6 Things I Actually Want From an Open World Pokemon Game
So I bit the bullet this past weekend and splurged on Pokemon Legends: Arceus for my Nintendo Switch. I have been playing Pokemon games consistently since Blue. Heck, I even still play Pokemon Go on a daily basis. So it would make sense that I would want to try out the first truly open open world Pokemon game. I love sandbox games; they’re probably my favorite type of video game. So a Pokemon sandbox? I’m in!
I don’t know if I’ll get around to doing a proper review of Pokemon Legends: Arceus. I think my pros and cons are exactly the same as everybody else on the internet. I’m enjoying the catching and general gameplay mechanic, but this game is a far far cry from the types of games/open worlds that we know and love. Both Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out on the Switch at launch. And this is the best Pokemon can offer in response? For shame. So I figured I would spend some time laying out exactly what I would actulaly want to see in a proper Pokemon open world game. Clearly such a thing is possible. Make it happen.
Join me after the jump for six things I want to see in a real, well-made, open world Pokemon game.
6. The usual Pokemon stuff (for the most part)
The biggest thing Arceus lacks, in my opinion, is the normal framework of a Pokemon game. Can we really appreciate the open world setting when we’re denied the stuff the makes a Pokemon game a Pokemon game? One of the biggest things I’ve noticed about Arceus is that I don’t really care which Pokemon are my six, because it’s rare that I’m in a situation where I need to worry about it. There are so very few trainers to actually battle that I don’t need a team. I don’t need to carefully curate my homie Pokemon like I would in any other game. And then there are no gyms, no badges, no championship, no bad guys, no rivalries; Arceus is so barren.
At the same time, haven’t we all be clamoring for a different storyline? I’d be the first to ask for something other than the story of a young kid venturing out into the world to become the local Pokemon champion. And this game has a really weird story. A young kid from the modern day is sent backwards through time on a mission by God to help early settlers study and catalogue the local fauna. That’s a neat new premise for a Pokemon game…but it’s resulted in a pretty dull Pokemon game.
5. Incorporate all the side games
A great thing about big, open world games are the mini-games they manage to squeeze in. And Pokemon has a lot of mini-games that could be incorporated into an open world game. Give the protagonist a camera and let them take nature photography, a la Pokemon Snap. Put some pinball machines in the back of the PokeCenter and lets play some Pokemon Pinball. Put some of the boss battles into big arenas, like Pokemon Stadium. Fashion shows, commercials, games where you play as the Pokemon and some Detective Pikachu stuff; it shouldn’t be hard to incorporate some of these mechanics into an open world game to make the whole thing bigger and better than anything we’ve ever seen before.
4. Better haircut service
Are they kidding me with this? It costs $500 just to enter the barbershop to look at the different haircuts. So even if I decide not to change my character’s hairstyle, I’m still out that $500. This is ridiculous! How is this a thing? It doesn’t cost any money in advance to go clothes shopping. Why do we have to pay for haircuts in advance?!
3. Actual animation
Nothing is more noticeably weird about modern Pokemon games than their inability actually animate their characters. It’s so stark. Character’s faces change expressions like programmed robots. When characters need to turn around, it’s like Resident Evil 1 physics. They rotate in place, whether they’re turning to look in a different direction or turning to leave in a different direction. And these are the cut scenes! Can they really not animate cut scenes?! This is embarrassing.
Why have we not yet seen the Pokemon equivalent of Australia? Possibly because they’re saving it for a proper open world game? It’s no secret that Pokemon games are often modeled after real world locations. They’re given new names, of course, but we’ve had games that take place in Japan, New York City, England, Hawaii, France and more. A little bit of the culture is infused in these games, and it’s just a neat layer of flavor text. So what about Australia? In the real world, Australia is renowned for its unique wildlife and topography. What would that be like in the Pokemon world? Where’s my Pokemon Platypus or Tasmanian Devil? I think it would be a neat world to explore, and the first true open world Pokemon game would be a great place to debut Pokemon Australia.
1. A true open world
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out in 2017, on launch. Grand Theft Auto 3 came out some 20 years ago. Big, open, sandbox worlds full of life and detail have been around for decades in gaming. There is absolutely no excuse for why a Pokemon game can’t have the same system. No legitimate, gaming excuse, at least. There’s no reason to limit Arceus to zones of play. Maybe there’s a problem with having so many wild Pokemon running around? It’s not like the Pokemon in-game are super detailed or complex. They basically just move about and perhaps have a couple of minor animations. Red Dead Redemption 2 had a huge, fully connected open world with dozens of different animals existing in individually crafted ecosystems. Could you imagine a Pokemon game that’s as much fun as RDR2’s animal hunting?
Imagine a big, open world with a wide variety of landscapes and temperate zones. You head out into that world with your camera and your pokeballs, tracking down rumors of an elusive, rare Pokemon deep in the jungle. You study its surroundings, you take some pictures and then you hurl your pokeball, making just the perfect catch. Then you bring that Pokemon back to town, you take it to the salon to customize its look, you play with it like Nintendogs and then you bring it to the local fighting arena to battle for the championship. How cool with that be?