be able to match. But what if the game didn’t determine the order--we did?
We’re not saying we should be able to walk right up to the strongest gym leader with our level five Pokemon and challenge him, nor do we want gym leaders to scale to our level. Instead, maybe within each section, three gym leaders will be available, and the player can choose who to battle and when. We can make these choices based on the gym leader’s level, his elemental or environmental preferences, or where we think our team’s strengths currently lie. We may not always make the smartest choice, but it would be ours, even if it sends all of our Pokemon to the Pokemon Center unconscious.
Gym leader battles shouldn’t be so predictable
One of the things that make’s Pokemon’s fighting system great is the elemental attacks, which create a rock-paper-scissors dynamic of strengths and weakness and require a balanced team and a strong working knowledge of the game’s elements. This adds another layer of strategy to a fairly basic RPG combat system, which is great--until you face an elite gym leader that relies solely on a single type of Pokemon.
Most gym leaders do this, which can result in cheap victories or frustrating defeats, and is that really how you want to earn supposedly elite badges? Yes, it’s funny to knock out six of your opponent’s grass-type Pokemon with a few blasts from your fire-type, but that doesn’t require using your whole party strategically. We’re not saying elemental themes should be removed from each gym entirely, but a little more variety and less predictability would add some challenge and make each victory even more satisfying.
Epic, Pokemon Stadium-style battles
The next Pokemon game should do more to differentiate between run-of-the-mill “our eyes just met” skirmishes and epic battles with big foes or gym leaders. It could do this by utilizing the game’s improved graphics (we hope) and more strategic key battles (fingers crossed) and presenting these big face-offs differently, in a way that’s reminiscent of the Pokemon Stadium games.
This would allow us to see the battles from different angles, zooming in on each Pokemon as it attacks, providing full animations for each move, and letting the player know that it’s no ordinary fight. These epic gym or boss battles would help to break up the game, and really let the player take full advantage of environmental effects and skill selection.
Character customization to make us care about the protagonist
Each game starts with a fairly generic protagonist: A young kid who chooses his or her first Pokemon and sets out on a journey to collect gym badges and catch ‘em all. The characters from game to game are largely indistinguishable, and it’s hard to care about each title’s main character when they’re all so alike.
By giving us more control over our protagonists from the start, we’ll care more about their journeys. We’re already allowed to name each protagonist and choose whether we want to play as a male or female up-and-coming Pokemon master, so why not take it a step farther? The character customization doesn’t have to be as deep as Skyrim or The Sims, but giving us some choices in appearance and demeanor would go a long way towards making the next protagonist less generic and more interesting.
Let us love our Pokemon with more social elements
There are already things you can do in each Pokemon game to make your pocket monsters like you more, like feeding them berries or getting a massage. However, just by walking around and challenging gym leaders, your relationship with your Pokemon will improve, so you can go through entire games without ever having to make an effort to get them to like you.
RPGs like Persona 3 have successfully incorporated social features, so why can’t Pokemon do it too? There should be more ways to improve your relationships, and their effects should be more obvious. Perhaps performing activities in the form of mini-games with your favorite creatures will let them learn new abilities or heighten their elemental powers. On the other hand, neglecting Pokemon would make them noticeably worse fighters, until they refuse to fight and turn their attacks on us instead. We just want to love our Pokemon more, is that so wrong?
Give us more post-game content to motivate exploration
Perhaps asking for more content after the game’s completion is a little greedy, but it’s not unheard of. Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver opened up the Kanto area after the main game in Johto was complete, which kept us playing long after we technically beat the game. On the other hand, Black and White didn’t offer as much post-game content, so it was quickly forgotten.
By opening up regions from the previous games and providing more gym battles and types of Pokemon after the credits roll, we’ll have plenty of reasons to keep coming back. Since the games allow players to continue the protagonist’s journey after the final boss is defeated, it would be great to have more motivation to actually do that, instead of having to wander the same map and towns that we already explored looking for more Pokemon.
Gotta catch ‘em all
Do you think the Pokemon games have gotten stale? What do you think of our ideas, and what do you want to see in the next new Pokemon title?
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