Let’s Chat: Pondering Pokémon’s Plans for 2021 & Beyond!

Oh hi; another weekend, another post! This time is the first Let’s Chat of April, covering the state of the Pokémon franchise and their early-year announcements, and how the future of the series is shaping up. Such seismic news needed to be covered here in some form considering how much I bring up Pokémon in other articles, and I even decided to bring in two other Pokémon superfans to help me cover it! You shall discover their identities soon (ooh, a whole paragraph of tension)! There is not that much else to say or update you on… So, let’s get straight into it!

William Robinson: Hey hey! Now that the smoke has cleared from the Pokémon Presents that showcased the series’ immediate plans for the year ahead (and more!), I thought it would be a good time to take a reasoned reaction to all of their announcements and how we are feeling about the general direction the series is taking. To do so, I have brought together Jordan Senior and Stephen Brown, who you may recognise from previous collaborative articles! To kick things off, let’s focus on the main announcements from that Pokémon Presents; firstly, the unveiling of remakes for Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (D/P): going by the names of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (BD/SP)! These has been rumoured and speculated about for years and years; how did you feel about the reveal of the remakes back in February, and how has your opinion developed in the time after?

Stephen Brown: Hey William! Thanks for having me back to discuss my favourite subject, Pokémon! Okay, so I’ve been very open to the idea of Diamond and Pearl remakes, as it’s one of my favourite generations and overall I enjoy it when Pokémon does remakes. It allows old players to revisit a beloved game, and new players to enjoy a whole new region. It had been heavily rumoured since the release of the Nintendo Switch that there would be Generation 4 remakes on the console at some point, especially after the success of another remake of sorts: the Let’s Go games. So when I finally saw that start up screen I know so well at the start of the reveal trailer, I knew that these were the Generation 4 remakes. However, what I saw was not what I had imagined. Like many others, I was expecting a Sword/Shield (Sw/Sh) aesthetic and engine, but instead we got a completely new art style that keeps to the top down perspective of the original games with new 3D-modelled Pokémon instead of sprites. Although I’m glad they didn’t just copy/paste the original engine with some styling tweaks like they have done in previous remakes, for me this new style isn’t appealing. The fact that so far it seems like a 1-for-1 remake with no additions for returning players means I currently have little desire to get this remake when the original still holds up with an aesthetic I prefer. Now, bearing in mind that the games are not finished yet and could be refined before release, it is possible I’ll have a change of mind, but for now I am not impressed.

Jordan Senior: Hey, it’s great to chat with you guys about all things Pokémon and its future. So, my initial reaction to BD/SP was slight confusion at the chibi overworld art style and 1-to-1 remake structure. Previous remakes FireRed/LeafGreen (FR/LG), HeartGold/SoulSilver (HG/SS), and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (OR/AS) felt distinctly different despite having the same basic story and narrative as the source games, making them remakes with something new to offer compared to their original counterparts. For Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl (BD/SP), the overworld approach is a bit off-putting, as I think that the original has more personality and style that is suited to the DS format. However, credit to BD/SP, I like how the battles look and the aesthetic of the Pokémon and Trainers within that when they are closer to the Sword/Shield style. Another concern is that having a completely faithful remake limits the potential for new features and implementations that can be included. Remakes open up the possibility to expand on concepts from current Generations in a new yet familiar setting, as well as adding additional content such as the Sevii Islands of FR/LG, the Celebi event of HG/SS, or the Delta Episode of OR/AS. So far, there’s no evidence of extra content or features being added. Whilst the original story of Diamond and Pearl felt complete, why not add new context to justify the remake existing? Now some time has passed, I want to hear more before making a final judgment, but so far there is no incentive to immediately buy this game.

WR: I think out of intrigue alone I would buy this game; the originals are my favourite Pokémon games and so I would like to see how they have handled them, even if I am very cautious about any changes they have done. The chosen art style is certainly very distinct, and my initial reaction was that it was not for me – I have, though, mellowed in the proceeding weeks and am open to giving it a shot, even if I would have preferred something closer to the Sw/Sh overworld visuals. Similar to Jordan, I much prefer the in-battle aesthetic when the character models have proportions closer to those Switch games. Another question I have is which games they took the basis of these remakes from; Diamond and Pearl, or the third game, Platinum, which followed those up with a multitude of changes. Furthermore, I am curious as to whether we see the return of Mega Evolutions or a gameplay mechanic from a different Generation, as going by the initial trailer, I don’t think this game is built with Dynamax in mind.

