The latest Pokémon video game—Pokémon BrilliantDiamond/ShiningPearl (“BDSP”)—was released worldwide this past November 19th. And just like almost every single Pokémon game released since Pokémon Yellow in 1999, I bought it on Day One and have been playing it as much as I can since then. And, well… it’s everything I expected it to be, and for that reason, I enjoyed it! I mean, sure, it’s plays things a bit too safe relative to previous remakes like OmegaRuby/AlphaSapphire or even Let’s Go! Pikachu/Eevee… but honestly, there’s really not much else for me to complain about. It’s a fairly standard remake, it doesn’t do anything extraordinary, and honestly it actually makes playing Diamond/Pearl not feel like a chore anymore.
However, if you are an older, more cultured fan like me, you might have heard from other older, more cultured fans that BDSP and the entire Pokémon franchise is dying, it’s on its way out, and games like Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and BDSP is proof of that. Sorry, but I don’t exactly agree with that sentiment. Ignoring the fact that I’ve been hearing people say that junk for the last 20-plus years and yet we’ve been celebrating Pokémon’s 25th anniversary… any claimed evidence of it is simply not convicing to me.
But why not?? Don’t I want the best out of this game? Shouldn’t I feel concerned about the future of this franchise? Or am I just another NPCs who constantly gives Game Freak a pass for their crappy game design and just as easily hand over my money to them, which simply contributes to the regular output of trash games being released? After all, if it weren’t for people like me, we could be having “Skyrim-but-with-Pokémon” by now, or the true Pokémon multiplayer game fans have always wanted!! Well, it’s not that I don’t feel these things, it’s just that… if you have these feelings about Pokémon games and their apparent poor quality, then welcome to “2004 City”, Population: Me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. In short, Pokémon BrillianDiamond/ShiningPearl is—for better or for worse—a classic Pokémon game in it’s purest form. It’s what Game Freak wanted to produce, it’s what a critical mass of the paying Pokémon fans wants to play (a claim which I can support), and it’s what’ll make Nintendo the most money. I paid $50 because I wanted this experience…. but is it what the fans want?
Of course, there’s quite a lot to unpack here, so much that it actually took me some two weeks to actually write this article because its scope kept changing, and I also wanted it to actually be enjoyable to read instead of it being mindless ranting. So I appreciate your patience as I share this and I hope you enjoy what I have to say. Thoughts and comments are always welcome!
One final note: while I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers, going as far as to hide them under this kind of SPOILER tags which you can read via mouse-over, they MAY still creap in.
Anyways, without further do, let’s get started!
The Actual BDSP Review
Pokémon Diamond/Pearl Didn’t Age Well
So when Pokémon Diamond/Pearl was first released in April 2007, of course I had to get it. Despite the fact that had stopped working on PA! in 2004 as well as quit playing the Pokémon TCG shortly thereafter, I still kept my finger on the pulse of the Pokémon franchise. That said, because I was part of the original Gen 2 and Gen 3 hype-train… it was actually kind of weird yet refreshing for me to actually buy and play a new Pokémon game completely blind. And so once I started to play it, my overall opinion on it was… yep, this is a Pokémon game! Jokes aside, I really was hyped about it, because Diamond/Pearl finally brought the Pokémon games back to where they were supposed to be after Ruby/Sapphire‘s somewhat pitiful jaunt on the Game Boy Advance. For example, we finally got the Day/Night cycle back, the ability to transfer Pokémon from a previous generation also returned (via Pal Park), and a reasonable post-game was included. However, this was what Ruby/Sapphire was supposed to do, so to finally get is in Diamond/Pearl didn’t feel like it was a step forward as much as it was simply returning back to where Gold/Silver had left off. But that was all good, because Gold/Silver had been the pinnacle of Pokémon game design.
