Any new Pokémon games leads to a lot of theories and speculation, but for Pokémon Switch it seems like everyone and their Meowth has something to share. Suddenly there’s ‘industry insiders’ tweeting out vague statements everywhere and there are more ‘credible sources’ than we really know what to do with.
I suppose I understand this. Moving to the Switch could be a pretty big step for the franchise and therefore we all really want this game to be special. It would be a bit of a let-down if, instead of shaking the formula up a bit, this will just be another Pokémon game like all the games that came before it.
Of course, as is also always the case, a lot of this will turn out to be complete bullshit created by people who wanted to feel important for a while. To obtain all the grains of salt needed for these rumors, you’d pretty much have to drain the Dead Sea.
As such, I’m taking a slightly different angle. Some of this will involve rumors, but I’m not going through every single theory. I’m looking at what I enjoyed in previous Pokémon games and the things I feel need to be updated or removed to determine what Gamefreak should keep, what they should add, what really needs a change and what they should leave out.
Now, as most of us do when something is about to change, let’s cling to the past and start things off with something that should be kept largely unchanged.
Keep: The Battle System
There have been some murmurings that Pokémon Switch will bring major changes to the battle system, but what this means has varied from ‘credible source’ to ‘credible source’.
One thing most people agree on is that this will be the first time we’ll get a main series Pokémon game with full 3D, high-resolution assets. This would, of course, be fairly cool, since we all want our Pokémon to look great while they’re stomping the competition. There are another few minor tweaks like a partially animated UI that will supposedly be included, but that’s not the important part.
A lot of people seem to think that Pokémon might be leaving the Turn-Based battle system behind for something closer to a Real-Time system, akin to the Digimon World or Ni No Kuni Games.
Now, this will probably be the most biased part of an article already based mostly on my own opinions, but I hate this theory for a number of reasons.
First of all, I think it’s a lot of people projecting onto this game. Turn-based games seem to be getting less and less popular and, while I like it, others often disagree on the basis that it’s slow and doesn’t make much sense in-universe. And while I can accept the pacing argument as a reason not to like it, if your problem with a series where ten-year olds use magical creatures to fight is that it doesn’t make sense that you have to wait your turn, I’d like you to bend over so I can shove a Sandslash somewhere it wasn’t meant to go.
However, that brings me to the second reason I hate this theory. Namely, that it could well be true.
The last Pokémon games had some of their more complicated features made a lot more accessible, to the point where even the profoundly thick should have no problem following along by this point. Adopting a more popular battle system could be an easy way to appeal to a portion of the market that just can’t get beyond the turn-based thing.
On a slightly less biased note, though, I just don’t think this would make for a good mechanic in Pokémon. While these games will never be very complicated, you can plan and come up with strategies to make the most out of your team. Predicting your opponent, not to mention predicting that they will predict your prediction, is an important skill to master, especially in competitive play. Are you going to use a super effective move, or do you think your opponent might have a move or ability that could get you into trouble? Should you switch out, or do you think your opponent might see that coming and either boost their stats or hit the Pokémon you switch in with something super effective?
As the system is now, when you’re playing through the story and get in a tough spot in battle, you can take all the time you need to figure out what to do next. In competitive play there is, of course, a timer ticking down but it is a rather long one so you actively have to try not to come up with a plan before time runs out.
Now imagine this in a real-time system. No matter how you look at it, this seems like it would hinder your ability to strategize because your Pokémon would be left open to multiple hits from your opponent.
For example, say it works on a cooldown-based system. Your opponent and you both use a move and have to wait for the cooldown to run out before you can act again. However, your Pokémon is in a bad spot and you have to think. However, before you can decide to switch or do something else, your opponent’s cooldown has ended and they’ve hit you with another attack, rendering the point moot.
There is also the question of how the speed stat would work in a system like this since it determines who attacks first in the current system and it’s very important to keep in mind. The most likely option would probably be to have speed determine the length of the cooldown, but it seems like this would make slow Pokémon completely unplayable.
