How Pokemon X Y Could Have Been the Perfect Pokemon

We need some more evolution in the Pokemon series.

After finishing the high that was Pokémon X & Y I was left happy with the game for the first time in a long time. This was the first time since Gold & Silver that I was sucked in to the game to the point where my other games didn't distract me and eventually tear me away from my furry, scaly and dragony friends.

Upon completion of the main arc I found myself simultaneously gleeful and disappointed. Throughout the game there was an ever-present aura of nostalgia for the original installment in the Pokémon series, Red & Bluewhich, along with Metal Gear, shaped my love for all things video games. I loved the return of the original starters and Mewtwo. I loved the heightened feeling of exploration and the new look of the game. But when all was said and done it was still just a regular old Pokémon game with a new set of paint.

**The worst thing Japan has ever done to America. Yeah I know what I said.**

Pokémon is essentially a game of rock, paper, scissors that took several tabs of ecstasy and added about a thousand players. The stats and types are the core of the game - with a minimal amount of math you could figure out with near certainty who will win a battle prior to the battle even beginning. Once upon a time this really worked; one can argue that given the sales of the new games it still does. But I feel like Pokémon can be so much more than it is with a few game-changing tweaks.

More Control

GO CHARIZARD!

GO BLASTOISE!

Who wins nearly every time (providing the levels are comparable)? Blastoise: Because it's a water type and Charizard is a fire type. Water extinguishes fire and is therefore an infallible necessity that Blastoise make Charizard say uncle. Once upon a time I thought this was the greatest thing ever - now it seems like a copout to me. What if there was still a way for Charizard to win? Shouldn't there be more to the gameplay than a simple chart and type matchup? For this to work we, as players, need to have more control.

The stats and types are the core of the game - with a minimal amount of math you could figure out with near certainty who will win a battle prior to the battle even beginning. 

For this to work the battles would have to move a bit faster and we would have to be given more options in regard to hitting and missing attacks - as well as the effectiveness of critical hits. I think the most fitting example for this particular facet would be the Mario and Luigi RPG series.

Within the Mario and Luigi games you have all the familiar staples of an RPG: Levels, attacks, skills, buffs etc. Yet the effectiveness of each attack or dodge is entirely up to the player's timing and skill in relation to the attack. For example, you want to use Flamethrower; you hit the button and are then prompted to fulfill some sort of mini-game like activity that would last maybe three or four seconds. If you successfully deliver on the requirements of said mini-game - blamo - critical hit. If you do okay - regular. If you muck it up entirely - miss - sucks for you.

**It seems really complicated but it's actually just really boring.**

This would give the gameplay far more depth and repeatability, as well as giving each attack its own feel to add on to the phenomenal animations. Gone are the entirely mathematically derived outcomes; enter the wonderfully fallible and unpredictable human element.

Too much control would ruin the entire concept of the game - so there would have to be a delicate balance. One thing I've heard suggested is the ability to manipulate a Pokemon's movement - which is a terrible idea that is contradictory to the entire concept of the game. This facet of gameplay would take away the feeling of training and make it see more like controlling (which according to every single person in the game is really bad).

Dear God Give Me a Better Script

Playing Pokémon is like reading a teleplay for an episode of The Teletubbies. It's bland, boring and redundant.

"I love Pokémon! Do you?" - Whatever kid.

"Wow! You sure are strong!" - No friend, you just suck.

"One day I'll be as strong as you! You'll see!" - doubtful, seeing as I only battle you once.

**The worst, guys - the WORST.**

I understand that this game is geared towards children, but using that as an excuse is painfully disappointing. On top of the endless cascade of "good sports" and exclamation points, it's really weird to me that the entire world economy revolves around Pokémon. It would be like America's economy running on the fast food industry or Starbucks.... Any who - these are things that could be easily remedied by introducing a new story.

A Better Story

At the beginning of every Pokémon game, a professor teeters on the edge of endangering children by giving you a rare beast to train with the objective of being awesome and catching every single other beast. Great; some lofty and all around boring goals.

Shouldn't there be more to the gameplay than a simple chart and type matchup?

Instead of getting a rare Pokémon from Professor Treeman in the next game, why don't we just not? What if we went to pick one up but he said we didn't have enough raw potential. We then say, "Eff you Professor Treeman, I'm going to purchase a Pokeball and catch a shitty Rattata and beat the game anyway."

