In case you've been living under a big rock somewhere and somehow missed the big huge massive Nintendo announcement from a few weeks back about the next instalments in the wildly popular Pokémon franchise here's a refresher: hey guys the next games have been announced and it's not Pokémon Z. No instead we're getting Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon landing sometime towards the end of this year (as fits with Nintendo's usual release schedule).
What do we know about Pokémon Sun and Moon? Well not all that much, but you can read about everything we do know so far via this handy link here. All caught up now? Great, let's begin.
Now that Sun and Moon have shunted Pokemon Z out of the way in order to introduce an entirely new generation of Pokémon (this is us up to Gen VII now) there's a lot resting on the shoulders of the new games. Pokémon celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year, and the new games will surely be held as a celebration of this series landmark.
But where do we go from here, and how can they improve over the tried and tested models?
Shake It Up
Whilst each generation has brought in better graphics, different mobility options and ever weirder Pokémon the baseline of the games has largely remained the same. That's not necessarily a bad thing, stick with the formula that works right?
But at 20 years old the franchise is starting to show signs of age, with the last major releases Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire met with a middling response. How can Nintendo fix this problem?
It's Story Time
The only major differences between different games are the introduction of new Pokémon and a new map. But in general the narrative remains the same, catch Pokémon to battle the gym leaders, work up to the Elite Four and probably foil the scheme of some mysterious yet incompetent organisation along the way.
That's fine for newcomers to the game but for those of us who've been playing for 20 years it's starting to feel a little tired. Of course a big part of the appeal of the games is the ability to go through it however you want regarding your battle team and Pokémon evolution choices, but outside of that there's not much wiggle room there.
A More Developed Player Character
A strategy battle based game like Pokémon doesn't necessarily need a lot of character development, but imagine if it included just that little bit more than "Hey, welcome to a new town. Okay get out and go catch Pokémon k bye"? Firstly that's just poor parenting.
Pokémon X and Y allowed us to customise our character's hair and clothing, and even that went a long way towards feeling like the little pixel-composed character on screen was something unique to the player. I'm not suggesting that Nintendo go all Fallout 4 on the series, but a little more character development and / or customisation options sure couldn't hurt.
And what about those NPCs right? Whilst we appreciate that Pokémon as a series is primarily targeted at kids, the overwhelmingly cutesy themes and dialogue in Pokémon X and Y was bordering on sickening at times (if you didn't want to punch Shauna in her little pixilated face you have far better control than us).
We're not asking for much, just maybe do a little bit more to make at least one or two of the interactive NPCs a little more than terrifyingly nice animated dolls, smiling creepily at you even as you battle...
Related to the above point: remember the good old days when you named your rival "Buttface" at the beginning and he shoved you around, showing up to torment you, sneering "Smell you later" and just generally being a jerk? Remember the sense of accomplishment you got every time you destroyed him in battle?
Sure Gary Oak was pretty tame by typical rival standards (due of course to the younger target audience of the game) but the lack of any real rivals in the recent games has been somewhat frustrating. It's hard to feel really competitive when your "rival" is constantly praising you and calling you their friend. We're all for teaching children about friendly competition but c'mon, maybe tone down the cotton candy just a little bit.
This wish is another throwback to earlier games and another which relates to the age divide of those who play them. Since Pokémon is marketed both to children and adults difficulty settings are a must for those players who have been fans of the franchise for the past 20 years and are now looking for more of a challenge.
They were introduced back in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 but sadly were nowhere to be seen in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. So not only did ORAS feel formulaic it was also far too easy for anyone who had picked up a Pokémon game before. Same goes for the underwhelming Elite Four in Pokémon X & Y; so a difficulty setting option at the beginning of the game would be an excellent addition to Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Multiple Save Files
Please Nintendo, just finally give us this one.