Again, I just think this would be a very, very bad choice for Pokémon.
That’s not to say I think the current system should be preserved as is entirely. It has been streamlined a lot already, but it could still be improved upon. I’m also not against it being a bit more dynamic visually. The current models look fine, but they do just kind of stand around and repeat the same animations.
What I’m hoping to see is a turn-based battle system which, while you make a choice, shows those 3D models in constant motion. Darting around, flying up and swooping down and just kind of slapping each other around (with no actual damage being dealt until a move is selected) like actual animals in a fight.
However, since this would potentially require a lot of work just because of how many Pokémon are available these days, I don’t think it’s very likely that we’ll see something like this. Frankly, I’d be happy with pretty 3D models and varied, smooth animations too.
Add: The Eight Generation
Nintendo has basically confirmed that Pokémon Switch will include the Eight Generation of Pokémon. Of course, this means there is comparatively little time between the seventh and eight generations, but it’s not entirely surprising. If you’re not going to use this first game on the Switch to do as many new things as possible, when are you?
Now, because the seventh generation isn’t that old yet, I do have some concerns. Mainly, how big is this generation going to be? Many people were very disappointed with the size of the sixth generation and, while the seventh also brought us a new twist on old Pokémon with Alolan Forms, this generation wasn’t that much better in terms of size.
Personally, I’m at least hoping for 120 – 150 Pokémon and if that means they have to take the same approach Black and White did and only make the new generation available, I’m honestly okay with that.
No matter what, though, a new generation is always great because it brings back those same questions that remain a ton of fun to ponder each time. What will the legendaries be like? Will Eevee get a new evolution? Are other, older Pokémon getting evolutions or new forms? What will the shinies be like? What are our starters going to be?
Speaking of which…
Fire, water, grass.
Aside from a rare deviation in Pokémon Yellow, that’s how every Pokémon journey has started since Red, Blue, and Green. Later games, of course, added a bit of variety by giving the starters interesting secondary types, leading to things like the grass/ghost Decidueye or even the Fire/Fighting Blaziken, the latter of which unfortunately started a trend of fire/fighting starters that lasted longer than it should have.
Despite these minor changes, obtaining a starter has worked largely the same way for twenty years now. A researcher shows up, you pick a fire, grass or water type and your rival picks another.
Isn’t it time we changed that?
Part of me wants to just do away with the concept of the standard starter trio entirely. Just show us the map, have us throw a dart and give us our starter options based on that. For example, say you throw a dart at a desert area when the game starts. It could then look at what is supposed to spawn there and offer a few ground, fire, or rock type Pokémon for you to start with.
If you throw it at an island, you could get mostly water, ice or flying starters. Or hell, throw it at a mountain for rock, fighting or on very rare occasions a dragon-type starter. Of course, people would try to game the system, but let’s not pretend people don’t already reset to get a perfect nature on their starter.
Of course, this is probably a bit too much of a departure from the established method of obtaining starters. However, I’d still like to see more variety. Maybe we can have a choice of more than three possible starters, for example. How about 6 starters, two of each type, so you have more choice? Not only that, you could change their specializations. One fire type could be a physical sweeper, while the other is more focussed on special attack, etc etc.
If that’s still too much to ask, maybe just change up the typing of the starters a bit. The triangle of fire, grass, and water is a great and simple way to teach newcomers about the basics of type advantages and super effective moves. However, you could make a triangle like that out of other types too and it would serve the same purpose.
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to start with a fairy or poison type, for once.
Leave Out: Kanto
Another prevalent rumor is that Pokémon Switch will be a Kanto remake.
Allow me to sum up my feelings regarding this matter:
Look, we’ve been to Kanto. In fact, between the original games, Gold and Silver and remakes of all of those, we’ve been there four freaking times!
Guys, I know Kanto is special because it was the first region most of us traveled through and a lot of us have fond memories of it. I still remember me and my sister stumbling through it, looking up evolutions in the guide we’d bought and generally getting through on sheer luck. However, I don’t want to keep going there.