But time moves on as it does, and Generations 5, 6, 7 and 8 came and went. And over that time I caught myself reevaluating my opinions concerning the quality of a Pokémon Generation, namely what they were relative to what they are now. Now I don’t mean that I’ve simply grown to have a new opinion about each generation, but rather… well, it’s gotten to the point where I’ve had to create two seperate list of Pokémon game rankings:
- how good the games were relative to their release (with no idea of what the future may bring)
- how good the games are to replay later (given the benefit of hindsight)
Back during their original release, I found Ruby/Sapphire to be awful games when they were released, while the release of Diamond/Pearl was a return to form for the games. But in the decade-plus since then, I’ve come to accept that Ruby/Sapphire (via Emerald) are the far more entertaining games to replay, while Diamond/Pearl to be somewhat dull to be honest. Platinum is a bit less drab, but still, if I’m replaying a Gen 4 game, it’s HeartGold/SoulSilver, not DPP. Maybe the story of DPP has just gotten a bit samey and isn’t so exciting relative to later games? Or perhaps Sinnoh is too large and too boring of a region to traverse? Don’t get me started on Team Galactic, which by this point the whole “Team” thing was more of a joke than a serious threat. And what about the Pokétch “utility”? It almost felt like an afterthought relative to the touchscreen features of later games. But there’s also no question about the problems with relying on Bidoof/Bibarel to be an HM slav—… HM buddy, as well as the lot of useless HMs available to us to begin with (Defog??). Actually, it’s all the HM’s fault. But whatever my reasons were for being hesitant of picking up Diamond/Pearl again, a lot of it is because it really didn’t age all that well.
BDSP Is A Sequel To FireRed/LeafGreen (yes, big shocker there)
Fortunately, Pokémon BrilliantDiamond/ShiningPearl (“BDSP”) fixes almost all of the problems with the original Diamond/Pearl games. Or at the very least, it fixes the problems with its actual gameplay system that didn’t age well and in turn lets the core, fundemental game brilliantly shine through—pun intended—based on its own merits. And those merits? ….well, it’s a Pokémon game! But more importantly, it’s a Pokémon game circa 2007. The thing is though, and make no mistake: BDSP never claimed to be anything else. In fact, if you’re an oldfan like me, BDSP is actually something of a return to form of the “Pokémon Noun/Adjective-Name” remake series, specifically FireRed/LeafGreen (“FRLG”): the one that started it all.
Let’s take a quick trip back in time: when Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire—the first new Pokémon games of the Game Boy Advance generation—was released in 2003, it actually disappointed a lot of fans. Among other things, certain key features introduced in previous gens had actually been removed. After all, these features were in Gold/Silver/Crystal, so obviously they were supposed to also appear in the next games, right? The lack of a the day/night cycle was the most glaring omission (with the seemingly useless in-game clock being salt on that wound), but another serious shock was the inability to trade up from previous versions. Specifically, Gold/Silver introduced the ability to trade up from any Gen 1 game via the “Time Capsule“, but nothing of the sort existed to bring Pokémon from a Gen 2 game up to Gen 3, meaning all of our old friends from years of playing were forever locked away in our previous games. And to make matters even worse… this also meant certain Pokémon were straight-up locked out of Ruby/Sapphire. No Charizard, no Aerodactyl, no Snorlax…. sound familiar? So much was this disappointment that it actually was reflected in its sales: Ruby/Sapphire sold a whole 1/3rd less units relative to Gold/Silver (16.22 vs 23.73 million).
I’ll give you three guesses to tell me which one of these Pokémon were originally locked out from Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire
But despite—or maybe because of?—upset fans left in shock of missing features in Ruby/Sapphire, FireRed/LeafGreen would be released in 2004 which resolved… well, not all of the problems, but a lot. On the surface it was a beautiful and clean remake of Kanto and a fresh experience for new and old players alike. But below the surface, it helped shore up the weaknesses of Ruby/Sapphire as well as gave fans of the original games access to every other Pokémon missing from it. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it did help a lot to smooth out the rough edges of Ruby/Sapphire. In fact, perhaps FRLG was the safest solution Game Freak could pull off: it took what was already great about the original games, ironed out all of the kinks, added in new quality-of-life changes that X years of gaming has instilled upon us, threw in some extra goodies that would surprise old fans, and finally released it as the game that the original deserved to be. Considering that side games (think Yellow relative to Red/Blue) would be lucky to be able to sell HALF as well as the main game, the fact that FRLG sold almost as well as the Ruby/Sapphire (12.00 vs. 16.22 million) showed the power of the remakes in the minds of Pokémon players, but perhaps also underlined the failure of Ruby/Sapphire.
