While playing through Pokémon Black/White, Laura and I recently had a chat about the future of the Pokémon RPGs, particularly with regard to the Nintendo 3DS and all of the improvements it allows for, that weren’t quite possible in the past.
This is a follow-up to part 1 of our talk, which dealt in communication. Part 2 deals with battles and the move list for the Pokémon games. Do note that these are just the opinions and ideas of two Pokémon fans, and we certainly don’t expect our opinion to have any sort of impact in shaping the future of the series.
Ishaan: I realize another thing I really want from the next game is for the move list to start over from scratch.
Laura: …never going to happen, haha. The move list needs cleaning up though.
Ishaan: Yeah, probably not. It might scare away people. But I would like to see a lot of these moves just…done away with.
Laura: And less of them…breaking themselves.
Ishaan: There’s so many doubles. I’d like to see more buff moves that actually give you incentive to use them.
Laura: Well, part of it is to account for Pokémon morphology. Like Tackle vs. Pound. Tail Whip vs. Leer.
Ishaan: Well, more trickster moves, I mean.
Laura: …dude. You have no idea. There are so many of those already. Like Trick Room…reverses everyone’s speed order. Magnet Rise…automatically grants Levitate. Smackdown removes Ground immunity. Cross Chop destroys all barriers. Please…no more…
Ishaan: But they aren’t obvious! They need to be presented in a more obvious way.
Ishaan: One I instantly figured out and took a liking to was Wake-up Slap. That was hilarious. I used it against the Normal type Gym in Black/White.
Laura: Please…don’t get into trickster moves and buffs. They are horrendous. Like, they’re too good.
Ishaan: But they aren’t obvious at all. To the average player, there’s no incentive to use them.
Laura: Well, to the average player…you don’t care. The opponent isn’t going to come up with some diabolical strategy using Moonlight, Toxic, Faint Attack and Confuse Ray…
Ishaan: But they should!
Laura: No…they shouldn’t… That Pokémon was unbeatable. It’s really, really hard. I don’t think you realize…it’s incredibly frustrating, and it made me want to throw my game against the guy’s head.
Ishaan: I’d just like to see the game being more demonstrative of its strategic elements. Like Hypnosis or Yawn + Wake-up Slap. Instant connection. I took to it immediately. It was genius.
Laura: Oh, like their names?
Ishaan: Well, just make them more obvious, however you do it. Whether it’s names or making more moves compatible.
Laura: We need more stuff like that yelled out and slapped in our face? Most guides have stuff for that…
Ishaan: I think we need more transparency than there is now, so that you don’t have to go looking up a guide for it. Make the game more self-contained.
Laura: You can’t…it’d be too complicated. Drive away the kids they want to attract.
Ishaan: It’s Game Freak and Nintendo…this is the sort of thing they’re masters at.
Laura: Yeah, and they decided to keep EVs a secret…and never told the kiddies about it, haha. Or IVs for that matter.
Ishaan: EVs are a whole different matter. Stats are “boring.” No one cares unless you’re a hardcore player. But moves! Moves are fun. And animated.
Ishaan: That’s my point. Hypnosis + Wake-up Slap is such an obvious combo, even I understood it right away after only coming back to the game properly after years. It’s simple, and has uses in multiple scenarios.
Laura: But, if they threw every strategy at you, it’d take hours to read them all. What do you want them to say? “Use with Hypnosis?”
Ishaan: Right now, you have to admit, the majority of players power through battles.
Laura: Of course, That’s how you play singleplayer. It would make training a bitch otherwise…
Ishaan: But you shouldn’t! Shouldn’t singleplayer should help you train for multiplayer?
Laura: No, I think multiplayer is for the "elite," while singleplayer is…more casual. If you mixed the two up, singleplayer would be too hard.
Ishaan: But we already talked about how Pokémon is about communication, so all the more reason they’d want to push multiplayer, no? They need to stop treating them as two separate things. Make it easier for people from SP to ease into MP. Not limiting communications to Pokémon Centers is in Black/White is a step in the right direction.
Laura: If they employed "strategies" into SP, it would become annoying. And besides, they do do some of that already, like Thunderwave + Confuse Ray is one of the most common…or used to be. And it doesn’t teach you anything except a single combo, in exchange for hours of "I HATE YOU ALL."
Ishaan: It teaches you a single combo that encourages you to want to try and learn more cool combos.
Laura: Yeah, that’s what the basic combos are for, the ones you pointed out…and they’re already explained in the game via their names and descriptions. They’re already doing that much.
Laura: I don’t get what you want…they already have the descriptors there. People just have to read. The only thing I can think of is more obvious attack names, and that’s pretty superficial. The complex strategies are just a hodgepodge of attacks you put together after having read their descriptions.
Laura: Everything is there in the game already. The only things not there are the exact percentages of the effects. Flamethrower burns 10%. Will-o-wisp is 100%.
Ishaan: No no, name/description is fine. Maybe what I want is for them to introduce more of those moves early on.
Laura: Instead of Tackle?
Ishaan: Well, Tackle is most welcome. But let’s not have the same Tackle/Leer for the first three hours.
Laura: So you want more "breakers," like that Patrat with Bite in Black/White.
Ishaan: Okay, no…let me explain this contextually. Say your Pokémon evolves. It wants to learn a new move. My first instinct is to get rid of a buff because they’re the least "immediately" useful. So if there’s a good reason for me to hang onto Leer or whatever, the game needs to tell me.
Laura: Decreases defense? It does tell you that in the description…
Ishaan: Right, but why would I want to waste a move performing Leer if I could just attack twice instead? Instead, maybe they could convince me to keep Leer by allowing you to see a skill-tree of the Pokémon throughout its evolutionary process.
Laura: Well, that’s something I thought would work great…especially if you do that Researcher occupation thing you were talking about earlier. They do need to improve the Pokédex. I never understood why they didn’t do that.
Laura: But anyways…Leer and Tail Whip and Defense Curl…they always have their time and place…but you’re right in that they’re not the most useful, because it’s one stage. It’s like an introduction to buffs and debuffs.
Laura: And then you get…Steel Wall, Swords Dance, Agility. And then…man…
Ishaan: So they need to…help you visualize that stuff more? If by your own experience, Leer + Tackle largely has the exact same effect as Tackle + Tackle, you have no reason to hang onto Leer then.
Ishaan: Stuff like Rain Dance + Thunder is obvious because Thunder is low-ish PP, not 100% accurate. So you’d rather buff it first.
Laura: It’s not a matter of PP…it’s kill before you get killed, haha. But then, what do you want them to do? Program better moves for lower levels?
Ishaan: I…don’t know how it’d work best. Game Freak probably have access to all kinds of data that we don’t, like player trends and tendencies. I’m sure they’ve thought of this stuff. So, according to all that data, they need to make improvements…and they will, I’m sure.
Ishaan: But the “how” is the question. A skill tree could definitely help. It’d help you chart out an evolutionary path, even with deciding when you want to evolve your Pokémon.
Laura: Well, yes…I mean, I always go to Serebii.net just to see when to evolve, what to put on a Pokémon eventually.
Ishaan: That’s what I meant by “make it more self-contained.”
Thanks so much to everyone that even bothered to give these weekend pieces a read, and for joining in the discussion!