If you know anything about me then you know that I love Pokémon as an entire franchise. It’s something that has been there with me for my entire life, and it has played a major role in shaping who I am as a gamer. I have played every game in the core series, as well as many of the spin-offs, and have largely enjoyed all of them. I even like Sword and Shield quite a bit, even with all the controversy surrounding the titles and what was missing from them. So why does it feel so difficult to love the franchise I have always considered my favorite?
The thing that has always made Pokémon special in my mind was the way that it made you develop an attachment to the virtual creatures, as if they were real. Going on a journey with them in the older games (Gen 5 and earlier) felt like something substantial, and in a lot of cases you were left with a decent offering of post-game content to tackle with the Pokémon you had bonded with. It feels to me like some of that magic has been lost in the newer generations. Sword and Shield especially felt like the bond between trainer and Pokémon meant less than it ever had before. I really enjoyed the story and the characters in the newest games, but the games felt so linear and easy that I never really grew to care for my Pokémon in the same way I used to.
After you beat the games (dlc included) it just seems like there is no reason to keep playing. I think something like the battle frontier from Pokémon Emerald would have gone a long way to adding something of value after the story ended, and I suppose the introduction of the raids was meant to act as that longevity feature. Raids aren’t a bad thing, in fact I really do like them and still hop on to do some from time to time, but they ultimately fell short of their intended goal of bringing players together due to the poor implementation of online features in the game.
This feeling could also be a secondary effect of them making it easier for players to get into competitive. It used to be a huge accomplishment to raise a Pokémon to level 100 or breed for one with perfect IV’s. Now that you can use exp. candies to raise a Pokémon’s level and bottlecaps to fix their stats it doesn’t feel like anything special anymore. It’s kind of ironic because they intended this to be a way that you could bring Pokémon you had sentimental attachment to up to speed and have them be viable for online play.
I don’t honestly know if there is anything the games can do at this point to get back to their roots. I think they have committed too far to making the games fit their new style, but something they could do, that I have seen requested for a long time, would be adding difficulty settings to the game. I really think it would go a long way for older players to be able to experience the story with more of a challenge. It might even bring out that bonding element once again! There are fan made ways to put a challenge on yourself, namely through nuzlocke challenges. The nuzlocke challenge is a self enforced set of rules the player plays through the game with in order to make it harder on themselves. I’ll link to the rules here if you want to check them out for yourself. I’ve actually been going through some of the older games with the nuzlocke rules and they really do change the way you have to play. It makes it feel fresh!
It could be that due to the fact that I’m older and have grown as a person, and subsequently my tastes as a gamer have changed as well, but it just seems like the entire vibe of Pokémon as a franchise has shifted in some way. I know this is all a pretty specific problem/feeling to me, as the newer games have sold extraordinarily well, coupled with the fact that I am playing and enjoying them for what they are, but it is still a bit sad to think back on the feelings I used to get from the franchise.
As always, thanks for reading! I know this was a bit more of a rant than my usual types of posts, but with as much Pokémon as I have been playing lately it was just something that has been on my mind. Let me know in the comment section below what you think of how the franchise has grown, and if you still consider yourself a fan of Pokémon! Make sure to check back (at least) every Wednesday and Saturday for new posts and sign-up via email to make sure you never miss a thing! Be safe and have a great day!