Pokémon series needs fresh ideas

By Tim Jones

The Pokémon series was responsible for a good chunk of my childhood.

Wikimedia Commons

Engaging in the morally ambiguous act of imprisoning random creatures and using them for personal battles was a solid formula that has managed to keep new generations of trainers entertained.

This past weekend, game series developer Game Freak announced the reveal of Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2. The company did not release details about the games, except for the logo and the possible legendary creatures. Pretty soon, kids – and adults – will be dusting off their Nintendo DS once again. However, until more information is released, it’s best to remain skeptical.

The Black and White versions were released a year ago and introduced many more Pokémon to the series, though not all of them were keepers. Game Freak’s creativity has run dry after making over 600 of the monsters to tame.

One of the absolute throwaways includes Ducklett, which is literally nothing more than a blue duck. When a blue duck is considered acceptable, that’s when quality control needs to step in. Sure, we had Rattata and Pidgey – literally a rat and a bird – but there’s no reason why more creative entries can’t be considered.

The core formula of the games remained the same; defeat the eight gym leaders and then defeat the Elite Four. This process has been in place since the very original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Only slight variations have been made with each new generation.

While it hasn’t been enough to keep everyone around, some people – including myself – are always eager to jump on the next generation of games, regardless of how old. It’s a similar situation to, say, Call of Duty. Anyone out of the loop will claim that nothing is new, although fans will claim that enough has been changed to make it fresh. When it comes to Pokémon, I’m in the second boat.

Black and White 2 is likely to be the second edition of the latest generation of Pokémon games. Similar to every other generation before, it is a game that somewhat merges the latest two, with only slight differences and variations. When it comes around, people buy it right up. Generally, there’s enough new content to keep only the most extreme of fans and little kids entertained.

Kids are relatively ignorant when it comes to the world of gaming, and think that anything with a brand name they enjoy will be a spectacular experience. But for the rest of the general audience, Game Freak may need to consider a few key points before running this series into the ground, which is indeed possible.

Black and White were fantastic in the regard that the experience was mostly new. There were no old Pokémon to catch, until the game was beaten at least. The new villain, Team Plasma, brought up the perfect moral question of whether or not it was right to capture and train these monsters. Those two components, as well as the many little things, added up to one of the most solid editions in the series.

However, it leaves it to be desired what direction could possibly be taken. Black and White 2 are most likely not going to be full-fledged sequels. This assumption, however, could be wrong.

In the event that the games are sequels, Game Freak really has a tough time going for it in terms of story and gameplay. Almost all storylines that are suitable for children – while adhering to the formula – have been used. Fans have seen the enemies attempt world domination, world destruction, morality about Pokémon, destruction of space, etc.

It doesn’t leave much breathing room, unless the traditional formula is discarded, which is a fat chance. “Firefly” has a better chance of renewal.

The amount of Pokémon players have to catch in order to obtain all of them is insane. It requires people to trade with plenty of other people and have access to many of the other games. There are also special event Pokémon only released in Japan at certain stores.

In other words, it’s extremely difficult to legitimately obtain them all. A sequel wouldn’t work unless new Pokémon were introduced, and given that the last batch was somewhat lackluster, this could pose a problem.

It’s already been revealed that Black and White 2 will be on the original DS and not for the 3DS. This is a massive shame, considering the hardware capabilities of the 3DS would allow for some great improvements to be made, especially in terms of graphics. Granted, this would limit the audience greatly.

Game Freak should probably take a break from the series for a good chunk of time and really think some things through. The series has been showing signs of horrible aging for years now and a fresh release on the 3DS with completely revamped and overhauled gameplay would do it some good.

Although Game Freak could release a new game every two months and make massive profits, if more time was spent on the core formula, it would benefit the company greatly. That said, Black and White 2 will be released in June in Japan. It shouldn’t be too much longer for it to be localized to North America. Given Game Freak’s record, players shouldn’t anticipate anything revolutionary. But considering how many years the series has been around, it wouldn’t be too much to ask for something in terms of a game changer.

Tim Jones can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TimJones90.