Oh boy. “How to improve Pokémon games” occupies a contentious corner of the internet these days. I could sculpt a hefty list of changes that preserve Pokémon’s award-winning formula.
On one hand, mainline Pokémon titles on Switch expressed genuine merits.
Game Freak captured major quality of life (QoL) innovations. Fast travel features aren’t locked behind HM-slaving anymore. Pokémon breeding became more transparent. Party and inventory management sprinted toward current-gen competitors. New Mint and Ability Capsule systems splashed accessibility into optimizing online battle teams.
Yet, mainline Pokémon titles on Switch somehow feel hollow against their predecessors. They aren’t adventurous anymore.
The general consensus is that Game Freak needs more time and manpower to develop, and truer words may never echo through a Noivern’s supersonic ears.
After all, Pokémon’s core formula still works. I spent a solid 300 hours scouting Galar with a childlike smirk drawn across my face. However, I inflated my hours with breeding battle-ready teams and tackling online foes.
I ran a Reddit poll on what trainers despise most from recent 3D installments. I’ve been in the biz long enough to predict the outcome, but who doesn’t like a tidy graph with exact percentages?
I already dived deep into the bulk of Pokémon’s issues when spilling complaints about Sword and Shield.
Instead, I’d like to highlight a solitary flaw that’s been snowballing through recent Pokémon games. One that could stretch far enough to encapsulate the top three polled complaints.
Let’s address the steady decline of Pokémon interactivity – in an age where these features should parade the spotlight.
The QoL features are welcome additions, but they’re also scooping craters from immersion.
We aren’t hiking precarious peaks to visit a name rater or fishing out heart scales to re-teach old moves. We need replacements, some that aren’t mindless chores.
I believe heightening focus on overworld Pokémon could single-handedly raise the bar for future mainline games. I mean, the creatures are the stars of the show. They warrant the extra TLC.
The Wild Areas introduced in Sword and Shield fulfilled a multi-decade Pokémon pipe dream – for myself and millions of former children of the 90s and 00s.
Still, Wild Areas felt rushed. Overworld Pokémon only populated small map chunks, despite marketing suggesting otherwise.
The concept mirrored an unevolved Dachsbun. It felt half-baked.
Then, when the Scarlet/Violet duo dropped, we saw unwavering implementation. Still, something felt amiss.
In both generations, the Pokémon roaming the overworld droned like underpaid retail workers. The only unique behaviors we glimpse across the vast expanses of the Galar and Paldea regions are species-specific fight or flight patterns.
Bland Pokémon pranced around in patches of grass, fell from trees, and littered the skies. But none of the little fantasy creatures served a purpose.
Troublesome Pokémon have stirred and blocked our paths since Pokémon Red and Green flew off Japanese shelves in 1996.
But their role began to wane on 3DS entries.
The best way to spark formulaic improvement is to review successful past trends – and modernize them.
Even in the studio’s early development stages, Game Freak designed Pokémon for the explicit reason of fulfilling an in-game purpose.
Game Freak eased up on the explosive Micheal Bay directing style in generations 3-5, but surprise Pokémon mechanics didn’t halt.
Generation 5 marks the last drop of awareness for “function-over-fashion” Pokémon.
We had a few absurd roadblocks, too.
In X and Y, Game Freak recycled the sleeping Snorlax story by blocking a bridge to the daycare. Once he awoke, our Pokémon cackled at the sight of a petty level 15 ‘mon. Snorlax is a big ol’ cutie, though. I won’t rate it too harshly.
But then we fumbled on this monstrosity:
During the 3DS era, Game Freak came to a silent conclusion: Functional Pokémon fulfilled a prehistoric design philosophy. These creatures annoyed the modern gaming world – one favoring ease of play.
By generation 8, Game Freak dialed down to a swarm of Greedent packing their cheeks with berries.
Arbitrary lines of dialog blocked our paths.
Removing Pokémon-practicality leeched life from its universe like a vampiric Zubat.
A few months back, I played a Pokémon clone called Coromon. I remember plucking the first trash can I stumbled upon. I pumped my fist in joy when I unearthed a berry.
Then reality hit me like a brick tsunami: Pokémon isn’t interactive anymore.
Look, nostalgia aside, seeing a Snorlax blockade is dated. But dumping roadblock Pokémon still feels like the backward approach.
What if we seized that old-school principle and renovated it? We could interlace Pokémon roadblocks with key story elements. Our overworld companions could help us overcome environmental barriers.
Pokémon deserve to inhabit their regions. They could manipulate dynamic topographical changes, stirring whirlpools and sealing caverns. They could create time-gated barriers to revisit as seasons pass.
What if you crawled into a tunnel to discover a colony of Diglett altering the paths you can follow each day of the week? Ground types could also tie lore into procedural generation or progression-locked passageways.
