The Pokémon series has certainly evolved (some might even say mega-evolved) since the days of Pocket Monsters Akai and Pocket Monsters Midori in 1995. While franchise creator Satoshi Tajiri still has a hand in the development of main series Pokémon games, things have certainly moved on since his early concept of bug-hunting and catching.
This year the 3DS Generation VI games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, became the first Pokémon videogames to be released worldwide on the same day, but also represented a serious breakaway in terms of art-style from the rest of the main series game, all of which had previously stuck ritualistically to 2D design. Many Poké-fans celebrated the three-dimensional overhaul, as well as other gameplay innovations as a revolutionary step forwards for the series, while others were left feeling that GameFreak could have done more to rejuvenate the long-running franchise.
Pokémon X and Pokémon Y were the first of the main-series Pokémon games to include new temporary forms of some of our old favourite Pokémon, not evolutions. They were also the first main series games where you could actually ride a Pokémon, and not just pretend you were whenever you selected Fly, Surf or Dive. The region of Kalos was also the first to introduce a new type of Pokémon – the rather sweet Fairy type – since Steel back in the days of Johto and the wonderful Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver. Yet Pokémon X and Y also, rather disappointingly, introduced the fewest number of new Pokémon, with only 69 brand new species and 20 Mega Evolution forms.
But maybe GameFreak wasn't aiming to renovate the series for long-standing fans, those of us who grew up with the original anime, bought Pokémon Red and Blue as soon as they hit the shelves and stayed loyal to the series ever since. Maybe, just maybe, GameFreak intended Pokémon X and Y as an introduction to a new-breed of Pokémon fans, a younger audience who may not have dabbled in the series prior to its 3D make-over. That would certainly explain the same-day launch with Nintendo's new handheld, the 2DS, a console specifically designed for smaller hands, hinge-free, at a lower retail price. Does that mean that the inclusion of the original starter Pokémon wasn't just a nod to nostalgic fans, but also a re-introduction of the older series for newer fans too? Hmm...
The dual launch of the new 2DS console and Pokémon X and Y was a stroke of genius from Nintendo. During our interview in September with GameFreak Director Junichi Matsuda and Chief Designer Hironobu Yoshida, the duo explained that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was the one who suggested that the handheld system should be released on the same day as X and Y. Masuda said that he was more than happy to oblige Iwata as it was, "obviously going to be very beneficial to us, and also allows younger players to pick up a handheld and Pokémon X and Y more easily."
But did Nintendo and GameFreak's big scheme work? Well, during the last week of October the 2DS was the UK's best selling console and our Nintendo Life editor Damien even predicated that it would be the biggest selling handheld this Christmas, suggesting that both the appeal to children and the simultaneous launch with Pokémon would be a big factor. Pokémon X and Y sold pretty well too, selling over four million copies worldwide in just two days. The 2DS console and Pokémon X and Y games sold so well in fact that Nintendo even made an infographic to boast about their sales success - of course, why wouldn't you?
So what does this all mean for future Pokémon games? Well, not a lot really. GameFreak has always walked the fine line between pleasing their older fans and introducing new, younger players to the series, and will continue to do so with future release. Making games accessible to a wider audience is no bad thing, and neither GameFreak or Nintendo should be flamed for making their games and consoles more compatible with younger players. There have always been Pokémon spin-off games marketed towards young gamers, such as PokéPark on Wii and Pokémon Rumble U on Wii U, yet we have also been provided with spin-off games for the older player too, such as the rather underrated Pokémon Conquest on DS and Pokémon Colosseum on GameCube. The main series of Pokémon games have remained a happy medium for both veteran and new Pokémon players alike, and this is something which will never change. Just don't expect to see the next main-series instalment on Wii U - it's a handheld thing guys.
We wish all our readers at Nintendo Life a Marill Christmas and a Hoppip New Year!