Remember when everyone thought cutting half the roster of Pokemon was the worst thing to have ever happened and threaten to boycott the game? It almost seems silly to mention it in retrospect when we look at the worldwide earnings at the end of 2019 as see how Pokemon was not only the biggest game of 2019 but also sits at 5th, behind Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Smash Brothers Ultimate, Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild. Considering that there will be additional content coming to the game in both June and towards the Second half of the year, there’s a good chance that it could pass up the two Switch Launch titles and maybe even Smash Brothers. Not bad for a game that got so many people riled up so much to boycott it, huh?
Anyway, the point here isn’t to try and say “DEXIT HAS FAILED US!” but rather to raise a different point. It is easy to just point towards the giant list of almost 900 pokemon and say “we couldn’t you add all of them?!” The problem though is that had we got the ability to put all 900 into the game, would that have made the game any better than it is right now? No.
Are animations still most lacking for the pokemon? Yes! Is voice acting still absent? Of course! Are the only pokemon that actually sound like pokemon instead of digital beeps Pikachu and Eevee? You bet! Pokemon is running on a cycle that is over 20 years old now and the series needs more innovation than cooking curry and making your pokemon giant. What can Pokemon do in the future to improve the game in the future? Let’s explore a couple of options.
1) Actual Battle Animations
Since we were on the topic of animations, let’s explore that a bit more.
Now, this isn’t to say that every single pokemon needs to have a very unique animation for every single move that they do. If we took a pokemon like Pikachu for example, that would be demanding somewhere around a few dozen moves for what it can learn on its own and another couple dozen for what it can learn from technical machines, technical records, and egg moves.
Over 50 expected moves are what you can equip onto Pikachu alone, and considering how you can only have up to four at a time, it would seem like overkill to expect that many new animations. And we did have a few unique animations for some pokemon here and there; including the special moves for the starters.
Now that the devil’s advocate has come and gone, let’s actually focus on the actual problem.
“Hopping in place is an attack, right?”
While it was understandable to have small icons appear over Pokemon to indicate that there was some kind of attack conducted, we are in an age where you are watching a fully animated pokemon fight until one of them is knocked unconscious. Pokemon X might have been the first main game in the series to go full 3D and it might have been understandable back in 2013 that pokemon animations could be an issue, especially on limited hardware like the 3DS. But do you really mean to say that in six years, there was no kind of advancement in animations? You have a fire bunny jumping in place, and yet it’s “double kick” is just it hopping in place? Even the Stadium spin-offs apparently put in more effort in these animations back in the day!
Of course, one can say that it was also the kind of game that brought us the glory that was the “Flying Snorlax” but that is exactly what we need to consider here. It isn’t like there has to be a new animation per attack a pokemon can do since trying to figure out how to make metronome an animation for everything it can do would be a touch overwhelming to do. But if you have things like “Scorbunny used Double Kick!” then we should be seeing that Scorbunny kicking those bunny feet! If you can make its evolved form punt other pokemon at camp, then I better be able to see that kind of emotion when you kick the opponent too!
2) Make these Pokemon sound like blasted pokemon!
If you did click on that video just now to watch Togepi’s impression of a kickball, you probably noticed something. Not its cry for help since it’s much funnier to hear the sound of the kick, but rather how they still sound like they are beeping at each other.
Back in the Game Boy days, it is perfectly understandable if you can’t exactly have a pokemon sound like themselves and have to use digital beeps to emulate its sound. The technology wasn’t there back then and even as we moved towards better tech over the years, the handheld probably couldn’t be able to have that wide collection of sound samples to hold everything one pokemon could say; let alone the near 900 different types.
But let’s really think about this: At the turn of the “XY” Era, Pikachu (being the face of the series after all) was the first Pokemon to actually sound like it was a pokemon. “PikaPika!” it yells out as you toss it into battle! And it wouldn’t be until the “Let’s go!” titles when we finally got that second pokemon that could be able to say more than “beep!” And honestly, Eevee is such a cute little pokemon that it’s no wonder why people prefer it over Pikachu.
So deserve every single pokemon deserve to be as expressive as Pikachu and Eevee in upcoming titles? Probably not, but it would be nice to hear these pokemon not sound like they should be from Digimon, and those mons know how to speak. Not every pokemon is really that much of a companion, but at least have these creatures sound like creatures already! If you’re in the market to reuse assets, just get those samples and have them preserved for future generations.
Speaking of reuse…
3) To move further away from 3DS-like visuals
So this one might be a bit of a cheap shot, but considering some don’t hesitate to point out the quote saying something along the lines of “cutting half the roster to improve the overall visuals.” There’s some paraphrasing there, but the main point is how many were under the impression that Sword and Shield were going to be one giant leap for the series (when really the only big thing was just making Pokemon bigger).
Back in the day, we got plenty of Pokemon spin-offs that did serve as a slight teaser of what “HD Pokemon” could look like. Now that we finally got it in our hands though, it does seem it was carrying assets rather than it is looking brand new. And while Game Freak did respond to these concerns and saying these pokemon were built from scratch, that didn’t stop one Redditor from comparing and coming to a much different conclusion.
So this would mean that either Game Freak is so good at “recreating pokemon from scratch” that you can’t tell them apart, or we reach the conclusion that the internet did and question if they were actually lying to us or not. Who knows if Sword and Shield were likely meant to be the final Pokemon title on the 3DS, but saw itself pushed onto the Nintendo Switch or if that was the intention the entire time, but when we do go into the next generation, we definitely need that revamp in visuals. We don’t need it to reach “Detective Pikachu” levels of hyper realism, but we need to ensure that we avoid this issue in the future.