In many ways, BDSP is very much like FRLG. It too is, on the surface, a beautiful and clean remake of Sinnoh and a fresh experience for new and old players. And below the surface, it helps shore up the weaknesses of Sword/Shield as well as gives fans of earlier games access to many other Pokémon missing from it. It’s not a perfect solution, but it does help a lot to smooth out the rough edges of Sword/Shield. In fact, BDSP was the safest solution Game Freak could pull off: it took what was already great about the original games, ironed out all the kinks, added in new quality-of-life changes that X years of gaming has instilled upon us, threw in some extra goodies that would surprise old fans, and finally released it as the game that the original deserved to be.
So for the most part, the idea that BDSP is “FRLG for Gen 8” is perhaps the best way to explain its value to anyone on the fence. If FRLG is one of your most favorite games, or maybe you catch yourself playing it WAAAAY more than the originals… then BDSP will surely be the game for you as well. But if you’re more of an old school purist and found FRLG to be just too different from what you felt was the charm of the original Red/Blue games? Then maybe you should stick with the original Diamond/Pearl games. But if there is anything BDSP is, it’s not a new take on the classics (like OmegaRuby/AlphaSapphire was), it doesn’t take the original and just throw in all kinds of things fans had no idea was going to be added to the game (like what they did with HeartGold/SoulSilver)…. instead, BDSP is just the original games done right, no more, no less.
For me, well, I’ll be buying whatever Pokémon game comes out regardless what I feel about it, because I can always find something to like about it. With BDSP, I would’ve been happy with it looking like it does now, or if they based it on Sun/Moon’s more “open world” format, or if they literally took the original came code and literally just scaled it up to HD. If “the original game done right” is not your cup of tea, Pokémon Legends Arceus is fortunately just around the corner, so at least you’ll get a brand new fresh adventure from scratch in due time. In fact, I almost feel like BDSP’s “play it safe” style might have been doubly intentional… but I’ll cover that later.
What BDSP Gets Right
BDSP made no claims to be anything else than a FRLG-esque, straight-shooting remake of Diamond/Pearl, and therefore this game is exactly what I expected. It’s like opening a bag of candy that says “M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces and Skittles are all mixed up inside” written on it: if I get a mouth full of Lemon and Chocolate candy, I have only myself to blame. But then again, I might end up with a mouthful of Grape and Peanut-Butter candy, so it might work out in the end.
But the point is: BDSP played the FRLG card in terms of it’s goal in remaking Diamond/Pearl, and it does it perfectly. In fact, it’s such a one-to-one remake akin to FRLG that I’ve been able to use my OLD Diamond/Pearl strategy guides (pictured right) to help me play BDSP in lieu of an actual BDSP guide… and apart from the actual changes made to the game (such as the removal of the HMs and replacing the Game Centers with a Clothing store), the guide is nearly spot-on.
However, seeing that this is basically a one-to-one version of the original Diamond/Pearl… and I can still play those games on the 3DS without it feeling too out of place (unlike trying to whip out a Sega Game Gear in public), then why should anyone bother playing it to begin with? Well, aside from it being a fun game for anyone who missed the original Diamond/Pearl release, the real benefit of playing the game today are all the quality of life changes. So much so that it actually makes me want to simply forego playing Diamond/Pearl for any reason, as this game is in many ways quite literally the better version.
Here’s the big one: HMs are no longer something you can teach your Pokémon, but are instead a page on your Pokétch (#20). I mean, you can still teach those HM attacks to your Pokémon—Surf is, and shall forever remain, OP—but the way the game treats HM moves now is similar to the HM-equivilent for Sun/Moon: they’re helper Pokémon friends who help you take care of some random task. Now why a wild Pokémon would want to help you… who knows? But to be honest, that story narrative STILL makes more sense than making me waste a slot in my team for my HM friend.
Speaking of the Pokétch, with the lack of a bottom touchscreen, the Pokétch is relegated to the upper-right corner of the screen, which you can further expand/hide with the press of the L button. It’s kinda useful doing it this way, and the Switch’s own touch-screen can be used to either cycle through the various Pokétch apps regardless of the zoom, as well as utilize the app when you expand them. Handy!
One thing I actually didn’t spot until later was how damage values are shown instantanously, instead of counting down with the draining of the HP bar. Now if this was something that they did earlier, I guess I only just noticed it now, but frankly it’s a welcome decision. I like seeing if an attack KO’d me or leaves me with 2 HP left without having to wait for the three seconds it takes for the HP bar to drain. Earthbound this is not, so this is one tradition I’m glad they nixed.
