Pokémon on 3DS and Whether We Need A Console Version

This may as well be a Late to the Party post for Pokémon X, but just as I started the game I saw another discussion come up about the possibility of a mainline Pokémon game for a console. I think Pokémon X and Y have stepped a lot closer to what people asking for a main console game actually want.

I get that some people like the franchise but really want to play a Pokémon game that isn’t miniature sprites running around a tiny world with turn-based battles. They want a “more real” or “more immersive” visualization of what that world looks like, maybe even what the TV show looks like. In short they want a fully 3D Pokémon RPG. The funny thing is, the 3DS games kind of already have achieved a fully 3D Pokémon RPG, but they did it on a handheld.

Now I’m still at a very early part in Pokémon X, but Game Freak has, essentially, finally fully rendered a mainline game in the series in 3D. The games for the original DS basically stuck to the old 2D presentation but threw in some polygons where they fit. Pokémon X feels like an impressive next generation leap for the mainline games. Its graphics and presentation are on-par with Pokémon Battle Revolution for the Wii and superior to the N64 Pokémon Stadium games. If anyone’s disappointed with X and Y in the tech department it’s probably because the games still adhere to the original Game Boy formula. Each town is still a tiny collection of buildings with a population of like 10 people, you still have to run around in bushes to encounter Pokémon, and battles are still turn-based. It all really just looks like the Game Boy games rendered in polygons with more cinematic camera angles. X and Y are about as modern-looking as you can get while adhering to the formula.

The frustration of people who want a console Pokémon game is probably somehow tied into the frustrations of people who think Japanese RPGs haven’t advanced far enough technologically. Similarly to discussions about the Pokémon games, people ask why so many JRPGs still have turn-based or random battles when western RPGs largely got rid of them years ago. They ask why so many have small worlds with many locations relegated to menu screens, dialogue that’s mostly text, and oftentimes basic graphics. Basically, they’re asking why Japanese developers can’t make RPGs with full sandbox worlds like Skyrim, fully-voiced dialogue with interactive conversations like BioWare games, or deeply interactive environments like Deus Ex.

I think that goes back to what seems to be a western emphasis on pushing technology for increasingly fully-realized worlds versus the Japanese emphasis on creating technical play. And technical play is basically what Pokémon has become all about since it got popular. The game has pretty much become an eSport at this point, with a real competitive scene, so Game Freak can only change its rules so much.

I imagine if a western developer came up with the whole idea of Pokémon today on a console or on PC it would probably be set in some sprawling sandbox world where the creatures just appear to be fought and caught in real time. Instead of routes there would just be towns and the space between them. The game might even be an MMO in such a situation, but I’m really not going to get started on that subject.

I think if Game Freak or some other Nintendo-affiliated developer did a mainline Pokémon on the Wii U It would probably look like X and Y with better graphics, sticking to the codified formula for the game. At this point, the Pokémon games aren’t trying to offer a realization of the franchise’s world, but simply interpret it through a game that is now every bit as abstract as the Trading Card Game. Bringing that game to the Wii U would probably benefit the Wii U more than it would the game. This is connected to another problem with Nintendo I mentioned before: the 3DS is powerful enough to run almost all the kinds of games Nintendo likes to make.

And even within the abstraction of the Pokémon video games, X and Y still feature a lot of refinements over the previous generation of Pokémon games. Mainly, Game Freak seems to have made playing and trading with others online and offline a lot easier. When I found out you don’t even have to be at a Pokémon center to do those things anymore I was kind of floored. More than anything else playing X feels like opening up the newest edition of a board game.

Maybe what many people want from the franchise is indeed a fundamentally different game designed from the ground up for a console. Then however you have to deal with the philosophical divide between how Nintendo and a lot of Japanese developers operate and what many western fans may want. It’s the same reason some people ask why games like Street Fighter are still one-on-one side-scrolling games with health bars after two decades. You could theoretically ask a similar question of DOTA or the whole MOBA genre which grew out of a 12-year-old game.


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One thought on “Pokémon on 3DS and Whether We Need A Console Version

  1. Denny Sinnoh says:

    Here is how it could happen. Have a good anime director film a “live action” Pokemon movie, then the Wii U game could be based on the style of the movie.

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