Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Pokemon-ish thoughts

I've just been sitting here, thinking about Pokemon, because that is the kind of person I am, and I had some game develop-y musings that I wanted to share. And I couldn't think of a better place for doing so than my blog, which is supposed to hold my musings.

They're doing Diamond and Pearl Version remakes! Yaaaaay! Generation IV holds a fair bit of nostalgia for me; it was the first generation after I graduated high school, and it came out when I was still trying to figure out how to adult, juggling college with embarking on my illustration career. It was also the first generation where, thanks to the magic of Wi-Fi, I was able to connect with more Pokemon fans than ever before, and Platinum was the game where I came closest to ever completing my National Pokedex. (Nowadays, that's something I'd only attempt if I'm really, really bored.) My local Pokemon League had disbanded shortly after the start of Gen III, leaving me a lonesome nerd for quite a few years, until technology improved!

Plus, Diamond was the first Pokemon game I ever bought with my own money, because I had a Responsible Adult Job working retail. Which I actually despised and quit after only a few months. (So much for Responsible Adult Jobs! Now I get paid to doodle and make up stories!)

Aaaaaanyway. Let's just, for a moment, ignore the awesome elephant in the room that is Breath of the Wild Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and concentrate on these remakes, and some comments and things I hope to see in them. I find remakes very interesting from a development perspective. What gets changed? What stays the same? What new stuff will be added due to improved technology? And how can the developers create an experience that is simultaneously nostalgic and engaging for those aged, decrepit gamers (such as myself) who played the originals back in the day? 

Like, I want it to be Diamond and Pearl all over again except I don't, y'know? I want to adventure through Sinnoh again and re-live a familiar storyline, but I don't want it to feel exactly the same as last time, because that would be boring. (I also just finished a playthrough of Platinum last year, so the Sinnoh journey is relatively fresh in my mind.) A new platform and new technology offer ample opportunities to make innovations and put a unique spin on things.

That's why I was honestly a bit disappointed to see the gameplay footage that showed Sinnoh looking much as it had in the DS versions, just with pumped-up Switch graphics. I guess I was expecting something more like Sword and Shield. Perhaps Legends: Arceus makes up for that, but as someone who does remember Diamond and Pearl, I was sort of hoping for a fresher re-imagining of the landscape. Oh well, I'm just grateful we're getting remakes at all!

So let's talk about some stuff I'd like to see in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl! First and foremost, I would love to see the Underground greatly expanded. In Diamond and Pearl, not only was the Underground a wonderful resource for valuable and helpful items, but it was a just plain fun diversion when you needed a break from battling and progressing the storyline. My only issue with it was that the multiplayer aspects of it were limited for me, because I only rarely interacted with other players in real life. It was so difficult for me to finally get a Spiritomb, until finally one day I met up with someone else playing D/P and we legit spent like 20 minutes logging in and out of the Underground to fulfill the requirements for the Odd Keystone.

I think a remake would be the perfect opportunity to fix that, because can you imagine Wi-Fi, Wild Area-style Underground gameplay? I could seriously spend hours just on that alone, never mind the game's main quest! Plus, just think of all the ways the Underground could be expanded! Secret Base decoration rehauls, mini-games, more in-depth collaborative excavation... the possibilities are staggeringly fun! (Yes, I have spent many hours romping around the Wild Area in Sword, thanks for asking.) I really loved what was done with the Secret Bases in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, so I'm really hoping for a similar treatment for the whole Underground system in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl!

Something else that has been on my mind has been the possibility that these games might include some sort of side feature. Pokemon Contests were one of the big "side" things in Diamond and Pearl, but honestly they felt a little shoehorned in, as though the developers didn't want to let go of the idea after using it in Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald.

I was never a big fan of Contests, but I like the idea behind them--an alternate utilization for a Pokemon's moveset besides just battling. Many moves that were extraneous, obscure, or next to useless in battles were useful in Contest strategies, to the point where it was optimal to raise two separate "sets" of Pokemon--one for battles and one for Contests.

I'd love to see something else that takes that basic concept and runs with it, to find some other way to make use of the vast number of Pokemon, moves, and abilities that have accumulated over the generations. It could be something like Contests, where you're raising a handful of specific Pokemon to excel in certain situations. Or it could be something more like the Poke Jobs from Sword and Shield, where you select groups of Pokemon to complete tasks based on certain attributes.

I think it would be really cool if we saw a system that did both, where you have to raise and develop Pokemon in a certain way to attain the attributes you need for a task, and also have to maintain and micromanage a whole corps of these Pokemon to send out at your discretion. (I like micromanagement.) That would add so many hours to my play time, if I had to, say, figure out how to get a certain move onto a certain Pokemon for a specific job. It's also the kind of strategic puzzling I greatly enjoy.

Anyway, I have no idea what the developers are doing while I'm sitting here speculating. I'm excited to find out. Whatever innovations they end up including in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, it'll be fun to see what new directions this remake goes in!

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