Kanto has had plenty of attention. We could visit them again in the original Gold and Silver, we had remakes of the very first games through FireRed and LeafGreen and the same thing happened with Gold and Silver and, yes, you could once again visit Kanto in HeartGold and SoulSilver. Not to mention that the original games can now be downloaded through the eShop.
Hell, Sun and Moon even paid tribute to a number of Pokémon from Kanto by giving them Alolan forms. How much more attention does this region need?
There is also the matter of the eight generation. If that is supposed to appear in Kanto, are we seriously supposed to believe they just hadn’t discovered them yet or are we going for a pretty ham-fisted ‘parallel universe’ explanation?
This is not just the first main series Pokémon game on the Switch, but the first on a home console in general. This is the time to do new things, to shake up the formula like Breath of the Wild did for the legend of Zelda. Let’s have an entirely new generation in an entirely new region.
You may not agree but, guys, if we use this chance to be creative and innovative and only use it to go back to our childhood (even more so than we’re doing already, given that this is Pokémon we’re talking about), what are we even doing?
Keep: Pokémon Refresh
This was a feature I was expecting not to like very much, but I’ve actually grown pretty fond of it. It is kind of nice to take a moment after a hard fight and clean all the mud and dust off of your Pokémon, feed them and pet them as a reward for a job well-done.
Naturally, it needs a few changes. For example, certain moves and abilities always made your Pokémon wet or dirty and it gets really annoying to keep cleaning a Pokémon who starts a sandstorm whenever it’s sent out. Especially when that Pokémon is massive and requires a lot of cleaning.
Make it so a Pokémon can have more than one type of dirt or grime after a battle. Make cleaning big Pokémon easier. It’s little tweaks like that which could make this feature a bit better, but the big one would be how Pokémon Refresh handles status effects.
In the latest games, this feature could let you cure burns, poisoning, paralysis, and sleep without ever using an item, which made most items that only healed status effects far less useful. If a feature like this shows up again in Pokémon Switch, I hope they change it so you can still treat status conditions, but you have to have an item or berry on hand for the condition you want to cure. At least that way there is some cost to it.
I don’t want to sound like an old man grumbling about all those darn kids on his lawn, but can we please go back to the days where people had more than one Pokémon on their team?
In the latest games, it seems 80% of Alola’s population was given merely a single Pokéball and they couldn’t afford more, so they caught one Pokémon and decided they would dedicate their entire life to it.
As a result, the number of trainers who only have that single Pokémon to take on your entire team with is depressingly high. In later areas, some overachievers found a second member for their team, but they’re still kind of a minority and I’m pretty sure that the number of trainers with three or more members is barely in the double digits.
Of course, there are benefits to this. It keeps battles short and lets you get to the next town fairly quickly, but sometimes I don’t want to get somewhere quickly. Sometimes I want a nice, long route with a whole bunch of tough trainers so I can come out on the other side beaten and bruised, but victorious.
In Alola, you can march all of the way up to the Pokémon League and still find optimistic idiots who seem to think taking on the League with half of a full team or less is the best possible strategy.
Of course, Pokémon is first and foremost a kid’s game and I’m not asking for it to suddenly become Pokémon: Dark Souls Version.
…On second thought, I do actually want that, though maybe Monster Hunter rather than Dark Souls. Can you imagine it? Wearing Charizard armor to take on a Venusaur, leaping on its back to slash at the flower there with an Arcanine greatsword until…Sorry, tangent. I don’t care that it’s never going to happen, it would be cool!
At any rate, the series has gone from unchallenging to almost insultingly easy with the last entries and its high time that we at least got the option to raise the difficulty.
This could be as simple as doing what Black and White 2 did, giving you the choice to pick a harder mode where enemies had their levels and AI boosted to make things harder. That by itself isn’t a huge difference, but maybe Pokémon Switch could take it further and generally give important trainers larger or stronger teams.