Even better, what if you start out as a homeless orphan (not a joke). You spend your days searching for scraps of food and your nights searching for shelter from the harsh winds. One night a Pokémon saves you and inspires to you literally crawl out of your makeshift dwelling and make something of yourself by training it and rising to the top of the proverbial trainer food chain.

**Cool story bro - you tell it at parties?**

The possibilities are endless, and I'm sure that everyone can agree that children could relate to that just as much as someone handing you some ball with a monster in it and saying, "Enjoy, you privileged little 11-year-old person! You're going to be the very best, like no one ever was!" It's a flimsy premiss that mirrors assembling a space station using spit and band-aids. The core of an engaging story is having a degree of adversity; with no emotional resistance or connection it's just random crap leading to a pre-determined outcome.

A (Slightly) Darker World

Part of the Pokémon charm is the bright trusting world where Pokémon roam free and people are all buddies. At the core, this needs to remain a constant in the series - changing that would be like seeing a hostage situation on Sesame Street. Big Bird gets shot in the knee and the entire message changes; Pokémon needs to keep that innocence.

When I say a darker world I mean the villains need to be a bit more evil. I'm a big fan of the sympathetic villain but I think in Pokémon it would serve as a better contrast to the bright world if the villain team was literally killing Pokémon. Maybe they hate Pokémon for some reason, or it's a bizarre cult - but having the danger of them being somewhat sociopathic provides a much more stark juxtaposition between good and bad. 

**Not threatening... not cool.**

'Black and white' is usually really boring to me - but I think in the Pokémon world it would be a service to the story to make the villains truly terrible. That would wrap up into the new story to further solidify the kind of motivation that will make you feel like an actual hero as opposed to some kid that is having playtime with action figures.

The Final Word

Pokémon X & Y are great games - there's no question. Nintendo has taken a huge step with the series in this installment, yet they failed entirely to innovate. What I'm hoping is that this game will act as a test of sorts, to see if fans will allow them to take more liberties with the tried and true Pokémon formula in the future.

With any luck in another couple of years we'll see a Pokémon game with deeper characters, a richer story and some interesting gameplay hooks that will turn the combat from a glorified rock, paper, scissors to its own unique beast.

What would you change about the newest entries into the Pokémon series? Or maybe you think I'm an idiot and they're perfect the way they are. Sound off in the comments down below and maybe I'll jam your entire body into a little ball and make you fight other dudes stuck in little balls for my enjoyment and profit!

Published Oct. 28th 2013
  • TheBingster
    "I'm a big fan of the sympathetic villain but I think in Pokémon it would serve as a better contrast to the bright world if the villain team was literally killing Pokémon."

    You do realize that team flare was literally, and openly trying to commit genocide. To top it off they were a parody of Nazi officers look at the fact, "stylish" people all looking and dressing the same trying to kill off everyone who isn't just like them? For god sakes their leader dies by his own hand in a bunker and started the game off appearing as a "good guy"
  • kiley d.
    what about a pokemon game where you actually get some allies to be with you, like Brock, May, Misty, etc? Also I've come up with different types of previously made pokemon like a Darkario (dark type version of Lucario would be dark red and black), Darkade (dark type of Gallade also dark red and black), any more ideas to add? I'm kind of running out of them. I also thought up a boy version of Kirlia, a Gard, they would look like newsies (paperboys), they have a newsie-like hat, and it would look like they would wear clothes.

    The thing I'm most confused about is the many doors to the electrical place in Illumise Badlands, like what are they there for, just to try to have different doors to try to open when we go there? I also wish that if Looker couldn't stay, that we could be his assistant in his city and be able to go on a whole nother adventure with him.
  • Cory W
    I'm afraid I don't agree at all that the villains should be so evil as to start killing pokemon. That would most definitely darken the games way too much. It's just like you said, "Pokémon needs to keep that innocence." Having a pokemon murderer in the games is jusr about the darkest thing they could possibly do to pokemon. Pokémon should never even breach the idea of murder or killing at all in my opinion.
  • Steve Lawton
    Columnist
    I think people are getting confused by your intent in this article. Some of these changes (darker, better dialogue) are ultimately your opinion. While Pokemon has always been a game for kids, adults (the Maxes of the world) would prefer something less childish (ala The Dark Knight vs. Batman Forever). He simply wants more from it. Which is fine it's his prerogative.