SB: From what we’ve seen so far, it seems like it’s leaning more towards the Diamond and Pearl story as opposed to the Platinum story, but then again we haven’t seen much, so there is a chance they pull elements from Platinum. I hope they do, because Platinum refined a lot of little details and issues from the first two games, and out of the three Platinum is my preferred choice. I agree with you Jordan, too, that I hope we see something of a post game story that maybe explores some of the postgame events from the original games, such as for Darkrai and Shaymin, or perhaps even a refresh of the Battle Frontier of Platinum. As for game mechanics, it’s hard to say whether or not they will include ones from previous games, but seeing as Mega Evolutions are a popular choice for the remakes – and with fans too – they seem the likely choice. It would also align well, as Champion Cynthia has a Garchomp which already has a Mega Evolution; imagine the increased challenge of facing her and her Mega Garchomp. RIP.

JS: In my opinion, Mega Evolutions would be the best direction for the remakes as the other gimmicks wouldn’t suit Sinnoh. Dynamax is native to Galar, and the Z-Moves of Alola aren’t as popular, so Megas are the logical direction. It especially brought new life to old Pokémon that were in dire need of it. For this region, imagine the introduction of Megas for the Starters, so Mega Empoleon, Torterra and Infernape: that would be really cool, and there’s so many more you could add. Maybe a special form of the cover Legendary Pokémon Dialga and Palkia? While this isn’t directly relating to the remakes, as a whole I’m not much of a fan of these constantly changing features such as Megas and Dynamax. Whilst it’s nice to experiment, it’s difficult to invest in a mechanic such as Dynamax as you know it won’t come back in future Pokémon games. Going forward, I’d rather they focus on regional variants and keep developing that, as it’s my favourite new feature and I much prefer it to these one and done gimmicks.

SB: Agreed, for some reason Mega Evolutions have become the most flexible of the mechanics introduced over the recent Generations, featuring in both mainline games and spin-off series like Pokémon Masters EX and Pokémon GO. The other mechanics feel more established and tied to specific regions – this may be because the region of Kalos in Nintendo 3DS games X and Y (which introduced Megas) lacked a lot of depth and development due to time restraints. I think the reason Megas keep coming back is because they haven’t explored all the possibilities within the concept; with the Z-moves and Dynamax, it’s possible for all Pokémon to use them, whereas Mega Evolution is currently open to a certain amount of Pokémon and has the potential to keep developing. There is always going to be a gimmick in Pokémon games, whether that’s breeding, contests, or a battle mechanic. It helps to sell games and define a generation. So, when it comes to BD/SP, they may re-establish the contest and poffin features, similar to how OR/AS saw a redefining of contests and introduced us to a new character, Lisia!

WR: I, also, am not too keen on the continued layering of more and more combat systems that appear for a game or two and are then swiftly replaced. In my opinion, it runs the rusk of being too complicated and messy as they build up upon another generation by generation. For these remakes, the inclusion of Mega Evolutions could be fun, as long as they show some restraint and do not allow them to overshadow the rest of the experience. Personally I am confident that we shall learn more on this subject in the months to come, particularly around the traditional June E3 time. This is not the only new Pokémon for us to speculate about, though, as another games announced in the Pokémon Presents was Pokémon Legends: Arceus! Amazingly, we sort of predicted this beforehand,; we discussed the idea of a Pokémon prequel between ourselves and it actually happened! The new game takes the region of Diamond/Pearl/Platinum and flings us into the past, into the formative years of the region. Instead of the traditional Pokémon overworld gameplay, it appears much closer to a JRPG such as Xenoblade Chronicles (which again I was discussing the idea of in a recent blog post! Did I subconsciously know this game was about to be revealed?) with a more zoomed-out camera, a sprawling open-world, and real-time combat (though with some turn-based elements retained). It is so exciting to see Pokémon finally venturing into this more freeform format. We were only shown a relative glimpse of the game, and it is clearly a ways from being finished (we have a 2022 date currently); how did you feel about the announcement and footage?