At any rate, I just hope the average income is higher for the NPCs in the next game, so they can buy more than just one Pokéball.
Change: Gyms/Island Trials
To me, both Sun and Moon and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will always be the entries to the Pokémon series that had a few good ideas but executed them awfully. A prime example of this is how the island challenges were implemented.
Everyone was pretty sick of challenging eight gyms in every Pokémon game, so at first, the island challenges seemed like a breath of fresh air. I think most of the older players were hoping for something like the Orange Islands filler season, which had challenges that were as much about battling as they were about making a bobsled out of ice and racing your opponent down a mountain.
…No, seriously, that happened. It was a weird season.
Anyway, we didn’t get challenges like that. Instead, we got exceedingly lame busy work like searching for ingredients in the jungle or a painfully simple memory game. In Sun and Moon, the captain of the fairy trial doesn’t even bother giving you a challenge or a battle and just chucks the Z-crystal at you. Hell, while most trials were marginally improved in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon and the Fairy trial actually became kinda cool, the dragon trial still has neither a captain nor an actual trial beyond two wild Pokémon to fight.
What should have been cool and unique challenges just wound up as a bunch of boring and annoying chores. Given how painfully easy the Sun and Moon were already, this really didn’t help.
The battles with the Totem Pokémon were pretty cool, but the novelty there wore off pretty quickly too. Around halfway through the game, you start being able to take the big, bad, imposing Totem Pokémon out in one or two shots and the challenge vanishes like it jumped out of a window.
Even with a stat boost, Totem Pokémon just don’t offer the same challenge as a Gym Leader. Yes, the Pokémon can keep bringing in help, but that problem is easily dealt with by simply not attacking the help and taking down the Totem Pokémon first. A gym leader typically has around 3 – 5 Pokémon of a fairly high level for the area and they can switch out and heal once or twice. This inherently makes them more of a challenge.
So does that mean we should just go back to gyms?
Well, I think we might since the island trials were something pretty unique to Alola. It doesn’t fit quite a well with any other region we’ve visited so far and might not fit with a possible new region either.
However, I still think that the basic idea of the trials was good. It was something at least kinda different and I hope the next games will combine that with the challenge of a proper gym battle. Give us a few good challenges or puzzles to solve, mixed with some easier battles to warm us up, and then give us one really strong trainer.
At the very least, don’t make me watch Pokémon dance three times in a row.
Leave Out: The Photo Club (and anything like it)
The fact that The Alola Photo Club exists and that any time and effort at all went into it during development still kind of pisses me off. Who the hell made that a priority? It is almost a perfect example of a ‘use once because you have to and then never again’ feature and the decision to include it at all remains utterly baffling to me because nobody asked for this.
The photography of wild Pokémon was kinda cute, but the options were too easy to miss and the pictures always kind of looked terrible anyway. My advice regarding this feature would have been to pretend it didn’t exist, like most players did, not to emphasize it in the next games and give the players the option to go to a studio and add garish decorations to what is essentially a glorified screenshot.
I’ve seen this compared to Pokémon contests in previous games but, honestly, I kinda liked those because they at least had some different gameplay and required you to put in some effort.
Keep: Multiple Rivals
Most of us want a proper asshole as our primary rival like we had in the first few games. That’s a point I’ll get back to later. However, I do feel that giving you multiple rivals was a nice change for the series.
Not only does it give you more people to beat with a tough team, but it also allows for a bit of diversity in their personalities. You can have one jerkface and a nice character whom you actually won’t mind running into. Besides, it makes sure all three starter Pokémon get some attention.
X and Y gave you about four characters who occasionally hung around and challenged you, but only one could be classified as an actual rival and mostly their presence soon became grating rather than endearing.
Black and White did this much better with Cheren and Bianca since Cheren’s confidence and serious attitude was balanced nicely by Bianca’s uncertainty and struggle to figure out what she wants to do.
