Pokémon Should Reinvent Its Combat To Stay Fresh
While turn-based combat has been a staple of Pokémon's design, a change in style would not hurt.
YOUR POKEMON LEARNED A NEW ATTACK STYLE
The combat system in Pokémon could use a change. In 2016, Final Fantasy XV was released, and with it came a massive change that upset fans. Gone were the turn-based combat mechanics the franchise was known for, and in was real-time combat. While this move upset some fans, I felt like the change was necessary, I will say I enjoyed Final Fantasy VII Remake more than the original. You can still swap between players, exchange items between them, and pull off special moves, all while combatting enemies.
Real-time combat is more engaging for me than turn-based, and while I’ve played numerous Pokémon games, it was not until I played Pokkén Tournament DX that I felt a change to the main game’s combat system should be on the table. The strategy element will still be there, but instead of losing a turn of combat to heal you can fully control your Pokémon’s movements outside of its attacks. In order to gain a feature you must give something away, and I do not think losing that part of the strategy is much of an ask.
If you become paralyzed by one of Pikachu’s attacks, a timer begins (let’s say 30 seconds), if you have something that stops or counters the paralysis then it stops or is negated, but if you do not then you have to endure the full allotment of time. Depending on your stats the time spent paralyzed differs, if poisoned then you will remain poisoned the whole battle until you heal your Pokémon either with an elixir or by visiting a Pokémon Center. We have already seen Pokémon Legends: Arceus change how Pokémon interact with you outside of battle and I love it because it makes the world feel more realistic. If you are or were a fan of the anime then adding something like that adds strategy when it comes to engaging with and capturing Pokémon, and adds a level of excitement and/or peril.
A NEW TYPE OF COMBAT MEANS MORE UNIQUE BATTLES
There are three important factors when it comes to game design, they must be fun, offer a level of accessibility features, and provide memorable moments for players. By changing the battle system in the game, developer Game Freak is providing us with new types of battles unique to us and the friends we are carrying in our pockets. Imagine having an air battle with Dragonite as Charizard, or being down to your last Pokémon which is Gyrados, and having to have to fight another Gyrados underwater. The possibilities are nearly endless depending on the type of pokémon you use. Let’s say you are playing as a Leafeon and are taking on a Golem, how cool would it be to use your speed advantage to manually dodge its attack and finish it off with Razor Leaf? It would be pretty cool.
Using a real-time battle system would also allow us to share more strategies and stories with our friends and our communities. Strategy still comes into play in battles, it is just changed to accommodate the new battle features. Now battles would not have an unlimited amount of space to fight, as trainers and their pokémon would be confined to a certain sized area, but being able to move freely and use the area how you want would be a unique way to defend yourself and attack your opponent. Game Freak should focus on how they can make battles unique and not make two battles feel the same, that is not how I feel when I play current games.
I choose a Pokémon based on its type advantage and swiftly win because I spent hours feeding it rare candies and buffing its stats through battling wild Pokémon and repeat over and over. It honestly gets boring after a while, and while you are probably thinking “Nick, you are still going to have that same issue and feeling with real-time combat” the truth is that will still be an issue unless Game Freak adds a certain mechanic. That mechanic is having a living AI that trains its Pokémon while you play. Imagine walking around in a wild area and seeing two other trainers (either human or computer) battling and upping their Pokémon’s stats. It would be the Pokémon equivalent of a roulette wheel where you never know what level of Pokémon or trainer you are going up against and they too can reach level 100.
YOUR REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING
Having a real-time combat system also makes online battling against other players more interesting too. Imagine as you played, the game collects data on your playstyle. For example, I love close combat so if someone were to battle me, they could pull up TrainerDex information and see how I battle, and if there is any type of advantage they would have over me. Now let’s say you are someone who is known for running away before every battle is finished, what can be added to the game is a reputation system. If your reputation is too low then only low-levelled AI trainers and wild Pokémon will battle you this, of course, means your Pokémon will level up much slower and the rewards for beating them will not be as high as if you beat a higher-levelled trainer.
How you battle carries meaning as does your reputation as a competitor. Losing a battle is not the end of the world, and if needed you can spend time training against wild Pokémon or trainers, both human and computer. Practice different attack combos, maybe future games could include a training mode as we see in various fighting games. There are so many different features that can be added to make the experience of being a Pokémon trainer more fruitful, both in terms of experience and memories made.
From an accessibility standpoint, there are multiple things that can make this type of gameplay accessible for those with disabilities or certain preferences. If you prefer or need turn-based fighting you can turn it on and off, you can have full button remapping and customization, a color-blind mode, as well as color indicators (similar to the ones in The Last of Us: Part 2 and Marvel’s Spider-Man) that allow you to see who is a friend and who is not, along with the various items you can pick up along your travels.
THESE IDEAS ARE NEW BUT ARE NOT PERMANENT
My hope as a lifelong player and fan of the franchise is these ideas get implemented, they do not have to stay forever, but it is worth giving them, especially this new battle system a try. While lifelong fans may not be as open to the change, after some time with the new battle system they might change their minds. Again, giving people the option to go back to a turn-based game like in Final Fantasy VII Remake will still make the game attractive to buy, but after 25-plus years of games, a change would not be all that bad. If play data and polling show more people are sticking with the classic battle system, then Game Freak can and should simply reverse course.
But like with food and other forms of entertainment, you do not know if you like something or not unless you try it.