Pokémon. (Illustration by Melchisedech Quagrainie, Columbia College Chicago)

5 Ways To Improve the Pokémon Video Game Series on Its 25th Anniversary

As the hit franchise nears its quarter-of-a-century milestone, there are many steps Game Freak can take to bring this beloved series to the next level.
December 12, 2020
5 mins read

Pokémon has had quite the journey ever since the Red and Blue editions launched in 1996 for the Game Boy. From video games to hit TV series and movies, Pokémon has earned its place in pop culture as the highest-grossing media franchise in the world. For more than two decades, fans have been putting their skills to the test, using Nintendo systems to battle, catch and befriend the little creatures known as Pocket Monsters.

Even when people think it’s dead, or simply just a nostalgic relic, the franchise stays alive due to its dedicated fanbase and accessibility. For example, the mobile game, Pokémon GO, took the world by storm in the summer of 2016. The franchise hasn’t garnered that much mainstream attention since the early 2000s.

Now, as the franchise approaches its 25th anniversary, there is a lot to be excited about. A new Pokémon Snap is coming, and rumors keep circulating for what the next main Pokémon game will be.

That being said, it hasn’t all been fun and games. Lately, the newest Pokémon games have been met with heavy criticism — from recycling plots to lazy new designs to outdated graphics.

Pokémon Sword and Shield was announced back in 2019 to high praise and anticipation, though numerous problems and other announcements had many worried. The fact that not all Pokémon would be available angered fans, who dubbed the move “Dexit,” a mix of Brexit and Pokédex.

As it got closer and closer to the release date, many more concerns came to light. From unimpressive graphics, uninspiring mechanics like Dynamaxing and an overall impression of laziness, many have thought that Pokémon needs to step it up.

Seriously, it’s almost 2021. With recent incredible games like Spider-Man, God of War and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the most profitable media franchise deserves more love and care. Here are five ideas to improve the mainline Pokémon video games.

1. New Plots

Every generation, we see a similar story. You play the role of a young trainer from a small town, accompanied by one or multiple rival characters. You go route to route, beating Pokémon gyms while investigating an end of the world-esque plot by a ridiculously named villainous group.

It’s time to shake things up. Imagine if, instead of being a young trainer, you start the game as a gym leader before getting that call to adventure. Something different would be welcome for a change.

2. Open World

One of the game’s biggest criticisms is how linear the story is. Many single-player games are great because they allow the player to go wherever they want. Games like Mario Odyssey allow the player to ignore linearity and spend hours doing side adventures. Pokémon unfortunately doesn’t really allow that to happen.

Pokémon Sword and Shield was criticized for being too linear, and in turn, the new Galar region felt flat and uninspired. While the new Wild Area is a step in the right direction, when you beat the game, you’re told that the whole region is yours to explore, but by the time you beat it, there’s really nothing else left to look for. In the older Pokémon games, there was always a lot to explore after the main journey was completed, so it’s sad that the franchise is failing to keep its fans entertained.

3. Difficulty Modes

Everyone agrees that the game is far too easy nowadays. What was once a total grind to level your team up to match up against Pokémon League Champions like Cynthia, it is now not even necessary. With additions like the experience share, the original struggle isn’t really there anymore. Hardcore Pokémon fans want a challenge, and giving them the ability to select a harder difficulty level will make the journey much more rewarding.

4. Better Gameplay Mechanics

The repetitive turn-based style of battling has run its course, and it’s time to change things up a bit. Everyone thought Mega Evolutions were cool when they were first announced, but after Z-Moves in Pokémon Sun and Moon, and now Dynamaxing in Sword and Shield, Game Freak needs to do away with the gimmicks and instead focus on the pure art of battling.

Imagine taking control of your Pokémon and battling opponents without waiting for the next move, but instead working more like a 3D fighting style where you control the Pokémon itself, instead of just giving it commands. Battles would be much more exciting.

5. More Innovative Pokémon Designs

After releasing dozens of games, it must be hard to come up with new and unique designs for everyone’s favorite Pocket Monsters. However, the past few years have proved that Game Freak relies on easy-to-replicate models. There are thousands of unique fan-made Pokémon designs out there, and if those aren’t creative enough, mythological creatures like the Kraken, the griffin or the Pegasus would be great bases for new Pokémon. The surface has barely been scratched, and fans are ready for newer and bolder designs.

It’s incredible that the series is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, but fans have grown tired of the stale, repetitive games. Game Freak needs to provide more innovation, and fans will happily continue their quest to catch ‘em all.

Alex Luna, University of California, Berkeley

Writer Profile

Alex Luna

University of California, Berkeley

Student at UC Berkeley currently majoring in English. Lover of all things anime, literature, sports and debating the possibility of parallel universes.

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