In recent times, there’s been a wave of content creators who gain views and attention through taking popular series’ and making hideously long-winded and grossly negative rants about how they suck. I want to preface this post by saying that it is not that, Pokémon is a series which has been dear to my heart for a long time and it’s the connection I have to it which drives me to point out its flaws. I want this series to keep improving rather than just becoming a yearly cash grab, so that others can enjoy it the same way I did back at the peak of my personal investment. That’s why, today, I’m going to be going over what I perceive to be the primary issues of the main series and why, as a response to that, Let’s Go was made.
Let’s start at the beginning, with the gameplay concept that has carried Pokémon for so long. A formula which succeeds in being simple and accessible while also having the potential for a lot of variety and depth. There are several key mechanics to this series which have been around since the start but the one I’m referring to here is ‘type’. Every Pokémon in these games will have a type or a combination of two types. Furthermore, any move a Pokémon can use is also bound to a type. Every type has its own strengths and weaknesses with the most iconic example being the trifecta of grass being effective against water which is effective against fire which is effective against grass.
Already we have some interesting gameplay dynamics here with the player being asked to determine the type(s) of each new Pokémon they come across and from that information the best way to deal with them. You can cater your own Pokémon’s movesets to deal with whatever you’re going to be facing and you have to keep in mind the moves your opposition might have to cover their own weaknesses. Every encounter in the game has the potential to be different just in the variety of movesets alone, which can help to keep gameplay feeling fresh even in the later stages of a given title.
In the original games, the only other thing you really had to keep track of was the statline of your Pokémon. Not all Pokémon are suited to nuking down enemies with offensive movesets, some are more defensive in nature and rely more on the various status ailments in the game as well as lowering the stats of opponents. There are two defensive stats in the games, defence and special defence, which oppose the offensive stats which are attack and special attack. The special stats were the same in the original games but that just made special attackers busted so they quickly fixed that.
Point is, the existence of these defensive stats adds another layer which you have to consider when dealing with certain Pokémon. If you don’t have a move which is effective against them then you’ll want to use a move that hits their weaker defensive stat. Whether moves are based on your attack or special attack used to be based on type but that turned out to be counterproductive for certain Pokémon and overall limiting in the long run. A fire-type with more attack than special attack would suffer just because fire was a special type. Now, the moves themselves are sorted into being either physical or special, which adds even more of that much-welcome variety to the game.
In generation III, every Pokémon was given a passive ability to further separate them from Pokémon of the same type. In the first two gens, a lot of Pokémon were made irrelevant just through others having access to similar movesets but better statlines with which to utilize them. While abilities aren’t an end-all solution, they do help to alleviate that somewhat and make it easier to justify using Pokémon you like rather than just what’s more effective. Variety and viability do go hand-in-hand to some extent because even if you aren’t the type to play competitive you still want a team that’s good enough to get you through the game. To that end, I would call abilities another good addition to the series.
So you might be asking yourself; if everything up until this point is positive then where’s the problem? Well, it is at this point that I would like to talk about items. In particular, I want to focus on hold items rather than use items. As far as my experiences go, the only use items that matter are potions, status restores, repels and TMs. Of these, TMs are arguably the biggest deal but they really just feed into moveset variety so I don’t think there’s much to discuss there.
Conceptually, hold items are just another way of adding some unpredictability and variety to the many battles of these games. An opponent might be faster than you expect because they’re holding a choice scarf or they might undo your status effect with a lum berry. These types of items are fine, the primary issue arises when we start getting into the likes of the mega stones. Everything I’ve talked about so far has been focused on this idea of variety and adding potential factors to keep battles feeling exciting. Mega stones feel contrary to this, essentially Pidgey-holing you into using at least one of the Pokémon that can use one because they’re broken.
The moment megas were introduced, every team had to have one. As I said, variety and viability go hand-in-hand to some level. You are actively making the game more difficult for yourself if you choose not to use a mega Pokémon because they’re just that good. When megas were initially introduced I thought they were exciting but now I realize that they’re just gimmicks with no staying power. The series would have been better off just adding new evolutions to older Pokémon like they did in generation IV, bringing some of the weaker ones up to par.
Z-moves are theoretically a better addition in that regard since any Pokémon can make use of them. The issue is that Z-moves don’t actually offer any additional depth to battles. Again, the moment Z-moves were introduced, there had to be a Z-move user on your team. The fact that it can be any Pokémon is better but it still restricts variety to some extent. It doesn’t help that Z-moves come in exactly two types; stupidly overtuned attacks that KO anything in front of you no matter what or worthless. There’s nothing really engaging about giving your Pokémon a win button.
The absolute biggest problem with megas and Z-moves, though, is the fact that they now have to be in every game. Every single title from now onward has to put in every mega stone and every Z-crystal, but the problem doesn’t end there. They also have to put in every Arceus plate, every Silvally memory, every Genesect drive, every hold item for trade evolutions. They have to include places for Eevee to evolve into Leafeon and Glaceon, they have to make sure there’s a mountain for Nosepass to evolve on, there has to be meteors for Deoxys to change forms and a way to build Zygarde up to 100%. All these little things added up are what has made Pokémon inaccessible over the years. It might all seem fine if you’ve been taking in the information one generation at a time but imagine someone having to learn all of this at once. It’s too much, especially seeing as they now have a lot more than 151 Pokémon to figure out.
That’s how we get to Let’s Go, a game intended for the masses that were reached thanks to Pokémon Go. Many of those people either hadn’t touched the main series at all or hadn’t interacted with it in a long time. Nor did they have any reason to, given how intimidating the series has become. That’s where Let’s Go comes in, a highly simplified title which keeps only the most core mechanics of the series. A way to ease people in without the bloated wall of items and mechanics getting in the way. Perhaps lacking in execution since they kept megas and got rid of abilities but the right idea is there.
The main series of Pokémon needs to be reeled in with some heavy quality of life changes across the board. It isn’t necessary to add something big like mega evolution into a new generation to make it feel exciting to fans. In fact, at this point I think the removal of that specific mechanic would be well received. I would argue that all that needs to be done is focus more on the potential diversity of each individual battle that’s already there. Give wild Pokémon unusual and unique moves dependant on where you find them, put more effort into the strategies used by each individual trainer class and don’t keep focusing everything around just gen 1 Pokémon. There’s already so much to utilize, it’s just a case of Game Freak actually bringing out the potential of what they have.
I’ve said a lot in private chats that generation VII would have been infinitely better if you could choose how you progressed throughout the islands. The levels of trainers and random encounters scaling dependant on which you go to and changing story to suit the path you chose. Also, since the Pokémon league in gen VII is built during the events of the game, I thought it would be rad if you actually went around the islands and personally picked who became the elite 4. I would say that this kind of variability would have made Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon a more enjoyable experience but really any kind of effort would have been appreciated in that case. Variety and choice are what made Pokémon what it is today, so why not take that a step further?
The most recent instalments of the Pokémon franchise were disappointing for a lot of people, myself included. With generation VIII on the horizon, I hope to see a direction which points the series towards the right path. One where the developers actually practice some foresight instead of adding a new set of stones to the game and leaving the arising issues until the next gen. Gen VIII is the last chance a lot of people are giving this series and I hope Game Freak takes that to heart. I and many others want to see something great, so we can be certain that continuing to support this franchise isn’t the wrong choice.