Amidst all of the uncontrollable excitement surrounding the announcement of a certain long-awaited sequel having entered development for the Switch, one would be forgiven for forgetting the somewhat more understated, but still very significant revelation that a new ‘core’ Pokémon game would also be making its way to the platform. With very little knowledge of the project available other than the fact that it’s in development, along with confirmation that as of E3 2017 it probably wouldn’t be out for at least a year, there is plenty of room for speculation. And what’s more fun than baseless conjecture, right? So here’s my Christmas list of the top five things that I would most like to see, from what will likely prove to be one of the most important instalments in the franchise’s history.
Just a small caveat: this list relies entirely on the assumption that this Pokémon game on the Switch will be a brand-new iteration, as opposed to the long-rumoured Pokémon Stars, a supposedly in-development enhanced version of the already-available Sun and Moon. Personally, I really hope that Nintendo opt to create a completely new experience. After all, by the time this game releases we will already have received Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which are themselves undeniable rehashes of old games. Why not create something tailor-made for the Switch that makes use of its far superior hardware? Having said all this, though, it’s worth pointing out that the devs recently advised fans in a recent interview to temper their expectations, as the game could never possibly hope to reach them. To this, I feel I simply must respond with an impassioned “screw that”, so let’s get started!
5. Greater emphasis on exploration in fully 3D environments – Pokémon X-ploration
In previous Pokémon games, there’s been little motivation to deviate from the beaten path, other than the odd Poké Ball containing often-common items. For this iteration, I want exploration to be more significantly incentivised and a major part of the experience. Why not include optional dungeon-like areas containing puzzles, which earn you a reward upon completion, or area-specific Pokémon not found anywhere else in the world? This would make the act of ‘Pokémon-hunting’ feel like more of an adventure, recapturing that Pokémon Go magic as you go off from where the map takes you and make a discovery of your own. It would feel like a miniature version of the hunt for the previous games’ respective legendary Pokémon. Plus, it would give whichever region chosen to be the setting more of an identity, as you discover relics of its past and its history. And what better way to show off this newly deepened world by rendering it in 3D, too? Pls, Nintendo.
4. More engagement with NPCs – NP-C you later, mate
I’m not asking for Witcher 3 or Mass Effect-quality stuff here, just some slightly more varied dialogue. Areas in Pokémon games’ past have always been at least well-populated, but the characters usually have just a single line of dialogue, and often once you’ve spoken to them and heard what they have to say you have no reason to ever speak to them again, lest they make the same remark to you every time you greet them for all eternity. A bit more interaction between you and the characters, through being given small side-quests, for instance, could really help to make the world come alive. Perhaps Game Freak could borrow Bethesda’s tactic of dropping hints through NPCs to aid in exploration, which would link beautifully with the above inclusion.
3. Expanded secret base customisation – All about that base
One of the main features that I loved in Pokémon Emerald was the ability to construct your own secret base in a tree or cave, complete with customisable furniture. While I understand that multiple versions of this mechanic have been included in the games since, I would love for Game Freak to take it a step further and allow you to choose between different locations. Imagine having the choice between such opportunities as an underwater base, a man/woman cave, an isolated shack in a forest, or maybe even a chance to take to the skies a-la Team Rocket with an airship. The possibilities are truly endless, and so is the potential for personalising your own private space. The idea of being able to set up my own truly individual base of operations makes my head spin.
2. Improved online features – My enjoyment on the line
With the far more advanced online capabilities of the Switch compared to the 3DS, there can be no excuse not to include a fully-featured online suite for PVP. I want one on one and two on two battles, regional and global tournaments, and a persistent online rank similar to that seen in Splatoon 2’s ranked battles mode. This could be complemented with daily/weekly challenges, such as winning however many matches in a set period of time. A nice addition would also be single-player rewards for online success, such as items or maybe even rare Pokémon if you’re especially skilled. The one thing I’m almost certain we won’t get, though, is hassle-free online chat, but one can only hope.
1. A complex, sympathetic antagonist – More than just antago-nasty
One of the main frustrations I’ve had in the past with Pokémon games is that the villains are, for the most part, archetypal, tropey bad guys who are irredeemably evil and extremely two-dimensional. If Game Freak were to include a villain who truly has a noble cause, however, and who has facets of their character that may even be somewhat tragic or understandable, I might be made for the first time in my life to actually care about a Pokémon games story. That would really surprise me.