Maybe one of the better decisions made available on the option screen is the ability to change the volume for THREE different game aspects: music, Pokémon cries, and sound effects. So much of the game waiting is tied to the game music, picking berries being the most obvious culpit. By being able to turn them off, I no longer have to hear the dingle-ding-de-de-de-dee! when I pick berries. I also no longer have to hear that repetitive music while I’m in the underground.
Now with the music off, it’s rather interesting to see all the extra bits and bobs the game has included to its soundscape to add a touch of soul to it. For example, after all these years, I never once realized that Pokémon make a different sound when they’re knocked out! I only first noticed it in BDSP, but going back to other games, it turns out they’ve been doing that for some time. Wow… maybe a new section of the site is due? But other also other things like a touch of a wind effect here, a smidge of a wing-flap there… it really helps make the game feel like there’s more going on, even with the music playing.
These are all just the little things I’ve picked up on while playing. ILCA may not have had the actual experience of working on the original Diamond/Pearl games for them to know for their own experience “hey, we should fix this”… but I’m sure that between having played the originals themselves (and also being tired of Bibarel’s Hidden Adventure just like everyone else who played it) and having Game Freak staff themselves be like “yeah, we should get rid of that”… there really isn’t much else that they could’ve changed that they didn’t take care of already. They can’t make Diamond/Pearl any better, short of “Let’s Go!”-ifying it… but “Let’s Go! Johto” and “Let’s Go! Hoenn” need to be released first before we get any of that any time soon.
What BDSP Could’ve Tried Differently
Or at least, what could ILCA consider for next time? Truth be told, a lot of the problems with Diamond/Pearl that remain in BDSP aren’t much of anything that ILCA couldn’t really do much about to begin with, as it’s baked into the very essence of the original Diamond/Pearl games. That is to say, to change anything else would start making BDSP veer into ORAS territory, and that wasn’t what was in the cards. But I guess if in an alternate reality where BDSP was closer to ORAS than FRLG, then maybe….
Well, I would’ve added lot of the things I’ve gotten used to of modern Pokémon games—namely seeing the wild Pokémon appear and getting a chance to choose which one I get to battle. The old “walk aimlessly in tall grass until a Pokémon randomly attacks” format honestly needs to stay in the past. Maybe if we weren’t already spoiled by the likes of LGPE and SwSh, then maybe I would’ve begrudgenly accepted it… but not anymore. But I do understand why it was left it, because it wouldn’t be a one-to-one Diamond/Pearl remake without it.
Strangely, one of the ideas which might be considered a quality of life addition for some kinda falls flat with me. Specifically, having the Pokémon show that they love you is a bit much. It’s not TOO annoying, and it kinda eliminated some of the time bonuses gained by turning off the music… but otherwise, meh. I can go either way with this.
Another part of the “charm” of Pokémon which also hasn’t aged all that well is seeing the Pokémon simply bounce very statically and having game text explaining what they’re doing (“they turned back to look at you”, “the Pokemon is eating the bait”), instead of actually showing it. But on the other hand, this is sort of a problem that Game Freak has painted themselves into a corner with, as actually adding in those animations would require updating HUNDREDS of Pokémon animation to do all kinds of different things… which, sorry, no amount of billions of dollars of success could justify that cost. It sucks having them statically bounce while doing things, but the alternative is shoveling a ton of time and money into updating the models for something that maybe 1% of players would even care to notice is, and no business could justify that cost. (inb4 “the fans could do it for free!” I’m not gonna even touch THAT potential legal mess with a ten yard/meter stick.)
The other thing which I will admit does sort of pull me out of the willing suspension of disbelief (as much as playing a game about magical pocket monsters could maintain) is that BDSP isn’t as well polished as Pokémon games tend to be. Maybe… well, it’s 95% good, but every so often something happens to remind me that Game Freak wasn’t behind this. Below are just a small sampling of the minor issues I ran into… stuff like text boxes repeating (left), NPCs snapping into position (center), and even player names showing up into Pokémon name boxes (right).
Also, character animations tend to repeat a bit, which tends to be a bit more obvious at times. Other animations, such as with the Gym Leaders, are spot on… so it does kinda even out in the end.
