Soapbox features enable our individual writers to voice their own opinions on hot topics, opinions that may not necessarily be the voice of the site. In today's article, resident Pokémon expert and webmaster of Serebii Joe Merrick ponders if Pokémon GO and the mainline Pokémon games can learn anything from each other.
Recently, like any good uncle, I started to get my nephew into Pokémon. While observing him playing, it forced me to make some observations about the Pokémon franchise in general - so much so that I felt compelled to get these thoughts down in words. In this soapbox, we're going to look at what Pokémon GO can learn from the main series games, and vice versa.
What Pokémon GO Can Learn From Main Series Pokémon
One of the major facets in Pokémon is how your team will grow with you as you progress through the story. This is one thing missing from Pokémon GO, where Pokémon feel little more than a means to an end; you catch loads of them in an attempt to get something good, but there’s very little you can do with each monster beyond that; you don’t feel the progression or companionship of the Pokémon - even the "Buddy" system falls a bit flat.
One way to get around this would be to implement a system akin to Effort Values in the main series. That way you get rewarded for using and training your Pokémon. This would make it beneficial for you to raise the Pokémon and give the feeling of true companionship.
Promised in the original reveal trailer for Pokémon GO, trading and battling with friends is still missing. This is another thing that makes it feel slightly less Pokémon-esque. Pokémon GO has always been a social game, despite initially lacking some vital elements. It has gradually been getting better thanks to Raid Battles which require co-ordination with other players if you wish to succeed, but the true spirit of Pokémon’s connectivity is still sorely missing. Trading is going to be hard to implement and we imagine that Niantic is taking its time, but it has to happen at some point.
A strong, engaging story is always a good thing. It’s something that Pokémon GO has been moving towards with concept of Special Research, but full story elements would be an interesting inclusion. Of course, the concept of Pokémon GO does not lend itself to a narrative-focused game akin to Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon, but there's still scope to include some key plot lines and story goals.
One potential idea is to have a week of 'Team Rocket', where all the gyms are taken over by AI Team Rocket members and need to be defeated. Events like that could make the game seem more fun, and encourage users to continue playing. They will also tie the game in more tightly to the core Pokémon universe. Given the sheer volume of characters and storylines featured in the Pokémon TV series, the sky really is the limit here.
While Shiny Pokémon are a great thing to include in the game, the gradual dripfeed of them doesn’t make much sense. Having all Pokémon available as shiny versions would be better. They can still increase chances for Community Days and events, but having them only be available for 2 dozen of the almost 400 Pokémon currently available just doesn’t really work, at least in my opinion.
What Main Series Pokémon Can Learn From Pokémon GO
Let’s face it, Pokémon has become far too complex. Even though it has always been a bit complicated, the games don’t really explain things to new players all that well. Mainline games often don't even explain the basics - such as how to save - unless you wander around talking to random people, but conversely, the tutorials at the start of each mainline game are somewhat intrusive; a balance clearly needs to be found here.
Before you get too annoyed, I’m not suggesting the battle system needs to change, but for a new player the whole thing can be so daunting - the EV and IV system especially. Any way to make that easier to get into without killing the battle system we all know and love would be very beneficial; Pokémon GO's success is down to the fact that it's so easy to grasp what's going on. I imagine a great many people who got into Pokémon via the smartphone game will have been totally and utterly intimidated by the mainline Pokémon titles.
One of the saddest things I observed watching my nephew play Pokémon on 3DS was the capture process. Rather than do it with the buttons, he tried swiping the top screen of the console, just like in Pokémon GO.
So, how can this be remedied? It could be done with a simple - preferably optional - change to the capture mechanics. On Switch, why not have a small mini-game where you can throw the Poké Ball like in GO, either with touch screen portably or using the Joy-Cons? Maybe the game could award a small bonus for doing it this way. Obviously Pokémon GO simplifies the whole process to the point where there's no real combat with the 'mon, and we don't want the mainline games to become quite that basic, but there's a middle ground here, surely.
Something I’ve seen in the community lately is about how “Pokémon has died” due to less people playing after launch. Whether or not that is true, the event structure seen in Pokémon GO would be an interesting inclusion.
While online competitions and distributions do help keep the games alive in people’s minds, more in-game elements would help keep engagement. Have special swarms of Pokémon, special bonuses and so forth. To be clear, I don't see that including micro-transactions, but rather elements that will keep players coming back to the games for more than just competitive battling.
Do you think Pokémon GO and the mainline Pokémon games can learn from one another? Let us know your own thoughts by posting a comment below.