If you read our recent review of Pokémon Black and White Version 2, you know that not much has changed in the franchise. In fact, if you’ve been following Pokémon since its original release back in 1998, then you know that the series regularly uses the same core gameplay formula beneath a layer of rather artificial changes in order to produce success.
The developers at Game Freak spoke about the formula of Pokémon with the folks at Gamasutra. Here’s what Producer Junichi Masada had to offer regarding finding balance between new material and recurring mechanics in Pokémon :
“Finding that balance every time is very difficult. But when you think about games, just like playing, for example, soccer and basketball, they’re games that have been around for a very long time. The core gameplay of those — the core of how you play basketball and soccer — hasn’t really changed. Over the years, there’s regulation changes or rule changes to those games, but the core gameplay doesn’t really change for those, and that’s how we kind of feel about Pokémon as well.
When you have those slight regulation changes for soccer and basketball, you can kind of think of that as when we develop more moves for the Pokémon, or change those moves. And finding that balance is very difficult every time. But one thing we’re maybe more focused on these days is defining more detail in those moves. Where it might’ve been a little bit more general or broad in the past, we get into the fine detail of Pokémon moves, I’d say, in the more modern games.”
For what it’s worth, I don’t really think Pokemon needs changing. This formula works exceptionally well. A Pokémon game, like soccer, baseball or football, is slowly becoming a video game pastime. We could say the same for things like Mario platformers, Call of Duty and Zelda. The game’s story and elements may change, but the core gameplay needs to remain the same.
While fans might argue that seeing the same mechanics repeat year after year is problematic, I’d like to counter with a simple solution. So many wonderful games are coming out today that knowing exactly what to expect from a Call of Duty, for instance, is a good thing. Personally, I know that I don’t want to play the series any more. I’ll avoid it. But, diehard fans will go all-in on day one because they know what they’re buying.
As long as unique games hit the gaming scene just as often as tried and true formulas, I’m happy. I’m happy that I’ll play a classic Mario platformer and the brand new Dishonored in the same year. I have something I absolutely know I’ll like, and then I have something that’s completely new and might end up being a whiff.
What say you, herd members? Is it okay that franchises like Pokémon retain their core gameplay over more than a decade of releases?