Last night Nintendo’s President, Satoru Iwata, announced to the world the next generation of Pokémon. Generation VI, labelled Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, are Nintendo’s leap from the regular 2D, sprite-based series that everyone knows and loves, into a fully 3D world. But is the graphical leap really that good of an idea?
When the official Pokémon twitter announced they had an announcement, people were instantly intrigued. Not only did Nintendo not announce it, it wasn’t a region-specific announcement, which led to rumours flying around everywhere. The first - and most prevalent - rumour was that it was a remake of the Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald series of games; Nintendo remade Generation I roughly 10 years after its release in the West, and they remade Generation II roughly 10 years after its release in the west. 10 years ago this year, Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald was released in the west – so it was rather normal to assume that it was a remake coming along.
But it wasn’t. Instead, here we are with a brand new series of games for the Nintendo 3DS console, which is definitely the right decision on Nintendo’s part. Pokémon Black/White 2 was released not very long ago, and on the Nintendo DS. It’s an ample opportunity for Nintendo to ramp things up with the next game in the series.
Pokémon has been in a bit of a slump recently. Pokémon Black/White and their sequels just didn’t seem to have the same magic as the previous titles; the designs of the creatures were uninspired (fan-favourites to criticise were the Ice Cream and the Garbage Bag), the “3D” city gimmicky, and the whole region just uninspired compared to previous efforts. Fans were receptive – it was a new game, after all – but nothing compared to the previous efforts of Game Freak and Nintendo.
So what needs to change? Pretty much what Nintendo seem to be doing with the title. It’s on the 3DS, finally, which has a ton more processing power than the Nintendo DS. It’s 3D, resembling something like Final Fantasy III on the Nintendo DS, if much more crisp and refined. The battle system is now 3-dimensional, resembling something from Pokémon Colosseum and a much-needed visual upgrade from the usual 2D style of battle. There are new travelling mechanics – in the trailer video alone, there appears to be rollerblading, and at one point you can jump across gaps using ropes.
Does this mean you can move diagonally, instead of just vertically and horizontally? Are Nintendo finally updating their games to attract new fans as well as attract the old ones back? When Nintendo first released Pokémon Red/Blue in the west, I was just 5 years old. The intended demographic were kids between the ages of 9 and 14, so that would place the demographic at the time between 23 and 28; does Nintendo intend on bringing them back into their childhood game, to make Pokémon the big thing it once was?
Let’s be honest here. Kids will buy Pokémon no matter what Nintendo do to it. It consecutively sells millions of copies in Japan alone, with every mainstream release. And it will continue to do it no matter what Nintendo do. But that doesn’t make this game less of a risk because of its popularity. If the transition into a fully-3D world is anything but amazing, Pokémon’s credibility will take a massive hit. There is already criticism about the Pokémon just revealed – the three starters, and two namesake legendaries – and how uninspired some of them are, how they look like fan-art, how the Fire starter better not evolve into a Fire/Fighting combo… in short, there’s a lot of fears about this instalment.
But people felt the same way about Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, and they’re now the games people are clamouring for. Just from the updates we’ve seen from one single trailer, I know that those fans won’t be disappointed, but rather pleasantly surprised. It’s not the game they wanted at all, but it will be better. Nintendo will prove that Pokémon is one of the best game series in the world… again.
By Thomas Robinson
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