How Pokemon X Y Could Have Been the Perfect Pokemon
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 & Blue - which, 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.
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!