Pokémon Scarlet and Violet will release late this year and start Pokémon’s ninth-generation (Gen 9). Gen 8, which started mired in controversy, delivered three major wishlist items for fans. We finally got a sequel to Pokémon Snap, remakes of the fourth generation’s (Gen 4) Diamond and Pearl, and a more truly open-world title in Legends: Arceus.
Not considering any leaks, where does Game Freak go from here? Pokémon won’t go away, but they should go somewhere that improves upon the series. There were a lot of good lessons from Gen 8 that, if heeded, can lead the series towards special places. Let’s run through those lessons:
Keep Balancing New Risks and Old Pokémon Nostalgia
Gen 8 served a solid balance of new ideas alongside nostalgic content. Aside from Sword and Shield, we got a pseudo-open-world game, a long-awaited remake, and a sequel to a classic fan favorite. These announcements were met with joy and excitement. Pokémon had plans to go off the beaten path and dole out heaps of nostalgia.
These risks extended to the main series’ release rollout as well. Sword and Shield didn’t get a special edition version like most generations prior; it got DLC packs. Even though many gamers criticize DLC as content cut from the original game, these cost less than a special edition game would have.
Considering the three have nearly sold a combined 30 million sales (more than Sword and Shield have), things seemed to work out. It does come with the caveat that New Pokémon Snap sold just under 2.5 million as of March, but that’s still a multi-million seller.
Nostalgia is a heck of a feeling, but new risks are equally powerful. Should Pokémon continue exploring this balance, they’ll be in a good spot with Gen 9.
Consistently Build on Gen 8’s New Mechanics and Ideas
Game Freak gets spotty when it comes to building upon new mechanics.
On one hand, Gen 8 built upon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee’s overworld Pokémon in the world. Furthermore, Gen 7 killed Hidden Machines (HMs), which forced you to teach a Pokémon a move to progress.
Not only did Game Freak keep HMs out of Sword and Shield, ILCA let you use HM moves without needing a Pokémon on your team to know the move. These changes both progressed the series’ quality and the latter freed it from a long-running issue. Some of the changes Pokémon has made worked very well.
This trend doesn’t happen with every feature. Since Gen 5 introduced triple battles and rotation battles, we’ve seen them once in Gen 6. Gen 7 also introduced a four-way free-for-all mode which didn’t return in Sword and Shield.
Personally, non-combat EV (Effort Value) Training programs top my Gen 9 wish list. EVs govern how much a Pokémon’s stats increase when they level up, and every game since Gen 6 has included one.
Gen 6’s program was a mini-game that rewarded EVs based on the level you played at. Gen 7 and 8 each had much more time-consuming EV training methods, but your Pokémon were temporarily unavailable during that time. Furthermore, they were both unlocked after a notable milestone.
Between these multi-battles and EV Training programs, we need these ideas to keep going to find their best versions. You can’t find the best version of something when you drop it after a generation. You have to stick with experimenting on them.
Improve the Remakes and the Visuals
I’m not going to mince words here: Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are arguably the worst remakes Pokémon remakes we’ve ever gotten. It spent more time trying to recapture the original without improving upon it and adapting it for the Switch.
When I say recapturing the original, that includes a lot of its issues. Overworld Wild Pokémon only show up in one area, the Pokétch is awkwardly implemented, and no Pokémon from Gen 5 onward unlocks after the National Dex. There are more issues, but that’s why we’re reviewing the game to properly talk about these issues.
This is not to say that remakes are going away. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl sold over 14.5 million copies. Regardless of the game’s quality, the profits are there.
Whoops accidentally deleted the wrong tweet and deleted the main one— Joe Merrick (@JoeMerrick) May 10, 2022
Here are the sales figures for main series Pokémon games as they stand as of March 2022 pic.twitter.com/WjC5ZL8haD
We will get future remakes at some point, but they can’t just be an updated port. Gen 2 and 3 each got great remakes whose post-games brought in many Pokémon introduced since their original releases and gave us other new content.
Meanwhile, Pokémon Legends: Arceus needs a glow-up immediately. Much of the game looks pale and pixellated. Despite the game’s overall quality, those visuals were an eyesore. As mentioned in our review, Breath of the Wild looks better than Arceus, which came out nearly five years prior. Visuals don’t completely ruin a game, but they still need to meet a bar at some point.
Releasing these let older Pokémon previously uncatchable in the current generation available. This model both honored the past and highlighted what happened since then. Maybe not this exact model, but Pokémon needs to get back to this goal with their remakes.
Gen 8 is Going Out on Top, Keep that Progress Going
Overall, this was a good generation for Pokémon. We got multiple games with overworld Pokémon, long-demanded releases, and most importantly, fresh ideas. That said, there were some notable issues that need addressing. Should Game Freak build properly on these new ideas and continue taking some risks, then we could be in for another enjoyable generation when Scarlet and Violet drop later this year.