An earlier version of this article appeared on this site on January 14, 2013.
Theres more to life than catching Pokmon
Once upon a time, it was possible to put Pikachu in a beauty pageant, like a twisted version of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." You could have your own secret base amid the volcanic ash of Fallarbor Town. You could even raise a Pokemon with the help of a pedometer, for some reason.
The sad thing is that, cool as all of these ideas might be, many of them have vanished after one generation. What gives, Game Freak? Why do you have to tantalize us with such great ideas, only to take them away? Some of these cool mechanics made a return in the first 3DS entry, as you can find out about in our Pokmon X and Y review, but others are still absent. With several years likely separating X and Y and whatever comes next (or, rather, next-next), here are the seven features we'd like to see return for the next-next generation of Pokemon.
The Pokwalker (in some fashion)
After selling millions of Wii Balance Boards, Nintendo's fitness mania converged with its most popular franchise via the introduction of the Pokwalker in 2010. Packed in with Pokmon Heartgold/Soulsilver for DS, it was a pedometer that leveled up your Pokmon while walking. Not only that, it can be used to find certain unusual Pokmon and items, which can then be transferred back to your DS.
The Pokwalker soon became something of a game in itself as people took their monsters on their morning commute (or a walk through the park) to see what they could find. It ended being a popular peripheral and was sorely missed when Pokmon Black/White rolled around the next year. Even if Nintendo doesnt want to manufacture another peripheral to accompany a game, a Pokwalker app for the 3DS would be a very nice addition for the new game--especially considering the 3DS already has a pedometer built in. Mix the mechanics of the Pokewalker with the already included Pokemon training system in X and Y and you have a winning combination!
Contests to let us show off our Pokstyle
Contests were a great addition to Pokmon Ruby and Sapphire. For the first time, the AI-judged competitions made it so Pokmon moves were finally useful in a context outside of battle (or breeding, in Ditto's case). If your Pokmon was up to snuff, beating the Master Contests netted you not only a great ribbon, but also a special painting commemorating your winning Pokmon. Subsequent generations had similar features such as the Pokmon Musicals, but they tended to pale in comparison to the original contests.
How? For one thing, Contests had actual strategy, as using the right move combinations at the right time while sabotaging the competition was essential to victory. The later features were more like rhythm games--a fun but comparatively simplistic approach. Pokmon Black and White doesn't even offer ribbons, and X and Y simply baked the minigames into the Pokemon Affection system--which, to be honest, would have been a great place to work contests in.
Pokmon who walk alongside the main character
Pokmon Yellow hinted at this feature way back in 1999, when Pikachu popped out to walk alongside Red for the majority of the adventure. It finally became a reality for all the Pokmon you collected in HeartGold and SoulSilver, where even heavyweights like Arceus and Groudon could take an afternoon stroll with the protagonist. It was all just a tease though, because the monsters were once again locked away in Pokmon Black and White.
With Pokmon finally existing in a full, 3D world, it would be nice to see the monsters accompanying their masters on the world map once again. As a feature, it may not mean much in the long run, but it's always nice to have your favorite monsters by your side. And Pokmon has always been about playing favorites.
Secret Bases are yet another Ruby/Sapphire feature that became less prominent in later games before largely disappearing in Black and White. The idea was that players could find caves, trees, or other nooks that could be decorated with collectibles such as furniture and Pokdolls. They were also used to house trophies earned from beating the Battle Tower; and in Emerald, Secret Bases made it possible to challenge trainers with level 100 Pokmon.
So where did Secret Bases go? Other Pokemon games have had spaces to decorate, but for various reasons, none of them have approached the utility or novelty of having what amounts to an in-game treehouse. Time for Pokmon to make Secret Bases bigger and better than ever. We need less of the Myspace aesthetic of Black/Whites Dream World, and more of the insane customization of Animal Crossing.
Rivals who are actually "rivals"
Ruby and Sapphire introduced one feature that we would rather disappear--the concept of a "friendly rival." More companions than competitors, May, Barry, Cheren, and Bianca weren't particularly memorable. They especially pale in comparison to Blue/Gary Oak, who has spawned his own Internet memes, or the downright evil Silver. Pokmon Black/White 2 got back on the right track with the abrasive Hugh, but even he was a relatively sympathetic character throughout.
In X and Y, you're accompanied by a group of friends who playfully battle you from time to time. While one does step forward and claim the "rival" title, the trainer doesn't really have the animosity we require from a true, non-quotation marked rival. We don't need a Gary Oak redux, but it's been quite a while since Pokmon has had a rival whos an actual opposing force. The more frustrating, hateful, and condescending, the better.
The regions keep getting bigger with each game; in fact, the latter half of Pokmon Black and White's Unova region was at least as big as the original game's Kanto. But nothing quite matches the thrill of heading back to a classic area to discover that eight more gym leaders were waiting for you. Pokmon Gold and Silver was masterful in that regard, something we were reminded of in the DS remakes, and it's been a puzzling omission ever since.
Who wouldn't want to head back to a fully 3D Kanto, Johto, or even Hoenn? Heck, when are we going to get a game where it's possible to visit all of the regions to date? At this point, the world of Pokmon feels so big that it's a little weird to be locked away in one tiny corner of it for each new game.
The Battle Frontier
Actually, there's one feature that might trump our desire to revisit a classic region, and that's a new Battle Frontier. Originally introduced in Pokmon Emerald, the Battle Frontier was a theme park of sorts where it was possible to earn badges by completing various challenges. There was the straight-up Battle Tower, but there was also the maze-like Battle Pyramid and the tournament-style Battle Dome. All were fun variants on the normal one-on-one battles, and many offered major challenges for advanced players.
After offering up so much content, the Battle Frontier was sorely missed in Black and White, which only had a beefed up Battle Tower on offer for post-game fun. While X and Y have something sort of like this, we'd prefer it to come back in full form, with more games and post-Elite Four content. Or it could just be a variant on Black and White 2's excellent Pokmon World Tournament--that'd be be vastly preferable to a simple tower.
What do you want from Game Freak?
So far, Game Freak has been fairly silent on what to expect from the game to follow Pokmon X/Y (and we don't really blame them). We originally thought that the new graphics might take up the bulk of Game Freak's resources, and it appears as though we were at least partially correct. What do you want from the future? Let us know! And even if your preferred feature doesnt show, there's always the inevitable Pokmon Ruby/Sapphire remake, right?