But Cyberpunk 2077 this isn’t. First off, some of these issues are rare, and even patched out. Which is far more than CD Projekt Red has done. And even then, this is minor stuff. I’ve seen and heard worse being said about the quality of Red/Blue back in the day, and people call its glitches some of the more endearing part of the original games. I just can’t really get mad at first time productions, apart from the fact that, well, it’s flippin’ Pokémon.
Because of this, I think I’ll give ILCA a pass for any problems which exist in this game, as they had big shoes to fill. And these problems may not even be problems in the long run as they’ll get patched out over time, which is admittedly one part about modern gaming I love. But whether ILCA can keep this going is still up in the air… we’ll just have to see how the eventual Black/White remakes do.
Is BDSP What Fans Want?
I started Pokémon Aaah! back in 1999 to share my love and interest of the Pokémon franchise to anyone who is around to listen. And for a while, it was a lot of people! Right now, not as much, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think there was an audience. Now while this doesn’t make me think my views represent the overall view of Pokémon fans worldwide… but this experience has given me plenty of insight over the life and fate of the franchise.
As mentioned above, if you are upset about the current state of the Pokémon franchise and the apparent poor quality of the video games, then welcome to “2004 City”, Population: Me. After all, this was how I felt with the release of Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire: how shitty must the devs be to take everything they did right about Pokémon Gold/Silver and literally flush that all down the toilet with the release of Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire? And yet, 17 years later, I’m no longer upset about it all. So what happened? Did the NPC-police get to me? Will they get to you too?? Not really. To be honest, it’s because I came to terms with the fact that, well, my views don’t represent the overall view of Pokémon fans worldwide. And while Pokémon The Movie 2000 taught us the Power of One, in the end what really matters is the cash we bring in to Nintendo.
Sorry, I don’t mean to make things sound so cynical, so lemme clarify. I’m a big fan of a lot of things… Star Trek, Battle Angel Alita, Metroid… we’re all fans of something. But after nearly 40 consecutive years on Planet Earth, the one thing I’ve been able to know for sure when it comes to being a fan is that defining “true fan” is impossible, maybe even pointless. I mean, is a “true fan” someone who supports their favorite franchise no matter what? Or is a “true fan” someone who knows when to tell their favorite franchise “hey, you kinda suck right now, but I hope you can get better soon!”. Maybe it’s a little bit of both? But one thing I’ve found that being a “true fan” does involve is having a level of dedication to communicating to your favorite franchise how you feel about things.
Now we live in a capitalist society, and while the merits of this can be debated in its own article, one thing that this does mean is that our money has a way of voicing our feelings to our favorite franchise in ways that millions of Twitter followers and Change.org petition signatures never can. Even in team sports when you can actually physically support your favorite team by going to each of their games… you still have to buy tickets to the game, you’ll still be buying hats, jerseys and other apparal. Money makes the world go round. So when fans are happy, they’re going to spend money money on their favorite franchise. Conversely, unhappy fans DON’T spend their money, maybe even boycotting their favorite franchises. And businesses like Nintendo, or even sports teams which are supposed to be run by nonprofit organizations of higher learning… well they LOVE money.
On the left: Michigan Wolverines caps are almost sold out for all sizes, because not only did Michigan kick the tar out of their historical rivals—Ohio State—but they also won the Big Ten Championship game. Meanwhile, on the right: there are still plenty of Ohio State caps left.
Now it may not be the best metric to determine fan engagement, but it’s certainly one of the only ones that matters. And because we have this metric to determine what fans want, well, what can we determine from it?
First of all, franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who are a hot mess, because those franchises aren’t bringing in the big bucks anymore. The Alita: Battle Angel movie made $400 million in worldwide box office reciepts, but clearly not enough to warrant a sequel. And as for Pokémon, it WAS a hot mess for years… but not anymore! Like, it started when my then-least favorite games—Ruby/Sapphire—sold terribly relative to Gold/Silver. It got slightly better with Diamond/Pearl… but when Game Freak decided to put their blood, sweat and tears into one of the deepest, richest mainline games they ever produce—Pokémon Black/White—one that they even had hoped would reignite the franchise by bringing back that mystery of not knowing the Pokémon you’re running into AND having the largest list of new Pokémon ever introduced into a single game… and certainly one of the best Pokémon games I’ve ever played… it ended up selling the WORST out of all the mainline games, doing WORST than the previous worst selling mainline game.