    His simplistic description of fighting isn't to be mean. He is not an expert at the game and doesn't mean to be. He plays Pokemon to have fun and only explores the game casually. He isn't competitive about it. I'd argue the majority of gamers playing Pokemon are like Max. "Water beats Fire" isn't a given for the seasoned pro's but for most people playing they'll simply pick Water and move forward.

    So as to the actual article, I'd play a darker Pokemon game. It sounds fun but it'll never happen. Pokemon makes way to much money. If it's not broke don't fix it. Casual gamers are getting what they like in the game while competitive types can also get what they like by exploring every corner of the game. There is no reason to innovate.
  • Poppy_2137
    Blastoise will always beat Charizard? Are you joking? Charizard has always been able to learn Solarbeam, and when Sunny Day is in effect, can use it without charging up.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    What you're giving me is a very specific set of variables that gives Charizard a distinct and atypical advantage. You're also assuming that everyone does these things - when really very few people that are picking up Pokemon are engineering the moveset in such a way.

    This is an exception that proves the rule.
  • hiimjimmeh
    While the main game story line is easily beatable by your ideas of simple level/type matchups, in no way is it fairly a linear gameplay. Pokemon have always been intricate and complicated since the integration of hidden abilities/attacks with secondary effects. Yes there is also EV/IV training to induce preferred stat bonuses, but we'll leave that to the competitive pokemon gaming scene. I'm simply stating there is far more to this game than just water beats fire, if someone were to train that fire pokemon in special defense, certain water attacks no longer beats that fire pokemon. The chart you have is fairly simplistic in that it shows the rock-paper-scissors paradigm (Also it left out the new fairy types) but it doesn't account for hybrid types such as victini who is fire/psychic. I'll praise you for your article in that it shows the "gist" of pokemon for people who know NOTHING about pokemon, but it does not do a lot to impress those of us who have kept a steady eye on the pokemon scene.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Acceptable point! There is more to it for those who seek to invest the time to seek that out. However I just got through the entire game using only the logic I expressed above. It was a good time and I was never bored - but it was easy and the inclusion of a little bit of skill based depth would go a long way for the playability of the series. I commend those that really dive in to the specific stat training, but for the main story it is entirely unnecessary if you follow the most basic rules established in Red and Blue.

    I don't mean to sound like I'm calling the games dumb or boring from a combat standpoint (it is dumb and boring from a story standpoint), but I think for those of us looking for a good RPG experience the combat in Pokemon on it's basic level is lacking.
  • BlitzzFrank
    Featured Contributor
    I believe that combat that is strictly decision based and not actiony is a pillar of the franchise and doubt that it will ever change from that... Although the Mario RPG timed-attacks parallel is enticing, multiplayer would become an entirely different beast, away from the game's MO.
    You're raising excellent questions about the innovation of the franchise, the biggest steps forward were in graphics and other technical aspects. Even Generation 5's Team Plasma was entirely more intriguing of a stoyline than Team Flare's.
    One aspect about the writing is the player's friends embodying different idealogies, or lessons, and despite the dialogue being slightly dry, there are tons of lessons potentially being taught to younger players, from hearing the characters' motivations and perspectives on some of the more philosophical issues.
    *Killing* Pokemon I doubt will ever enter into the equation on the scale us more mature players may be yearning for, if not simply because it would probably change the game's ESRB status (E, with comic mischief, mild cartoon violence)
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Fair point about the turn based gameplay. My gripe with companies using the "pillar of the franchise" line is that it gets games caught in a rut. I don't think something as in depth as the Mario RPGs would work exactly - but it provides an example of variation that I think the franchise needs.

    I have always appreciated each character representing an archetype - but they're literally one note songs. It's hard for me to connect to any of the side characters (or the main character for that matter) because they all just print the same message with slightly different text (though I guess it worked for me as a kid).
  • Cory A.
    "Shouldn't there be more to the gameplay than a simple chart and type matchup?"

    >__> Yeah you don't know what you're talking about.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    The competitive component is entirely separate from the main game. The is zero need to do any specific training to beat the main storyline - all you have to do is level and match types.
  • Cory A.
    "The stats and types are the core of the game - with a minimal amount of math you could figure out with near certainty who will win a battle prior to the battle even beginning."

    Holy crap. You don't know anything about the competitive scene of Pokemon, do you? The meta game is extremely deep. Try reading about a Pokemon's IVs and EVs before you write this nonsense.

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