Pokémon franchise caught between tradition and evolution


Photo courtesy of pokemon.com

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet will feature wild Pokémon in the overworld, skies, waterways, and even within towns, although it’s currently unclear whether capture battles will stay in the overworld like in Pokémon Legends Arceus, or cut away to a separate battle screen like in previous games.

Set to release later this year, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, the newest entries in the mainline video game series, promise a greater stride towards innovation and open-world gameplay. However, not every change is boding well with fans.

“I feel like the new trainer designs are a bit too simple,” said sophomore Eli Byrd. “I’m not sure if they truly captured that ‘new trainer, bright eyes, ready for adventure’ look.”

When the first trailer was released online, the new player characters drew ire from some fans due to their school-uniform-esque outfits. More than likely, this will be negligible now that character customization has become a series staple. Still, in a rather bizarre move, the new face designs also feature an artistic style that breaks with over 20 years of tradition. Granted, the shape of the character’s eyes may seem like a relatively minute detail, but it was also not something that really needed to change.

Regardless, trainers are only as good as their Pokémon, and the newest trio of starter Pokémon, Sprigatito, Fuecoco, and Quaxly, are certainly attention-grabbing as well. The three of them echo a recent trend of increasingly cuter starters, which is somewhat ironic considering that the term Pokémon was originally a romanized contraction for Pocket Monsters.

“They all look good except the Fire-type one,” said junior William Henning. “I just don’t like the design [of Fuecoco].”

Sprigatito, the Grass Cat Pokémon, is the second cat-based starter after the Fire-type Litten. Fuecoco, the Fire Croc Pokémon, appears to be a blend of an apple and a crocodile, making it the second crocodile-based starter after the Water-type Totodile. Finally, Quaxly, the Duckling Pokémon, is both the most original and least original of the starters. On one hand, Quaxly is the first duck-based starter, but it also looks eerily similar to Donald Duck.

But with no other new Pokémon revealed so far and the starter’s respective evolutions currently left up to speculation, more focus has instead been brought to the game’s apparent open-world gameplay.

“I’m a bit skeptical of the games being open-world considering GameFreak’s past in making more linear Pokémon games,” said Byrd. “Personally, I feel like they may make it more similar to [Pokémon] FireRed in which you can essentially choose your own gym order after the first few linear ones.”

For better or worse, the so-called Pokémon formula, which has been essentially on a rinse and repeat cycle since the third set of games, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, is now in serious jeopardy. Following the recent spin-off game Pokémon Legends Arceus, a nonlinear story with greater freedom for the player seems like the natural next step for the series. In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, towns visited by the player will seamlessly blend into wilderness without borders.

At the moment, it’s not clear which Pokémon will return in the game, or if every Pokémon will be transferable through the Pokémon Home cloud service. Still, the Pokémon models shown in the reveal trailer already look visually crisper than those used in the last games, Pokémon Sword and Shield. Hopes are high that GameFreak will finally be able to deliver on their promises of improved, next-gen graphics.

Nonetheless, with the games being announced less than a month after the release of Pokémon Legends Arceus, it remains to be seen whether the developers will survive yet another breakneck development cycle without cutting any corners.