Pokémon was a hot mess for years, but not anymore! Pokémon Sword/Shield alone has sold 22.64 million games (so far), placing it just one million units short from the 23.73 million that Gold/Silver sold, making it almost perhaps the second best selling mainline Pokémon game released, though certainly the best selling one nearly 20 years. Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, a side-game which would’ve had side-game sales numbers, sold 13.83 million, which makes it the second best selling side game since Pokémon Yellow. Now it could be argued that Sword/Shield and LGPE were terrible games with about as much depth as a puddle of water, and I might not disagree with you… but for anyone—including myself—to say those games weren’t what Pokémon fans want… the sales figures definitely tell a different story.
So you tell me: what do Pokémon fans want? Is BDSP what fans really want? Do Pokémon fans even care? Hell, you might be thinking to yourself “I LOVED Ruby/Sapphire! In fact it’s the best game in the series!”, and well, maybe that underlines my point. For if there’s one thing that I’ve always enjoyed about the Pokémon games: it’s that they’ve always felt like Pokémon games to me. Sure they played with the formula a bit, tried this, tried that… but at their core, they still maintained that sense of fun and wonder that makes these games what they are. So much so that former PA! co-webmaster, Robert Y., then known as “RyoShinX”, actually STOPPED playing the games because he found them to be way too samey for him. I can’t blame him, because that’s what keeps me WANTING to play these games: for me there is fair balance between novelty and familiarity which keeps things comfortable for me. And frankly, Pokémon fans should be so lucky that it’s been the game people behind it… Star Trek has had Gene Roddenbery, Rick Berman, JJ Abrams and Alex Kurtzman running the franchise, each with their own competing (if not straight-up antagonistic) vision for the franchise. Meanwhile, Pokémon has only had Game Freak, and Pokémon’s true dark days won’t come until the original folk at Game Freak are no longer involved.
“Fine But… BDSP Isn’t What I Wanted!”
And that’s fine! It’s OK to be angry, it ain’t bad to feel mad. I myself was rather heated with the Ruby/Sapphire I bought and everything that was missing from it, and I at least had the sales figures to back up my disappointment. But even then, if you loved Ruby/Sapphire as a kid, then all the better, because you were the audience that Game Freak was aiming for, not me. So knowing this, it’s hard to take anyone seriously who say “this isn’t what fans want” about a game when the sales figures and it’s overall insane resurgence in popularity over the past five years say otherwise. I WOULD NOT BE BACK HERE if I didn’t think fans weren’t interested!
If BDSP isn’t what you wanted, that’s fine. Your time will come again, just as it did for me. But—and I’m sorry to put it this way—it’s just not right now: you’re not the audience Game Freak is aiming for, just like I wasn’t the audience for Ruby/Sapphire. But experience has shown me that these changes away from what you or I want is only fleeting. After seeing how each generation has been slightly different, with changes made to tailor towards a certain idea or value… this just means Gen 9 will be slightly different, and maybe more towards what YOU want.
I mean if you want to think about it another way, this is literally what has happened for many fans of Pokémon: to them the games stopped being anything like they wanted it to be like, and so they stopped playing. Later they bought a Nintendo Switch and a copy of Sword/Shield or LGPE and WOWZERS! The games are finally BACK to being as good as they remembered them to be! For them their time has come again… it took them some 10-20 years, but it’s finally good again. The thing is tho, this has been the case with every single generation: players leave, only to come back because the games are—to them—finally good again. It’s just that right now Sword/Sheild finally clicked with a majority of players.
OK, so is BDSP really want fans want?
Being angry on the internet is the Great Worldwide Pasttime. I engage in it too… under various other usernames which in no way can ever be linked back to me. So it’s OK to be angry with Pokémon; you may not like the where Pokemon is going, and I’m not saying you should. In fact, stay angry! Just because your views don’t represent what a majority of Pokémon fans want, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t being heard or taken seriously. After all, it’s not like pleasing fans can be a zero-sum game: maybe there’s a way to make ALL fans happy versus simply siding with the largest group within the overall fandom?
