With the incoming release of Pokémon Sun & Moon, a lot of trailers and leaks have continued to release as time goes by, showcasing all the new and exciting things that the seventh generation of Pokémon has to offer. Alolan forms of existing pokémon, powerful new “Z-Moves,” the scrapping of gym leaders, among other drastic changes. All of these changes and additions (as well as subtractions) allude me to the time when I first started out with the Pokémon series, dating back to the late 1990’s with games like Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap. It’s amazing to consider just how far the series has come in just twenty years. It seems like they’ve released at least a hundred games, with another thousand different items in merchandise. Pokémania is certainly a thing, and still is a thing. Pokémon Go has established a global fascination with the franchise in the form of mobile gaming, allowing players to go explore the world in hopes of finding their favorite pokémon. The amount of love (and hate) for the famous Nintendo franchise is astronomical, and goes to show the will of gamers—and casual fans—when it comes to every new release.
It makes me wonder if that fame and attention has suddenly gone to the Pokémon Company’s head.
I may have started with spin-off games, but my history with Pokémon is as long as most other fanatics of the franchise. I’ve played Red, Yellow, Silver, Gold, Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, FireRed, LeafGreen, Pearl, Diamond, Platinum, White, SoulSilver, Y, and Omega Ruby, as well as various spin-off games like the aforementioned Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Channel. Never played Hey You, Pikachu! though, so that’s good. With a collection of games like these, two things become certain to me: that I have enough knowledge of the series to pick up a growing trend among games, and that my mother spent way too much money on me as a child. Pokémon, in the beginning, was about a kid who wanted to catch them all, to explore the world, and to become the strongest trainer of all trainers. As the series progressed, it still retained some of this adventurous spirit, but things began to change at a certain point, and that certain point came within the third generation, with Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald.
At the time, it was something of a sudden twist of the tale, with an emphasis on the impact of what legendary pokémon such as Groudon or Kyogre could do with their power over the regions they inhabited. Pokémon suddenly became less about catching them all and becoming the best and more about the security of the world, in which only the title character—or metaphorically you—could safely maintain. It was a new concept at the time, to focus more on legendary pokémon as a major narrative rather than a myth-like side focus hinted at through various texts. Ruby and Sapphire was the first time Pokémon brought the legends to the forefront, and at the time, I thought it was a neat decision. It made the story more epic and memorable. It gave a sense of purpose to the games that may not have been naturally felt to everyone playing prior games in the series. It was a nice shift to the formula of the game, one that had a positive impression on a lot of Pokémon fans growing up. Emerald only stepped up the game, adding everything that Ruby and Sapphire provided individually and merged them together, as well as adding an additional figure in the form of Rayquaza.
With the release of Diamond and Pearl, I picked up a copy of each and began playing without hesitation. At the age I was, I wasn’t about to pick up the similarities between this game and the previous generation of games. I was too engrossed with all the new pokémon and the concept of “new.” New region, new pokémon, new antagonist team, new characters. Everything was shiny and wrapped in a formula that was both new and old, with dozens of new features that made the game all the more addictive. That was all I desired, and I was satisfied with it, even if my feelings of the fourth generation are rather lackluster now. But it was with Platinum that it really started to dawn on me. The narrative, the focus… it was legendary. It was about saving the world. It was about being the one to demolish all evil throughout the region. To be able to capture the most powerful pokémon of all time. Arceus is regarded as the “God” pokémon, though it’s not exactly a part of the game. Pokémon had become something of a modern day epic.
The fifth generation soon followed and the narrative added more of a philosophical nature to it, focusing on the morality of keeping pokémon and using them for the trainer’s whim. While this adds a little more thought to the actions of the player, it still has, ultimately, a team of evil-doers wanting to obtain the power of a legendary pokémon to take over the world. Just like the last two generations. The sixth generation followed suit, and the narrative provided so little different that it may as well be the same billion-dollar mansion coated in a different million-dollar paint. While I have no idea what the narrative will provide for Sun and Moon, I wouldn’t be surprised if it came down to a young hero saving the region from a team trying to obtain the power of a legendary creature to take over the world. Just like the last four generations.
Pokémon Silver is the game I would regard as my favorite Pokémon game. It introduced me to the mainstream line of Pokémon games and provided me with an experience unlike any other Pokémon game. It felt subtle with its storytelling and provided a large variety of different places one could explore that don’t get credited with being important by the main narrative. Most of all, the legendary pokémon were whispered about, not rammed into the narrative for the sake of making the player feel special. It exhibited that sort of explorative adventure that simply happened to reach the levels of legendary, based on the player’s choice to explore the vast regions of uninhabited territory. With the newer games, it feels as though the games push the player into becoming this universal hero that defeats the bad guys and catches these otherworldly beasts. It’s such a linear progression that’s almost akin to marking off a checklist. It becomes stale very quickly, and Pokémon has been doing it for the last four generations, and maybe counting.
Based on what I’ve seen shown of the seventh generation, I don’t plan to pick up the games. It will be the first time since Black & White 2 that I don’t go out and buy a major Pokémon release. Nothing about them gives me any impression that The Pokémon Company has any indication of giving me the kind of Pokémon game I desire, a game more similar to that of Silver and before. Sun and Moon give off the same vibe as more recent Pokémon games, ones that focus on spectacle and theatrics rather than a down-to-Earth and (I use this term loosely) realistic representation of a trainer’s first voyage into the world of Pokémon. It focuses on holding the player’s hand and giving them back pats rather than letting them go to play the game the way they want to play it. This emphasis on Z-Moves and different forms of existing pokémon and making the world more expansive. It’s all too much for me. I miss the days when Pokémon was about catching pokémon. I miss the days when legendaries weren’t required to feel important. I miss the days when a shiny pokémon meant something. I miss the days when The Pokémon Company followed the K.I.S.S. method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s a far cry from the games I hold dear, and it saddens me that I can’t continue with a franchise I spent so much time and my mother’s money on as I was growing up. But with a mind as cynical as mine, these are the sacrifices I have to make for myself. Because the best way I can make a difference is to not support the decisions being made by buying the games.
I realize this is an opinion only few share, but please feel free to share your own opinion on the matter! What is your take on the state of Pokémon as of now? Do you agree with my assessment, or am I blowing out hot air? Is this issue noticeable to fellow Pokémon fans, or does anyone really care about it, and prefer this choice in narrative and theatrical flair? I appreciate the input and for reading, as always!