Being one of those poor souls who got sucked into the Pokémon frenzy in the late 90’s, I think Nintendo and Game Freak owe me one. After buying their games and merchandise, I’ve begun to notice something. I’ve begun to notice that the Pokémon games haven’t changed their routine since the first generation. The games drip in irony; the game series that considers evolution as it’s mechanic hasn’t evolved a bit itself.
Allow me to describe a Pokémon game to you: A young boy or girl captures animals to beat people with weaker animals to win some kind of exclusive monster championship, usually defeating an evil criminal organization on the side. The games play like a typical JRPG; you start with one Pokémon, you add more to your party by beating them into submission and when your party is strong enough, beat a boss or a few. The battles are turn-based as one might expect. The fastest pokémon gets to strike first, and the commenced slap fight goes on until either one loses all its health. And that’s the gist, really.
But let us dive into the battle system a bit more. The Pokémon you can catch on your way to the next town over have specific types. These types usually reflect some kind of element; there’s fire, water, ground, electric and so on and so forth. So you might have a fire-type Pokémon going against a water-type Pokémon. These types your creatures share are the only things that have an effect on the outcome of the battle, because the strategy of a battle comprises of rock-paper-scissors; use the type superior to the enemy’s type. Usually you can figure these out with common sense; electric beats water, water beats fire, fire beats steel etc. However, some of the interactions between the types are very arbitrary. Bug beats psychic? Unless your grasshopper is named Houdini I can’t see your logic there.
But wait a minute, didn’t I talk about Nintendo and Game Freak owing me one? Yes, after a decade of blind loyality to the franchise I demand something very alien to those two companies: new ideas. The series has been spinning its wheels since the first generation. The last installment I bought was Pokémon Pearl, a Nintendo DS title. After that still continued on checking out the franchise once in a while. After the next generation was announced, however, I saw that one of the new Pokémon was an ice cream cone. On that day the series was dead to me. It had run out of ideas, it deserved to be put down. Somehow I still find myself coming back to the previous titles. Pokémon Fire Red, a game on Game Boy Advance, is still a very enjoyable game to me. Why? Well, I have lots of nostalgic feelings towards the whole franchise.
To me, a Pokémon game is like a Stephen King book; every one of them is good in their own way, but on the basic level they’re all the same. Pokémon needs new ideas to be good again, but the problem is that the series has little room to evolve. Brandon looks into some potential Sun and Moon improvements in a follow-up.