As we recently found out, Game Freak is dropping two mechanics from the upcoming Pokémon Sun and Moon.
One has been with the series since the very first game, and that is the use of HMs to teach Pokémon abilities that can be used to clear obstacles on the map. Like many fans, I have no problem seeing this dated mechanic ditched for something more streamlined. It was fun to do out of tradition, but nowadays, sacrificing an ability slot or even a roster slot to your utility Pokémon is too much to ask.
Another potentially more controversial move is the removal of Mega Evolutions, a mechanic that seemed somewhat like a popular addition in Pokémon X and Y. My thoughts? Meh… either or. Unlike many Pokémon players out there, I don’t have super passionate opinions about the mechanics of the battles. I take a very laissez-faire approach to the series, believing that the team knows what’s best to push the series forward and knowing what it should leave behind.
Mega Evolutions were fun, but I can live without them. They were neither a hindrance or a benefit to me. They certainly didn’t get in the way of the game’s enjoyment like HMs did.
I’ll leave the nitty-gritty details to the hardcore competitive fans and let them argue over the benefits and downfalls of Mega Evolution. I’m too much of a casual player who approaches the Pokémon games like any other JRPG, and I don’t lose sleep wondering if dual battles are a legitimate practice or not.
As a casual fan, I tend to play through the story, beat the Elite Four, and then move on to something else. I pull the game out if I want to battle someone I personally know. This means what happens in the narrative falls into the realm of what I ultimately care about, and there is one element I would like to bring back. This guy below should show what I mean.
This is Blue, or at least, that’s one of his many names. In the Pokémon Adventures manga in Japan, his name was Green since the Blue cartridge came out after the others. In the North American translation of the anime, he became Gary. You know who I mean, and you know his defining characteristic.
He’s a real jerk! And I kind of miss that side of the series.
For every other generation, going all the way back to the second one if I remember correctly, Pokémon has changed the way we look at our rival. Everything is always hunky-dory with them, and despite competing to be the best Pokémon trainer in the world, we’re still friends. After all, nice kids all play together properly, and they don’t get into fights or tell their friends that they smell!
This just makes putting your rival in his place feel like total weak sauce. I loved watching the pushy, abrasive Blue get schooled by his grandfather on the importance of loving your Pokémon after championing over him in the first game. I loved his swagger (the results of a sprite flip) and his “too cool for you” soundtrack that fired up every time he wanted a fight.
Sure, the majority of the game’s drama comes from the conflict with Team Rocket, but Blue was always there to throw a curve ball. He didn’t care about the world, he just wanted to be the better Pokémon trainer. Nowadays, the rival helps the hero bring the criminal organizations down, and there is no real drama there since the two are already friends.
Can you imagine the moment Red and Blue team up and bring down Team Rocket? For but a fleeting moment, they put their differences aside and realize that they make a pretty good team. Why be enemies when you can just be friendly rivals? They stare into each others’ eyes, full of emotion, and then Blue throws up a rude gesture, telling Red once again “Smell ya later” before walking away with that swagger.
That would be a cool scene!
Nintendo wants to paint the world with candy and ice cream and pretend that kids always play nicely together, but I think all of us can attest that this isn’t always the truth. Bullies exist, and they don’t play nice or by the rules. And to beat bullies, you sometimes have to 1up them at their own game.
That’s why beating your rival in the first Pokémon game was so fulfilling, and that’s why I think Game Freak should go back to having a rival that should maybe push players around a bit.