What if you decided to sail the ocean and noticed a school of Wishiwashi creating an impassable whirlpool, or a massive Wailord struggling to pass through a channel during a low tide?
What if a school of Gyrados washed you ashore when you hit a boundary line?
Maybe we could reverse the roadblock formula. We could allow Pokémon to aid us in trekking complex terrain. A Rillaboom or Galvantula could help us scale cliffsides. Maybe a starving pack of Mightyena lends us a hand by clearing shortcuts after we fill their bellies.
The point is:
Post-game hindrance is a non-issue these days. We can ride on Corviknight taxis and teleport with Abra. Meanwhile, creativity blazes an endless trail of possibilities. We’d witness the birth of expressive Pokémon regions.
Instead of Kalos power outages, engaging events could greet us. Instead of the droll linear routes of Galar, we could experience vibrant valleys peppered with unstoppable Tauros stampedes.
Pokémon NPC’s should dish out side-quests like we see in the anime. Imagine re-creating the story of the shapeshifting Ninetales.
What if we untangled Pokémon drama at a local shop to earn reduced item prices? Better yet, why shouldn’t we have questlines where we restore entire cities?
I want to dispel disruptive Muk and Garbador turf wars in an abandoned dystopian wasteland brimming with hazardous waste. I want to escort a mourning Cubone through a haunted aristocrat’s mansion. Heck, in the process, I could stammer into a ragged Apricorn craftsman who’s been abducted by an unhinged lonesome Misdreavus.
Maybe we can wager on Donphan races to win tutor moves. Maybe we could buy a fireproof item that unlocks wild Ponyta horseback riding. We could evolve the retired Game Corner into a perky Pokémon Mini-Game Corner.
We can upgrade the job system to something interactive. We could enroll our Pokémon in a wrestling circuit or hit TV series, witnessing real episodic progress.
Instead of scouring a particular grass patch for a rare Pikachu, we could fund a struggling power plant until we trigger a tour event. While we’re at it, bring back the Safari Zone and load it with reward-driven NPC catch requests.
These are the tasks we consider Poké Flute cool.
And, for the love of Arceus, bring back questing for legendaries. Imagine scanning a dusty, macabre archeological dig site for all 26 Unown variants, catching glimpses of rising glyph stones in the process.
Tearing random encounters out of the picture negates the thrill of traversing routes. The feeling of risk and reward dissipates when we waltz between hazards.
Flavorful ambushes could eclipse outdated invisible enemies – while retaining our treasured heart-pounding moments.
Splash in some Greninja smokescreens. Let sneaky Shiftry swoop down from branches. When we’re on our toes, we forge lasting memories.
Greedent commandeering our Apricorn spoils feels okay-ish. But it’s repetitive enough to become a slog. What if we accentuated the experience by sprinkling in flocks of Mandibuzz who circle the skies and swoop in before we can jostle trees? What if we needed to examine branches for Pineco before they poured like explosive pellets of rain?
And once those coveted berries hit the grass, unleash the horde of famished Pokémunchkins.
What if a wild Hypno created a sleep timer on a certain route or within a defined radius?
Let us watch Houndoom hunt in packs. Let us giggle at the Spheal nap as she floats downstream.
I want to observe a Luxray scratching its ears in the wild. I want to witness an Ursaring shaking a tree. I want to find Magikarp swarms and burrowing Sandshrew.
I get it, mainline Pokémon games aren’t on rails. Limitations exist. Yet, somehow, Zelda developers carve out Bokoblin behaviors that warrant a mockumentary.
Game Freak can afford more than two behavior traits.
This franchise boasts so much untapped potential. It hurts.
Sometimes I wish I could start over. I wish I could’ve backed away from Pokémon while I was dipping my toes in shallow waters – before sunk-cost fallacy could drown me in an ocean of blog posts about a despised game.
Maybe Pokémon belongs in her 2D top-down stomping ground. Gorgeous sprites embellished the battle screens of Pokémon Black and White. The tiered battle tower really squeezed our teams, too.
Game Freak lured us in with our childhood fantasies of lush 3D adventurescapes and left us with an empty husk of a modern RPG.
Pokémon lacks ambience. It yearns for a living, breathing ecosystem. The combat system is infused with robust support moves. Her roster is pleasantly diverse and extensive.
Yet, in terms of the overworld, nearly every title in the turn-based genre outshines Pokémon.
I think Game Freak knows. Legends of Arceus displayed ambition, willingness to test the waters of massive overhauls. And, nestled between the choppy frames of Scarlet/Violet, we saw real development leaning into our gen 8 complaints.
So, if you’re out there and listening, Game Freak, open the gates and hire some industry wizards. Accept their advice. Nobody’s forcing your company to mimic the policies of feudal Japan.
Tight-knit, ragtag teams have their merits, but…
Sharing ideas allows them to flourish!
Open the gates to Wano.