JS: To be completely honest, I was blown away. Whilst we all theorised about a prequel, I didn’t actually expect it to happen and certainly not in the style that was presented. This is a complete departure from the traditional Pokémon formula that we’ve all been accustomed to and this can only be a great thing. I get vibes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild from it with the setting and some gameplay elements, which works for me as I love that game! Open World and Pokémon go really well together, and the direction that Legends is taking brings me pure excitement. This overshadows the reveal of the Sinnoh remakes for me, without a doubt. The Feudal Japan-esque setting suits the game and reimagines an older region in a refreshing way. I have a lot of questions, such as which towns will there be? Will Gyms still be around? How will villains come into play? Some of these questions will be answered later in the year though. Pokémon has needed a shake up and change from the formulaic, repetitive structure that has been established. Whilst I can still get enjoyment from the newer games, I know what to expect – for example: battle 8 Gym Leaders, beat the villainous team, fight the Pokémon League, etc. This is definitely a step in the right direction away from that, and I like the fact that there isn’t any Kanto pandering. My only concern is that so far the world, whilst beautiful, looks barren. Graphically, it needs some polish, but I don’t doubt that they’ll improve it for release. We’ve only seen a small glimpse of what’s to come for Pokemon Legends: Arceus.

The direction that Pokémon Legends: Arceus is taking brings me pure excitement

Jordan Senior

SB: Initially I was left a little disheartened by the aesthetic of BD/SP, so when I saw Pokémon Legends: Arceus, like Jordan, I was blown away! This is the Pokémon game we’ve been gearing up to ever since the we saw the capabilities of an open-world game like Breath of the Wild on the Switch. We got a taste of this in the Wild Area of Sw/Sh, but this looks like an entire region open for exploration and discovery. I would also like to mention here that I was sceptical that a prequel game wouldn’t necessarily work, but I am glad to be proven wrong, it looks incredible. I think they’ve been very clever by setting it centuries in the past, as they don’t have to consider Gym or Rival levelling if players progressed in varying ways. This is a big step for the series, and it’ll be great to see how this is reflected in later games; will it be kept for Generation 9 or contained to this new Legends brand? I particularly love that they’ve shaken up your starter Pokémon to be between Rowlet, Cyndaquil, and Oshawott. This is obviously to emphasise that this takes place right at the beginning of when Sinnoh was discovered when the Pokédex is yet to be catalogued! I wonder if we will see an ancestor of Professor Rowan from Diamond/Pearl/Platinum who will assist us in completing the first Sinnoh Dex. I’m also excited to see if we get any new Pokémon that are ancestors of current Sinnoh natives, such as a single variant of Shellos and Gastrodon or perhaps North and South variants! I’m very excited about this game and the possibilities it opens up. Whilst it does look a little sparse right now, we have to remember we are still a looooong way away from the final product, and I’m sure that they will fill the world with more elements and smoothen out the animations. How do we think the general gameplay will work in this game? Some have speculated it will be similar to Let’s Go, with a focus on throwing steam-powered Poké Balls at wild Pokémon, and others have suggested the traditional battle style will be maintained. Which would you two prefer?

WR: Going by the reveal footage, the game consists of roaming the world with the new zoomed-out view (ala the Wild Area of Sw/Sh), and utilising stealth tactics to catch Pokémon in real-time. Battles in the open environment are still turn-based, with a letterbox format showing the transition into these sequences, so perhaps if you run into a Pokémon this triggers the turn-based system. In that way it is a mix of new, the real-time catching, and the familiar, the turn-based battles. I am very curious on how the story is going to unfold, as we have only seen one village so far and have no idea about the general progression as well as how threats emerge. It would be very fun to see early, slightly different forms of the areas we see in the DS games, perhaps with the three Lakes in more formative stages, and routes straying into different directions; there is such variety of environment to play with in this region, such as the flowery fields of Floarama, the windy coast of Sunyshore, and the pristine white landscapes of Snowpoint, so hopefully that is reflected in the final game; so far, we have only seen the green fields of the reveal, and I am excited for more on that front.

JS: To be honest, I think that it will be a mixture of catching Pokémon using stealth mechanics and the turn-based battles that we’re used to. Whilst this is a trivial thing to pick up on, I really like the fact that the trainer is right next to the Pokémon in the brief turn-based battles we glimpsed, as it makes it feel more dynamic and emphasises the bonding aspect. It will be interesting to see other trainers in this setting as Pokémon has always had a variety of trainer types. A key element is to have both battles and catching as I wouldn’t want one without the other. As for the starters, I agree with Stephen that it’s great to see starters from different generations. Thematically, they work for this old Sinnoh setting as well, with Decidueye being an archer, Samurott obviously being a samurai, and Typhlosion being a shogun. It shows that they’ve considered their choices rather than just giving us a random selection, and it also means that new Starter Pokémon are getting the limelight as opposed to the Kanto starters. In terms of story, it’s hard to say right now, but it seems like Team Galactic – if they’re even called that – will be in its early stages, so maybe this is where the foundations of the plot of Diamond/Pearl/Platinum are forged. The protagonists have a logo on their outfits similar tothat of Team Galactic, so maybe their initial ideas were well meaning, but the evil team take it to the extreme. Their Leader Cyrus is pretty psychotic after all. I think the big thing on my mind is how Arceus plays into it, as they are the main focus and are a Mythical Pokémon; they created all Pokémon, and the region of this game! It’s always been strange that the Mythical Pokémon wasn’t heavily featured in the mainline games besides mentions and special events, but this will be the game to explore Arceus in much greater depth.

