The new Pokemon game is right around the corner, and I kind of feel that the mass immaturity surrounding the national dex drama has finally started to ease off. That or I’ve blocked enough people In Twitter that I’m just not seeing it anymore.
While I am exasperated by this disorganised revolt against the Pokemon franchise, that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own misgivings about the upcoming game and the direction of the franchise some respects. I am excited for the new game, seeing the franchise make the jump to a home console is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.
But there is information about the game around the edges that makes me feel apprehensive about how Game Freak and the Pokemon Company are altering the game’s formula. The silly thing is that objectively, all these changes are positive. They’re things that are ultimately respectful of the player and their time.
It’s kind of ironic, that I get frustrated with these “national dexers” being aggressively possessive of what they deem to be “their” franchise, attempting to hold it hostage, when my own misgivings are born from that exact same place. I suppose the biggest difference is that I haven’t created created an obnoxious hashtag and harass the company’s Twitter manager at every opportunity as a result of mine.
But what actually is bugging me about these upcoming games? The first is something of a natural followup to one of my major problems with Pokemon Let’s Go. In the past few games of the franchise, there has been an item called EXP Share. When turned on, this item gives all Pokemon in the part experience after a battle.
In Sword/Shield, this is always going to be in effect, with no option to turn it off. On it’s surface, this is a positive change. Many reviewers and people I know who bounce off the Pokemon games do so because of how inherently grindy they are, how much time needs to be invested in levelling a team before being able to move on with the story.
This change means the developers are aware of this shortcoming and are trying to remedy it. In short; they’re making changes that are much more respectful of their player’s time. This still kind of bugs me though, my reasons are twofold. Firstly; grind is inherent to the Pokemon experience for me. I’m certain I’ve put thousands of hours into the mainline Pokemon games collectively.
I’ve come expect a certain thing from them and something that changes that expectation is going sit wrong in my mind. It’s not something I can simply overlook using sound logic or reasoning. I understand why they’ve done it and agree with the changes. But I cannot help but subconsciously wrinkle my nose at the change. It’s my problem and something I’m just going to have to quietly deal with.
The other reason though is one that I feel is going alter my experience with the game, and not necessarily for the better. I already mentioned Pokemon Let’s Go. One of my problems with that game was how fast and easy it was to level Pokemon without ever using them, it felt difficult to grow attached and feel any kind of connection with the team of Pokemon I’d picked to play the game with.
You could have Pokemon in your team you’d never used and they were the same level as the Venusaur that had carried you throughout most of the game.
This problem is inherently why the “Nuzlocke” style of play came about. Creating artificial stakes around the game’s rules in order to emulate the feeling of connection and loss of a Pokemon that we used to feel towards them as younger children.
It’s a tough one to describe really. Everyone has their own unique approach and perspective to the franchise. The mass experience gain makes it so limiting yourself to only six Pokemon is no longer a requirement in terms of realistic time investment. In Pokemon X, with the exp share turned on, I was able to juggle about 20 Pokemon at the same time and never feel like it was slowing down my progress through the game.
As a consequence, though, I don’t really feel any connection or familiarity to the Pokemon I’m using. It might seem like a silly thing to get hung up on. But I’ve always felt a certain connection to the Pokemon of the franchise I’ve been playing since I was ten years old and change that’s meant for positively and to make the game more accessible has ended up limiting my personal experience with the game.
The other change, announced more recently is the ability to edit your Pokemon from any Pokemon centre. Previously there are NPCs that could change the nickname of your Pokemon and help them relearn moves they’d previously forgotten for a small fee. Now, both of those functions have opened up and are freely available it seems.
This is another example of my old school mentality finding fault with what is a wholly positive change to the series. It’s kind of insane the more I think about it. My resistance here comes from another ingrained mental bugbear I have with RPGs: the removal of commitment to choice.
This one, more than the other change is more difficult for me to personally justify. Having freedom to customise your Pokemon as much as you want, especially when it comes to late game, competitive team building is fantastic and means all the less time spent farming heart scales four hours on end.
At the end of the day, the Pokemon franchise is much, much bigger than me. It’s something that, as much as I’d like to think otherwise, is still directed primarily at children. And while I always dream of a tougher, less forgiving Pokemon game for the 30 something year old who started playing the franchise with the first game, it’s simply never going to happen. In reality, I should just sit back and enjoy Nintendo are giving me the change to have a life outside of playing their game.
Time is a very precious commodity for me these days and the fact that I feel uneasy about a bunch of mechanics that are going to give me that time back is utterly ridiculous. I am really looking forward to the new Pokemon games and looking for an excuse to dislike them before even getting hands on them is childish in the extreme.