What Does the Switch Mean for Pokémon?

So, last week, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon released on the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve been playing through them. Don’t worry, no spoilers here. The reason I mention these games is that these games have been revealed to be the last Pokémon games for the 3DS. Now I’m very new to the Pokémon games due to having neither Nintendo consoles or handheld consoles as a kid. The handhelds were withheld due to a belief of my parents that I would play the games all night. They weren’t wrong, but now I’m an adult and can make my own poor life decisions.

So, a couple years ago I bought a 3DS and played through Pokémon X and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. Through these games, I completed the Pokédex and got invested in the series. You can read about some of my experiences with going back to play Pokémon Blue in my first post on this site. Anyway, I’m fairly tied to the series now. A friend recently suggested that I post my theories about what the Switch will do to the main Pokémon formula and so, this piece exists.

Now, I played through Zelda Breath of the Wild on the Switch (having borrowed my brother’s Switch) and put my thoughts into a piece some months ago. Generally, I like the Switch. I still worry that it’s under-served by its current game library, but that library is growing every day. Getting to play these impressive games on Switch is a value prospect worthwhile enough that I can see the appeal of obtaining one. Will I get one? Well, I have a few finances to attend to first (such as upgrading some of the older parts of my computer) but maybe in the new year, I’ll buy myself one.

So, with all these things attached, what do I think that developing on the Switch will mean for Pokémon? At my most cynical, I’d say very little. Giving a little more leeway, I can see the graphics being adapted to look decent at 1080p (the 3DS has a very limited resolution due to the way the 3D screen works). Look, I would love to proclaim that the Switch will change the way we think of Pokémon for forever more. I just don’t think that’s likely. At least not in the first iteration. I think the move to the Switch will herald the return of a new generation sooner than expected. I believe that the Switch will represent a jumping-on point for a wealth of potential fans and thus the games will probably be a new generation so as not to alienate potential new fans.

Related to this, I believe that these games will continue the progression of the games towards accessibility. How will this be implemented? It’s hard to say. Sun and Moon is probably the template. I never felt lost in Sun and Moon. In some games I’d be on a Route for so long that I forgot who everyone was, only to find that I had to talk to the old man who isn’t telegraphed at all. Sun and Moon could feel hand-holdy early on but that worked for a series that has lost me in the past.

What I would like to see most from Sun and Moon (while recognising this is a pipe dream) is for the game to take a slightly more open approach to how to play the game. A simple quest system that splits the game between main and side quests (and tracks them) would be an enjoyable addition. Essentially, give me new story anywhere I can get it, as I’m not much of a competitive battler. Another thing that I might like to see is the addition of multiple difficulties (and multiple save slots while we’re at it). The scaling of difficulty could be interestingly implemented. As the difficulty climbs, trainers and wild Pokémon get more competent and strategic by taking cues from the competitive scene. That would reduce the feeling of simply picking your most consistent powerful move and gaming type combinations to win. I’ve never had to raise the stats of my Pokémon to succeed but I could imagine a difficulty setting that made that more crucial.

I could add other pie-in-the-sky dreams. Pokémon follow you again, more unique type combinations, evolutions for weak single stage Pokémon, the return of Mega Evolutions for Pokémon left behind by Power Creep (that last one could just be me showing bias for my jumping on point), a more in-depth character customisation system, people in my friends list showing up in my Pokémon adventure. There are a million features I could think of that would be interesting but at the end of the day, I’m a cynic when it comes to games. Well, maybe, less of a cynic and just a realist about my place as a fan.

I have no idea what I want until I see it implemented. Areas that are perfect for hatching eggs? Little vignettes of story that you can stumble across? Getting to pet my Pokémon’s face? Gladion, the human equivalent of Shadow the Hedgehog? I never knew I wanted these things until I saw them and ultimately, even if I don’t expect much of Game Freak in terms of world-altering innovation, I trust them with the series. Like with many things in life, hope for the best, plan for the worst.


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