Case in point: when I wrote my Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee review, I posted a link to a 4chan/vp/ post where fans were dunking on the then-soon to be released LGPE. One Anon’s reply, however, caught my eye:
Hey Anon, you’re in luck, because GameFreak NOT working on a side game is literally what Game Freak is doing. Frankly, in a certain way, this has what Game Freak has been doing since at least FRLG, maybe even Yellow. Specifically, Game Freak has had at least two different teams working on Pokémon games at different times. Say, “Team A” would work on the main programming for the first mainline entry (such as “Pokémon X/Y”, then “Sun/Moon”), while “Team B” would work on the follow-up game (“Black/White 2” during X/Y’s development, then “OmegaRuby/AlphaSapphire” after “X/Y” and during “Sun/Moon”). This allowed each team to dedicate two-plus years on producing each game, but because their releases were staggered, it allowed a new game to be released every 12-18 months.
BDSP actually switched things up a bit, as it wasn’t worked on by Game Freak’s “Team B” but instead an outside company—ILCA—that Game Freak farmed pretty much all of the work out to. And I’ll admit this fact does sometimes show, and it does sprinkle a touch of disappointment to the game (as I mentioned above). But it did at least give Game Freak a chance to have “all hands on deck” with Pokémon Legends Arceus, with “Team B” most likely being merged into “Team A” in order to focus solely on it. But in any case, if anyone is arguing that Game Freak isn’t using their billions of dollars… well, to me it looks like they are.
I’ll even go as far as to say that BDSP and PLA are each one part of a two-part plan to help determine the future of the Pokémon franchise and what Game Freak should be focusing on versus maybe what they can farm out to other companies. Specifically:
- BDSP: maybe a majority of fans want the cut-and-dry, by-the-numbers, gotta-catch-’em-all Pokémon game, built upon the good memories they had with the original games and the expectations they had of them?
- PLA: maybe a majority fans want to have new and exciting, closer-to-open-world gameplay like in Grand Theft Breath of the Skyrim, with better, more details graphics and a richer storyline?
Of course this isn’t (and shouldn’t) be the only two options to determine the fate of the future of Pokémon, but I do feel like the final sales numbers of these two games will help guide what Pokémon games are made in the immediate future. But if Pokémon is to maintain this recent uptick in popularity (which started with Pokémon GO), knowing what kinds of games a significant portion of fans want to spend billions of their own money on will help determine what style of gameplay Game Freak will focus on.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve been a Pokémon for long enough to see the games go in a variety of different directions. So regardless of whether or not BDSP or PLA sells well, I’m glad they’re working on game like this, and if there is any sign of where Pokémon is going, it’s the fact that they’re always willing to play with the formula a bit, but never too drastic. Twenty-plus years of being a Pokémon fan has prepared me for changes like this, and I feel like there will always be fun Pokémon games to play for as long as this franchise remains profitable.
So, finally, is BDSP what fans want? Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be what ALL fans want. There has always been room for other types of mainline Pokémon games, and those billions of dollars in profit is what’ll fund them. Keep in mind that that money is not going to always go to stuff like bringing good graphics to the games, which has never been Pokémon’s thing… but will instead go towards new games which keep the growing different kinds of fans together. That said, we’re just not going to truly find out until the ultimate success of PLA until it’s finally released this next January and see how the sales numbers stack up. Should BDSP end up being the clear victor, then we can easily expect years of Pokémon games which don’t outright innovate as much as simply iterate upon standard expectations. But if PLA does surprisingly well relative to BDSP, then it may be enough to convince Game Freak that Pokémon fans are ready for a more nuanced, complex experience and the graphics to go with it. It may cut into potential profits a bit in order to hire better scene artists as well as to train them on the in-house Pokémon look and feel, but it’ll be worth doing it in order to maintain the long-term longevity of the brand.
In the mean time, I just treat stuff like this as hot air. Someone who just wants to be angry more than anything. Frankly, I remember hearing that Pokémon wouldn’t last five years (let alone 25). Even the Time Magazine article I posted in my last post suggested that kids would simply move onto the next fad. We sure showed them, huh? The point here is, people will get angry, you may be angry, and while it’s fine to get angry, it’s should also be remembered that it may not exactly change a damn thing. The most elequently written 4chan/vp/ post or a YouTube video shitting on the latest Pokémon game with a million views won’t change the fact that Pokémon is in the best shape it’s ever been since the original days, and at this rate it might last another 25 years.
We can only wait and see.