WR: There is not much more to say here, as like we say, there was limited footage shown. However, there is plenty of other Pokémon spin-offs on the way – including the upcoming New Pokémon Snap – to be excited for as well. They should nicely supplement the main releases; this also includes Pokémon Unite, the new MOBA, as well as continued support for Pokémon Masters EX and Pokémon GO. Do either of you still play any of the spin-offs, and are you excited for Snap/Unite?

SB: I used to play a lot of Pokémon GO, but I fell off of it since COVID-19 hit because it was something I used to do once a month on the Community Days with friends. I know Niantic made it more playable whilst at home, but for me it was more about the socialising than it was the game. Recently though someone *cough* William *cough* got me to go back to Pokémon Masters EX which I played on release and haven’t gone back to until recently. Wow, there was so much to catch up on, and all the changes they have done have made this a more engaging game. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m glad someone pressured me to go back. As for Unite and Snap, I’ll start with the former. I’m interested to give Unite a go, especially as we have a group of friends that could easily form a team and play across both the Switch and Mobile. It looks like a lot of fun to play in this way whilst screaming out strategies across Discord! We haven’t seen much besides the initial reveal and we know that beta testing has begun in Canada, so hopefully it won’t be long until we get a release date. Onto New Pokémon Snap; I’m really excited to dive into this awesome spin-off and explore the new Lental region. I remember playing the original Pokémon Snap on my dad’s Nintendo 64 when I was about 6/7 and I definitely wasn’t a master photographer; I was just so happy to see these Pokémon in the wild living happily. Now that I’m older and have a design degree I can put to good use, I’m looking forward to getting all the achievements as well as seeing a wider range of Pokémon in wild. The visuals look stunning, and gameplay is very similar to the original with a few modern amends to boot, as well as new features like the Illumina phenomenon that allows you to make wild Pokémon glow for a short period of time. This is bound to open up amazing opportunities for creative and amusing snapshots. We still don’t know a lot about this game, and with its release planned for the end of the month, I’m curious to see if we will learn more or if Nintendo are relying on the nostalgia factor to sell this game.

JS: Regarding the side games, I don’t really play them as I’m not as into them as much as the mainline series – however, some spin-offs like Colosseum and the Stadium games offered me lots of fun during childhood. Having side games is great as a way to tide the fans over, and adds another dimension to the Pokémon world. Sometimes having a break from the main franchise is refreshing, and adding extra content really keeps the series exciting. I still need to play Pokemon Masters EX and I tried Pokémon GO a little bit early on; for the latter, whilst it had a great concept, the novelty it had worse off pretty quickly for me. I remember playing the first Pokémon Snap and enjoying its departure from the traditional Pokémon formula, but it did feel repetitive and too short. So, when New Pokemon Snap was announced, it was a very pleasant surprise and I’m quite excited to get my hands on the game. Graphically, it is gorgeous, and the environments feel vibrant and dynamic. What really appeals to me the most about this game is the way Pokémon interact with the world and their respective habitats. We’re so used to seeing battles and catching Pokémon that seeing them just be wild creatures behaving in different ways is engaging to see. What makes the new Snap game current is it’s use of sharing and an online element (I will enjoy sharing cool photos with you guys!). This will be the real hook in my opinion, as the first game didn’t have the technology or amount of Pokémon that New Pokémon Snap has (151 compared to 900+ is a huge difference!). The locations look varied and diverse, with interesting types of areas like jungles, caves, and beaches. Whilst this is exciting, it needs to be worth the price tag as I’m not willing to pay £50 for a game that is short and lacks replay value – but if it’s rich on content and has a lot of replayability without repetition, then I’d be willing to pay full price for New Pokémon Snap.

