Almost every year new Pokémon games release. The series started out on the Game Boy in 1996 and has continued to delight fans worldwide with each release, the latest being Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, released just a couple of weeks ago. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are remakes of the original Ruby and Sapphire from 2002. Ruby and Sapphire were markedly different from previous iterations of the Pokémon franchise. Some fans loved the Third Generation (myself included) while others deem them as the worst Pokémon games released.
Releases usually come in pairs with a third game (considered a “director’s cut,” something akin to a “definitive edition”) releasing a short time later. Some Pokémon are only available in one of the original two games and each game can only contain one save file, forcing players to purchase it’s counterpart (or the third game, or all three) as well to be able to catch ’em all. The developers haven’t been shy about remaking past games either and have even made sequels to Black and White.
Each Pokémon game from the series’ inception has had the same basic premise with the same basic mechanics: The player chooses a starter Pokémon, tries to catch ’em all, battles a rival, collects gym badges, takes down an evil team (Team Rocket, for example), beats the Elite Four, and captures legendaries. Combat is a simple turned based system that has the player choosing moves for their Pokémon to execute against the opposing pocket monsters until an entire team of Pokémon have fainted.
Over the years some things have been added to the formula. Each generation comes with new Pokémon. New types of Pokémon get added (such as the Fairy-type). New battle mechanics are implemented, like the double battle. Minor tweaks and additions are present in each new game. The graphics and art styles have also changed throughout the series and the most recent games (X and Y and ORAS) have made some drastic changes to the presentation: they have fully rendered polygonal 3D graphics, as opposed to the 2D sprites that had been a staple of Pokémon video games.
Sure, each generation of games has minor improvements that appease long term fans, but at its core, Pokémon has changed very little since it started out. Where’s the criticism?
Each year, people love to complain about the newest Call of Duty release or the newest Madden game. Call of Duty doesn’t change much year to year but it changes enough, maybe by introducing a new gameplay mechanic or new game mode, to entice shoppers to pick it up. EA always tries to advertize that something is new in the latest Madden release but mainly the game is just a glorified roster update.
Now, I know these aren’t apples to apples comparisons — no one would think that CoD and Pokémon are similar games — but I do think that some arguments about Call of Duty and Madden can be applied to Pokémon. Pokémon does little to change its gameplay, much like how Call of Duty’s gameplay rarely changes — the truth is, when so many games are released in one series, they are start to feel too much like one another and can do little to improve on the previous iteration.
I personally think Pokémon on the handheld devices have peaked. After the graphics overhaul/improvement, where else is there to go for the series? More remakes? More regions with new uninspired Pokémon? Sure, the developers have tried to expand the series with games like the Mystery Dungeon series or the Rangers series, but they are not (nor ever will be) what people associate with Pokémon games.
What Pokémon needs is a little bit of change. Maybe more attention should be turned to Nintendo’s Wii U. Pokémon Colosseum, for the GameCube, was a different direction for the series but still retained many elements from the handheld games. Imagine how many Wii U’s Nintendo would sell if a game similar to Pokémon Colosseum was made! A Pokémon console RPG would add to the increasingly great selection of games for the Wii U (the Super Smash Bros., Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Bayonetta games) and maybe entice more people to pick one up.
A Pokémon console RPG wouldn’t have to reinvent the series to be different; if the story was switched up and the gameplay kept mainly the same, I’m sure plenty of players would be beyond excited. What if it added dialogue options and player choice? Who wouldn’t want a Pokémon RPG for the Wii U?
As it stands now, the majority of people are satisfied with the Pokémon series formula as it is — if they weren’t then the games wouldn’t be selling by the millions. I’m only hoping that Nintendo can evolve the series.