The year was 1998. The Spice Girls were blowing up radio stations, and Nintendo had every kid under the age of 15 glued to their Game Boys playing Pokémon Red and Blue. Many of those kids, including some of us here at Nintendo Life, are now in their thirties – and therefore not long for this world – and it feels like Pokémon hasn’t aged with us older players. In fact, many Pokémon games have decreased in both difficulty and complexity release after release. It’s gotten to the point where we Pokémon Veterans sincerely hope Game Freak adds or removes several features to both make the games more challenging and to streamline otherwise tedious mechanics.
We’ve put together a list of 6 things us ancient Pokémon players want to see almost as much as a bowl of Raisin Bran on a Sunday morning when Pokémon Scarlet and Violet usher in Generation IX later this year.
A Return of Challenge Mode
We want Pokémon games to be about as difficult as deciding what to eat for dinner a week in advance. January’s Pokémon Legends: Arceus took a step in the right direction by adding a layer of challenge back into a Game Freak developed Pokémon game, but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t worried Scarlet and Violet might regress into remedial levels of difficulty.
Pokémon Black and White 2 dabbled with a higher difficulty in the most Pokémon way possible: they locked it behind trading through a key through the Unova Link feature obtained at the end of Pokémon Black 2. Meaning to experience a higher degree of difficulty, you’d have to beat the game first and have a friend to trade with to unlock Challenge Mode.
We’re old, Game Freak. We don’t have friends anymore. Give us a Challenge Mode from the very beginning, or at least more trainers as daunting as Cynthia.
An Engaging End-Game
We’ll admit Generation I didn’t have the best end-game, but follow-up titles, particularly the Battle Frontiers in Pokémon Emerald and Pokémon Heartgold and Soulsilver, added an addictive experience after beating the Elite Four. Since then, however, end-game content has been severely lacking or non-existent, falling behind what a lot of non-Pokémon games offer. Part of this is because of a focus on story-driven content – the Delta Episode, Team Rainbow Rocket, Isle of Armor – and part because the rewards for post-game content are often lacking. Battle Points, which players use to buy in-game items, aren’t enough to keep us coming back.
We’d like a return of something as deep as the Battle Frontiers with meaningful rewards – perhaps shiny Pokémon, alternate forms, or an increasingly greater challenge akin to a roguelite mode – to help distract us from the crippling anxiety recent real-world events have instilled in us.
Accessible Team Building
Hatching 78 Bulbasaur to get six perfect Individual Values isn’t difficult. It’s as tedious as our pre-pandemic commutes to work. Where other competitive games focus on getting the player into a match as quickly as possible, where they can build their skills and test out new strategies as the meta-game evolves, Pokémon games are content with wasting our time hatching hundreds of eggs just to build a viable team. This can take hours, even with plenty of helpful items introduced in Sword and Shield and a Ditto with perfect stats to breed with.
And Arceus forbid if we want to make a minor adjustment to our team, such as lowering or raising a speed stat based on meta-changes, because that could zap away those precious few hours before our 9:30 bedtimes.
Individual Values and Effort Values need further streamlining to help both old players save daylight and new players to embrace the esoteric mechanics.
Much like the rewards given in post-game content, the incentives to play Pokémon competitively are barebones; players receive awards at the end of each month of play, but they’re often negligible. Furthermore, the Ranked Battle system in Pokémon Sword and Shield feels undercooked. Advancement through each tier – from Pokéball to Master Ball – relies entirely on wins and losses, rather than a matchmaking system to place players against those of similar skill. A new player with a half-developed team might get matched with a professional player practising for the VGC World Championships, both negating any sense of progression for skill level and making online Pokémon needlessly daunting to get into.
Us senior Pokémon players require a constant drip-feed of affirmation for our abilities in lieu of receiving none from our day jobs and emotionally distant Boomer parents. As of Sword and Shield, we might as well – we don’t know – read a book or take a cooking class instead.
Eevee will be in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. This isn’t confirmed, but with how popular and marketable the fox-like Pokémon is, second only to Pikachu, we’d be surprised if Game Freak skipped including Eevee.
Eevee predictions happen for every Pokémon release. We predicted it for Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and were off the mark, and recently a rumour and intriguing theory hinting at a new Eeveelution makes it seem more than likely to happen in Scarlet and Violet.
Many newer Pokémon fans might not know that before the recording of modern history Eevee once had only three evolutions. It’s been 9 years since the last Eeveelution, Sylveon, debuted in Pokémon X and Y, and if we have to wait another Generation of games, arthritis might render us unable to enjoy the Ghost or Dragon-type Eeveelution of our dreams.
A Chonky Pikachu
Back when Pokémon games were in black-and-white and we had to hike uphill to school both ways in hail and without a pair of Safety Goggles, Pikachu was chonky. This, to us PokéVeterans, represents the ideal Pikachu form, and you may not like it, but this is what peak Pika performance looks like.
Chonky Pikachu made a return in Sword and Shield with a Gigantimax form, and while we’ve already seen Pikachu rubbing its cheeks in the Scarlet and Violet reveal trailer, if Game Freak harbours any love at all for its legacy fans, they’ll immediately swap out its thinner in-game model for one that better matches the Generation I sprite.
Yes – we’re aware this post sounds a lot like an old-man yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Because it is. Pokémon is no longer made for those of us who started playing in 1998, who struggled against Agatha’s Gengar and searched under the truck by the S.S. Anne for a Mew. Each subsequent Pokémon release has one audience in mind: children, not video game critics in their thirties. And that’s okay. Pokémon doesn’t have to be made for us; in fact, part of the charm might come from its childlike appeal, pulling us back into a simpler time without so much back pain.
Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t dream. If Pokémon Legends: Arceus’s shake-up of the formula and added complexity and difficulty are anything to go by, Game Freak is listening, and maybe when Scarlet and Violet release later this year, we’ll have a challenge worthy of our crotchety old souls.
What say you? Are there any features you’d like to see added or streamlined in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet? Young or old, comment below!