(Just a heads-up, there’s a spoiler for the fourth-gen story herein)
So we’ve got the fifth-gen of Pokemon coming out later this year in Japan, with Pokemon Black and White Versions. These games will of course introduce new Pokemon, and Gamefreak is talking about how these games will essentially be a relaunch of the franchise. From what I’ve been reading on Serebii.net, this seems to be the case so far. However, there are some series standards that are remaining in play (such as the grass/water/fire trio for the starters).
I already think the new generation will play it safe more than try to innovate.
First of all, Gamefreak needs to completely rethink their approach to story in this new pair of Pokemon games. Each of the previous four generations has played out the same basic story: you play as a trainer who leaves home to take on the Pokemon League challenge (beat the eight gyms then take on the Elite Four then the Champion). Along the way you encounter Team Whatever, and put a stop to their nefarious schemes. As the series has progressed, each generation’s Team has had increasingly grand schemes. In first-gen (Red/Blue/Yellow), Team Rocket was simply trying to take over the world, same old cliche story of a video game villain. In the second-gen (Gold/Silver/Crystal), you dealt with some former Team Rocket lackeys trying to rebuild the organization after Red took them down three years earlier. In the third-gen (Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald), you had Team Magma and Team Aqua. If you were playing Ruby Version, Team Magma would be trying to capture Groudon, and end up overheating the land. If you were playing Sapphire, Team Aqua would be trying to capture Kyogre, and end up almost flooding the land. If you were playing Emerald, both schemes would be in play. In the fourth-gen (Diamond/Pearl/Platinum), the leader of Team Galactic was essentially trying to erase all of reality and remake it in his own image. That’s pretty much the ultimate threat, really, trying to erase reality. How do you elevate the threat from there?
On a different note, that reminds me of how Russell T. Davies was handling the series finale stories in Doctor Who. In the series four finale, Davros was trying to do the same, erase reality and recreate it in his own image. But that’s a different discussion, this is about the Pokemon games, not Doctor Who.
First of all, Pokemon has done the same basic story four times already. There are plenty of other ideas you can use for a Pokemon story. Sure, the Pokemon League challenge will still be there, but it doesn’t need to be a primary focus of the story. It would be nice if Gamefreak did not introduce a new Team Whatever for these new games, and went with something else equally intriguing as a story. Also, a longer story would be nice, something that was not over by the time you beat the Elite Four. Think of something else that’s an intriguing draw for the player. It’s not that hard.
That’s for the story. The core elements of a Pokemon game can remain there, those being that you go around catching new Pokemon, training new teams, taking on the Pokemon League challenge, but work them in differently. This is a new generation, Gamefreak is discussing a relaunch of the franchise. Go all the way with that.
Next, there are the Pokemon. Gamefreak is introducing new Pokemon, as they do with every new generation. These new Pokemon should innovate, and be Pokemon that I’d be interested in catching and training. Third-gen was an exercise in the worst designs for Pokemon, and fourth-gen focused on further evolutions of established Pokemon. One way to make the new Pokemon interesting is innovating in dual-type Pokemon. We have plenty of established dual-types, try something new. Ice/Fire would be cool. Flying/Fighting. Psychic/Dragon (Was done with Latias/Latios, though). Electric/Ground. Ghost/Psychic. Hell, Girafarig would have been a great opportunity for a Dark/Psychic. I still say Luxray should have been Electric/Dark. Insert your own dream type combination here. See? Do that for new Pokemon instead of coming up with lame new designs for existing dual-type combinations. Sure, you might come up with a dual-type that ends up having no weaknesses, but are you really worried about that? Just look at Spiritomb. Ghost/Dark and therefore no weaknesses.
On Twitter, @Wikimancer and I have talked about redoing the starter triangle. Every generation it’s been water/grass/fire, as that’s a well-balanced triangle: Fire>Grass, Grass>Water, Water>Fire. That’s not the only well-balanced triangle. For instance, you could have fighting, ice, and flying. Fighting>Ice, Ice>Flying, Flying>Ice (Plus you could have a Flyer right at the start of the game, even though you don’t get that HM until much later on).
Redo the gyms. Don’t have the Leaders focus on just one type. How about a Gym Leader that focuses on Electric/Flying, or insert dual-type here? Or how about a Gym Leader that specializes in having well-balanced teams? So far, the only tough trainers you come across in the games are your rival, the Pokemon League Champion (and Red, if you’re playing G/S/C or HG/SS), and that’s pretty much it. Sure, the Ace Trainers in recent games have balanced teams, but they rarely have more than three Pokemon in their teams. Doing this will add more of a challenge to the games.
So that’s pretty much how I’d like to see the franchise relaunched in Black and White Versions: Rethink the story, rethink dual-types, rethink the starter triangle, and rethink gyms. Do that and you’ll have the best Pokemon games since Gold/Silver/Crystal. Ah, and if you could go back and visit the Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh regions (and maybe even the Orre region), that would be awesome.
If there’s anything you’d like to see in the franchise relaunch that is Black and White Versions, let me know.