At any rate, having multiple rivals was a welcome change and I hope it sticks around. The more, the merrier, after all.
Add: Gym Management
This seems like one of those things that are just never going to happen, but I still want it and I’m hardly alone in that.
It would be so cool to finally be able to open a gym of our own. Who doesn’t want to pick a theme, design some puzzles, hire a few lackeys to keep the weak trainers out and then sit at the end of the gauntlet you’ve designed and await your challengers?
It’s not like there are no systems in place that would allow for this either. Designing your gym could function much like designing a hidden base in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, letting you place walls, decorations, and puzzles as you please within the confines of your gym.
Sun and Moon have also shown us how dealing with challengers could work since, in those games, if you challenge the Elite 4 a second time you don’t fight to become champion again. Instead, someone else comes up to challenge you to take your place and the game has a few possible challengers to choose from. Surely a potential gym management mechanic could function in a similar way.
This could have a pretty big online element as well. People could explore each other’s gyms and challenge the teams the maker of the gym left there for some benefit or simply bragging rights. It would be pretty cool to see who had visited or beaten your gym and to keep a collection of badges from other people’s gyms to show how many you beat.
One potential problem I do see here is that gyms are typically themed around a certain type of Pokémon.
On the one hand, this could be very restrictive. Say if you wanted to make a water-type gym and you were only allowed to have water-types on the team you intended to use as a gym leader. That kind of limits your options and may require an entirely new team to be bred and raised just for your gym.
It also raises the question of, if there are gyms in Pokémon Switch, whether or not you can make a gym of a type that already exists in the region. If there’s a fire-type gym, could you make another one? Would yours replace the existing gym?
However, at least some of these restrictions could also make for a fun challenge. Let’s take the water-type gym as an example again.
Of course, being restricted to water-types only is a problem as it means you’ll have trouble with electric- and Grass-type Pokémon. However, you could include water/ground-type Pokémon in the team to deal with electric types and water/flying or water/steel types so you only take neutral damage from grass types. It might take a little fiddling, but it would be cool to see what teams people come up with.
As I said, this will probably never happen, but it would be sooo cooool.
Change: The Elite 4/The Pokémon League
Another staple of the Pokémon series is challenging the Elite 4, once you’ve obtained all 8 gym badges. Even in Alola, which doesn’t really have gyms, you can challenge the League. In fact, you become the very first champion of that region when you win.
Yet, of course, the Elite 4 has largely functioned the same way since the very beginning. You go in and beat all four members without a chance to visit a Pokémon center between battles and at the end you have a fifth battle with either the current champion or someone else who wants the spot. So how can we change that?
Well, the obvious choice would be to make it confirm to the anime a bit more and make the Pokémon League an actual tournament.
Wouldn’t it be cool to have to work your way up a roster of opponents who are all also looking to become Champion, with crowds all around watching you fight? Your rival could probably be in the tournament too and seems like the most likely candidate for the final match.
Of course, you need some other fights leading up to that. By having the game throw out largely randomized challengers, you could have some fun fights in this tournament with random trainers, without it feeling too much like a repeat of your next challenge.
There is all sorts of flair that could be added here too like commentary, interviews after battles, themed arenas and just general crowd noise that could make the League feel very special and different from how it has been up until now.
If you’re going to be the champion, it’s important to feel like one once it’s all said and done, right?
Leave out: The Terrible Writing
Pokémon games have never had great writing and, to a degree, that’s fine because nobody plays the games for the story anyway. However, this was mostly fine early on because the story was basically just about how you traveled with your Pokémon and kept running into Team Rocket. You didn’t really stop them because someone sent you there, but rather because you just happened to be in the area when they did something illegal.
The story became a bit more of a prominent element in Ruby and Sapphire, where you weren’t so much stopping the local mafia as you were trying to prevent the end of the region/world through flooding or drought.
The story became more and more important in the games after that and that’s a good thing. The quality never improved beyond the dizzying heights of ‘basically okay’, but in most games, the story was at least nice to have. It didn’t get in the way and certainly made the different regions feel distinct.