4) Stick with One “Ultimate ability” instead of introducing a new one every generation
Back in Pokemon X & Y, we saw the introduction of a brand new key feature that was going to shake things up for the world of Pokemon called Mega Evolution. By using a Mega Stone that corresponds with a particular Pokemon, trainers can enable one of their Pokemon to gain higher stats for the fight and give them access to different types of abilities.
While the concept would be great to build on for future generations of titles, Pokemon would move away from it in Sun and Moon with the introduction of Z-Moves and then once more with Gigantamax. At this point, it didn’t feel like “empowering your team with your ace Pokemon” as much as it is now using these abilities to nuke your opponent; whether if by using one Z-Move or making your PokeMonsters Grow like Power Rangers. It is especially ironic too how Gigantamaxing does make the Z-moves feel slightly irrelevant considering it lets your giant pokemon use a super-powerful attack three times instead of once.
In the current state of the competitive play, it is difficult to say where things stand with Gigantamax Pokemon. At first, they were banned outright while later on, a few were allowed in (but only because a few to some weren’t as dangerously overpowering when you grow them to Godzilla levels). When we look at the state of these super moves as a whole, we’re reaching that point where these gimmicks seem to cause more issues than help “shake things up.” This is probably meant for more casual than the competitive, but really, these mechanics don’t feel like they fix the long-standing issue with Pokemon that it faces going into the future. heavy hitters on something they may or may not take down in three turns?
5) Allow Players become more than just Pokemon Masters
For the longest time, Battle Towers have ranged from a fun little side adventure for players to venture through to challenge themselves in a series of battles. There is nothing wrong with this, but it does seem like for as long as it’s been around, it makes it feel as though you can’t go any further beyond this. You just became a Pokemon Master! Congrats kiddo! You peaked! At least in Sun and Moon, we got something special in the form of the “Battle Tree,” where you not only got to enjoy participating in consecutive fights, against various trainers, but you also got the chance to fight special trainers. Including Red and Blue.
There was one other thing that we got in Sun in Moon that many couldn’t help but love the ending. It wasn’t necessarily that you “had to beat someone to become the champ,” but rather since you were the first one who got there in the newly established pokemon league in the region, you are deemed “Pokemon Champion” right then and there (after beating Kukui). So why would it seem so great to be the first Champion of a region that had no champion prior? After you beat the game and wrap up the other post-game content, you can sit back down on your throne and you can enjoy having challengers come in and challenge you! The Champion! You are literally defending your title against not just people who you did have interactions with, but brand new people who will provide a much more difficult challenge than you realize.
So why not take these concepts and take them one step further? How about instead of being a champ, you can do the next best thing?
To be your own Gym Leader
It seems funny to think of how of how many games are exploring this whole idea of “build your own” whatsit, but for Pokemon, it feels like it’s a concept that has not been fully explored yet. You can enjoy so many customization options for your trainer or things like that, but what about something where you are given the chance to have your own arena? Your own location you can call your own where you can have players come to your gym, explore it, challenge the random trainers in there, and then reach the end where they fight you and see if they can claim your badge?
Just recently with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, we’ve seen just how much you can customize not just your own tent or home, but also the island itself. There is a concept in-place where if you wanted to, you can set it up where you can either set up multiple rooms or even one big room where players to explore. Make it where you can decorate the gym with various “themes” depending on if you want to make it of a particular type or just go ham and put a toxic barrel next to a tree or something. Challenge friends or strangers and see if they can beat you. And then if they do, you can go to their gym and beat them.
Even if we were to say, “This would be a massive undertaking to make it happen,” this could be something that could add so much replay value to the game. If you can have Mario Maker generate so many challenges for players to run through, why not do the same with Pokemon? Please create a simple Gym Editor Gamefreak! Please!
If this list was to showcase anything, it isn’t to say “We need new mechanics!” or “Put in Sound-Types already!” Rather, having simple, small changes could help enhance the overall presentation of the next pokemon. Honestly, the more we look at Sword & Shield, the more you realize cutting half the roster was hardly its biggest issue. This latest games almost serves as a realization for many of how Pokemon has not evolved over the generations and how the formula it has been using for over two decades needs a tune-up. The game may look pretty, but the engine still runs the same.
Even the creators did highlight how “Balancing for new Pokemon with new abilities has become very hard” and why Game Freak found it to become too difficult to have all Pokemon to appear. A fair concern to have, but one that many wouldn’t hesitate to call nonsensical with what we got as “Improvements.” Even if we got all current pokemon which you can transfer into Sword & Shield right now, these are still glaring issues that would still need to be addressed at some point.
If you are someone who enjoys Sword and Shield and found it to be the best Pokemon game yet, all the more power to you. In the end, if you wanted to finally enjoy that main title Pokemon game on a home console, you are finally able to do it. It’s not perfect, but it’s something many of us have been waiting for the longest time, and it did deliver what it was promising. Let’s just hope that as we move through the expansions, they look towards the next generation and look at the feedback to make the next game in the series the most speculator one yet.
Thank you for reading.
So what would you want to see for the next Pokemon title to make it better? Do you think adding features to the game would make it better? Or is the secret to a better pokemon game really found within its vast Pokedex? Be sure to leave a comment down below and be sure to follow us here at Culture of Gaming for more articles covering Pokemon and all things in the gaming world.
And at the very least, there’s no denying the music is kicking. The soundtrack for Pokemon has always been pretty good, and Sword and Shield is no different. If you were to tell me that a Pokemon would be one of the six DLC fighters for Smash Ultimate, I would probably believe you since that would mean we would be getting some Gym Leader OSTs into the mix. ^__^