WR: I agree that it is welcome to see new ways of playing a Pokémon game as in Snap, but yes; it does need to also show considerable longevity and substance to get me to buy it. The nostalgia factor alone is not enough, and that price would be steep if the novelty of photographing Pokémon does not last into hours and hours of rewarding gameplay. I have a mixed history with the spin-offs… Sometimes I am really not captured by them beyond the initial appeal (e.g. Café Mix or GO) but then I fall into others (e.g. Ranger or Masters EX) so hopefully Snap shall fall into the latter. There is also the case of announced games we have not heard from for a while, such as Pokémon Sleep or the sequel to Detective Pikachu, too. I imagine these will appear at some point, but are not the priority for now. To start to wrap up our thoughts, which of the announced projects we know about are you most excited for? I think I may know the answer… Also, is there anything else you would like to see from Pokémon over the next year and heading into the future, or are you satisfied with the plans they showcased?

I think Pokémon has set themselves up nicely for the next year or so

Stephen Brown

SB: It’s probably no surprise that I’m most excited for Pokémon Legends: Arceus. The open world, the time setting, and the huge potential is enough to get me excited as to what else we will get with this game. I can’t wait to see which story elements are revealed, and I’m curious if we will get DLC like we did with Sw/Sh, maybe we have to find the Mythical Pokémon Shaymin or investigate why everyone in the new settlement is having nightmares, from another Mythical Pokémon, Darkrai. The potential is unlimited at the moment, and I can’t wait to see where this game goes! I am also very excited for New Pokémon Snap because it looks like an amazing follow-up to the original, continuing on the aspects of having lots of mysteries and secrets to uncover in order to get certain Pokémon to appear or pose a certain way. I’ve never been interested in general photo modes within other games, but if you add Pokémon I’m suddenly very intrigued! As for future plans, I think Pokémon has set themselves up nicely for the next year or so. Pokémon generally like to pace themselves and give each new game the spotlight. So with a spin-off coming in Spring, events happening over Summer, the remakes expected in late Autumn/Winter and Legends expected for early next year, I doubt we will see anything else. Even though it is the 25th Anniversary of Pokémon I don’t expect to hear anything about a new game until after those, when it’ll likely be Generation 9. Although, I am happy to be proven wrong and have an unexpected 25th Anniversary all-stars game be revealed! Logistically, though, I don’t see how it can work, and with the competition from other game series having their Anniversaries this year, such as The Legend of Zelda, I think Pokémon will stick to their plans and focus on spin-offs and the Sinnoh games for the time being.

Pokémon is very much looking into the future

JS: Like Stephen said, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the game that I’m the most excited for, with the open-world element and different angle of telling a Pokémon story. The idea of a prequel game has never been explored, so I’m immediately interested in the setting, world building, and gameplay that’s gonna come from it. Making the 25th Anniversary Sinnoh-focused was to be expected but I like the fact that other regions are getting the spotlight. Kanto’s had a lot of exposure, so I think it’s time for a break from it. The Pokémon Presents that announced it was as a whole nicely paced and had titles that I’m genuinely interested in exploring. Going forward, I think that Pokémon has a solid platform to work with. Whilst it is very early to think about Generation 9, I would love to see future mainline games use Legends‘ formula and develop that style, rather than reverting to the previous formula of mainline games. Imagine an open-world with new Pokémon, Gyms, etc. You could even take multiple paths; who says you need to be a Pokémon Trainer? Maybe you could be a Gym Leader yourself, or even an evil team member, but that might be too premature. I want to see Legends do well. They’ve got me excited, so now keep the momentum going. As for remakes, I think Diamond and Pearl should be the last to get that treatment, as I would like new ideas from now on as opposed to relying on nostalgia. A quick side note, I wouldn’t mind if Nintendo rereleased older spin off titles like Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness, as I think there’s still a demand for it and not everyone has access to older consoles anymore – so Switch ports would be very welcome. The Legend of Zelda and Mario have done it, so why can’t Pokémon? To conclude, I’m very positive about the future of this franchise, and can’t wait for 2021 and beyond!

WR: Definitely; to echo you both, I think the series is showing that they are thinking of the future and how to bring Pokémon into the contemporary without only relying on the framework that has been so popular until now, and this is the correct direction that I am keen to see more of. Perhaps, yes, the open-world elements that will be in Legends can inform can inform the next mainline Generation of games; but that is years in the future, let’s see Legends release successfully first! Until then, I’d like to thank you both for joining me to talk Pokémon, as I know you both have intriguing opinions on where the series is going. This was fun, and we have plenty to be excited for. I think I can confidently say we are not going anywhere, Pokémon has us for the long haul!

That brings to an end our conversation on the future of Pokémon! The series is covering a lot of bases with the line-up it has scheduled, and hopefully we are going to gradually see it all come to fruition in the months and years to come. Thanks for reading this Let’s Chat; if you would like to read more of this style of article, you can go here for the ever-increasing archive! Have an amazing day!

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