However, the writing seems to have taken something of a nosedive from X and Y onwards. The games have never been shy about the message of ‘yay for friendship and caring for your Pokémon’, but in recent games, it feels like that’s being brought up every single time you talk to the recurring characters. The constant repetition of this message quickly pushes it from unoriginal to grating. However, this is not the only aspect of the writing that seems to have gotten worse.
Like I said earlier, a lot of players miss the days where our main rival was a complete asshat. Of course we do, it’s fun to beat people like that. You can’t insult them back, so stomping their Pokémon into the dirt is immensely satisfying as a comeback.
After Gold and Silver, however, we mostly got rivals who were either not antagonistic but just kind of dull and serious or outright friendly. While some of these actually became kind of fun as you kept running into them, the last few rivals have been…well…pretty damn twee.
As mentioned before, your group of friends in X and Y got annoying pretty fast, but the main offender I’d like to point to here is Hau from Sun and Moon.
Hau is unbearably annoying. They gave him a decent team, aside from the fact that he picks the starter that is weak to yours, but his characterization is terrible. He’s dumb, kinda oblivious, doesn’t take anything seriously, never shuts up and yet he’s presented as a friend when all I wanted to do was tie a Golem to his feet and push him into the ocean.
Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon slightly redeem the character by actually giving his arc some closure. He eventually realizes that, to be fair to his Pokémon, he’ll have to start taking battles seriously and in those games, he’s actually the last person you fight for the right to become Alola’s Champion. It’s far too little and far too late to make him a halfway decent character, but at least it’s something.
And it might seem strange to come down so hard on the writing over one or a few characters, but bad characters make a story much harder to care about. I didn’t give a damn about what was going on in X and Y (Not helped by how bland Team Flare is) because I couldn’t stand my ‘friends’ and the same thing kind of happened with Sun and Moon, but there I at least sort of cared about Lillie.
Honestly, if Pokémon Switch is the first Pokémon game that lets us pick our own friends rather than forcing the one friend character they had prepared on us, I will throw a party.
Hau will not be invited.
Keep: The Ride Pokémon (Or something like it)
We cannot go back to HM’s.
The Ride Pokémon were a great addition to the series and I don’t care if it functions differently in future games, but we cannot go back to the days where we had to teach our Pokémon a useless and semi-permanent move just to get past a tree or through a cave.
Just please, if they come back, don’t put us in that stupid outfit again.
Add: Walking with Pokémon
I guess this is not a case of adding it so much as putting it back. This feature was easily one of the best things about HeartGold and SoulSilver and I still want it to come back one day. There is just a special joy about going for a walk with your starter or the Pokémon equivalent of Satan.
Or, you know, a magma slug that is canonically hotter than the sun itself.
Change: The GTS
The Global Trade System as it is now is perfectly functional, but also incredibly frustrating.
The GTS allows you to search for any Pokémon you want or offer a certain Pokémon and request something as a trade. You can even specify the Pokémon’s nature, gender or level. However, the GTS’ main purpose is not trading. It’s mainly used to troll.
What you’ll find more than anything on the GTS is people offering useless Pokémon like a Wingull and asking for a level 100 Giratina or a level 1 – 10 Arceus. I’ve never understood what is wrong with the people who think this is funny.
The best way to use the GTS currently is to simply deposit a Pokémon with a request for whatever you need, go do something else for a few hours and hope someone traded their Pokémon for yours when you get back. Actually searching for a trade yourself is typically fruitless and annoying, even now that you can filter out the people requesting legendary Pokémon from your search results.
Giving you better control over how the search results are filtered and letting you request Pokémon with certain abilities would be welcome changes to this system.
Add: Your opinions!
Guys, if you agree, disagree or simply think something should have been included on this list of things to keep, add, change or leave out, let me know! There’s bound to be something I forgot about or didn’t consider and it would be fun to see what other people think Pokémon Switch needs to be great.