This gripe is an odd one, because the series has sometimes been guilty of it, yet sometimes not. Generation one didn’t really have a story, yet bashing my head against the tedium of Team Plasma in Pokemon White felt like I was being punished for a crime I couldn’t remember. Not surprising I couldn’t remember it though, what with that ponce with the green hair dragging me across yet another Ferris wheel ride to mumble animé angst at me for the third time in a row.

The annoying thing is that it is possible to write stories that can appeal to both children and adults. Movies tend to be the best example of this. Toy Story, The Jungle Book, The Princess Bride, all are examples of great narratives that can be appreciated by all ages. But games in general, and Pokemon in particular, often struggle with this.


I hope this thing remembers that this is a kiddy’s game, because otherwise I might be in serious trouble.

I know I said earlier that a gamer can ignore context, but I’d prefer not to. A game with fun mechanics is good. A game with fun mechanics AND a great story is a plus-sized bag of sweets with a prostitute on top. So aim for that, please. You did quite well with Platinum, almost getting a little Lovecraftian in tone (though almost certainly by accident) as we wandered through an absolute void, hunting for the horribly powerful creature of darkness that dwelt spitefully at the bottom. But when you fuck up and start writing for kiddies again, I’m uncomfortably reminded of my age, as random NPC townsfolk no.37 talks to me like I’m a particularly thick toddler, or tells me that “I love my Pokemon!” in a manner that would seem patronising to Barney the Dinosaur. Yes, I know how much you love shorts, idiot child. Can you get me an adult to talk to?

I know that this is probably Nintendo’s least pressing issue. Those who are on board the Pokemon bandwagon aren’t likely to be diverted by a crap narrative at this point, but it would be nice to see a good one, and like I said, you can write a plot that works for all ages without too much difficulty. Just a thought, because I’ve heard Pokemon has a bit of money floating around, and I know that a writer will do anything for a bit of cash, up to and including lick the employer’s testicles.


I know this one kind of ties into point number three, but it’s an important point, so I feel the need to reinforce it: Once we become champion, don’t let it end there. I know, some games didn’t stop at that point, but enough did that it’s worth mentioning. Make an effort to add new features, because it’s frustrating to go through all the effort and get nothing out of it. Winning the Elite Four always felt a bit anticlimactic to me. You smack down member number four, move onto the champion, who is always either your rival or that confident character who helps you out two thirds through the game, beat the hell out of him, and boom. You’re done. No really, we just have to upload your scores to Reddit on this overly large machine (don’t pay attention to how much it looks and sounds like the one in the pokemon centres) and we can all break for lunch.


The beauty of this place is that even if I lose the battle, I can just push a pile of books on top of her and say that I won.

The worst games have always let it end there. Oh, you can still explore, but it’s all places you’ve been before, and now you’ve levelled up to the point where it’s all too easy and without any reward. I kind of imagine this is how Superman would feel if there were no supervillians. He just breezes through, detached and disinterested, whilst all those he fights bounce off him like tumbleweed against a freight train.

But adding new regions with tougher threats helps with this problem, as do areas that were previously too high level with interesting plot stuff in there. Fire Red’s matrix of islands worked well, bouncing between various places to find a rock that was useful for some contrived reason. It was too short, and again, it was an anticlimactic ending to the game as everything just sort of resolved itself with no twist, but the intention and the spirit was right. Ideally, the Elite Four should not represent the end, but the midpoint of the game, as new stuff opens up that is worthy of such a kick-ass trainer. Perhaps an island full of former champions, or an escaped and dangerous legendary that needs taking down a peg? Perhaps a Team Rocket revival in which they are planning some new, stupid scheme? Whatever it is, make it thick and meaty and full of juicy content, not a few table scraps that got rejected from the main game by the QA department.


Alright, I’ll just say it – I liked the Pokemon contests in Gen III. They were flawed, and a bit too reliant on chance, but I liked the idea of developing some aspect of my team that wasn’t related to stamping on somebody else’s. It made them feel less like weapons in a fight and more like actual creatures, as other NPCs judged how pretty or cool they looked.

Pokemon’s battle mechanics have always been fairly strong and are constantly being refined, but the games have forever struggled to think of things to do when you’re not fighting. The contests, the casino, those weird minigames it would throw at you at the end of Fire Red, nothing really sticks out. None of it has had the effort put into it that this sort of thing needs. Compared to the combat, any other mechanics or gameplay styles felt rushed, like they uploaded whatever the designers had been working on in their spare time at the end. What Pokemon needs is something fun, developed, and rewarding with regards to how you play it and what it gives you, and I think I have the idea – the player’s own safari park.

Seriously, I mean it. Manage the thing like a business, see what customers do and don’t like, research ideas, pay for new pokemon, build new features, and so on. The benefits? Regular cash income based on how well it’s performing, items found when excavating new land, and the occasional rare pokemon from the park itself. Simple.


Calm down or I’ll taser you with my Raichu again, don’t think I won’t. Now face the wall whilst Zigzagoon here sniffs for any narcotics on your person.

No? Alright then, how about the ability to act as some sort of peacekeeping force once you become champion? Randomly generated crimes are sent to you via text, you can respond to them and sort them out with your pokemon like some brightly coloured, under-age SWAT team, breaking into Team Rocket Headquarters and tackling them to the ground. Hell yes.

Not your kinda thing? Fair enough, how about a job at the Pokemon Day Care Center, where you have to deduce how to elevate the creature through a combination of loving care and drill-sergeant training, like an even more sickeningly cute version of Nintendogs?

These were just thought of from the top of my head. I’m not saying it needs to be any of these, though I do think the first idea has some potential. Just make sure that there is something else, something tangible. You can stop it feeling like a contrivance or a gimmick by making real and tangible rewards to bring into the main game, and have the main game influence the other mechanic in some way. Maybe you beat a gym leader using a fire-type pokemon, so suddenly there’s a demand for fire-types in the safari park and you can make some extra money by throwing charmanders in there. Or perhaps you catch a legendary ice-type, and this gets around, until everybody wants an ice-type pokemon, at which point you can capitalise on that and start getting snow machines in and painting all the creatures blue.


Basically, we’re getting there. We really are. Pokemon is like most other Nintendo properties, full of potential but unwilling to progress unless it’s guaranteed safety, but people know what’s needed and should tell Nintendo, because that will motivate them. Any of the above would help, all of them would help make a magnificent game. I’m not saying that would be all it would take, nor would I suggest that it should never go anywhere after this, but it’s a damn fine start.

Oh, and take out Vanillish. That thing is just weird.


Ah, it seems like only yesterday I was desperately trying to take down Brock’s bloody Onix with the starting Pikachu. Pokemon as a series has been around for almost two decades now, and has made enough money to buy its own country and have every living creature there forced into a small red and white ball.

I was playing Pokemon since the beginning, I remember owning both Blue and Yellow as a child and frowning my way through them, as my eyesight deteriorated in direct proportion to my social standing. I’ve owned at least one game from every generation, but as I picked up my copy of Alpha Sapphire last year, I realised it was it was more out of a sense of tradition than any desire to play the thing. In fact, looking back, I started to realise I haven’t really enjoyed the games since I played Platinum back on the first Nintendo DS.

Some might say that this due to me having finally grown up, and might be what little cultural urge I have, rapidly attempting to drag me into my twenties with everyone else, but I’m not so sure. You see, the thing about children’s games that doesn’t apply to children’s television, is that one can still appreciate the mechanics of a game whilst ignoring the context of it. Or, to give an example, chess is still chess, even if all the pieces have animé haircuts.

So with that in mind, here are my Six top tips for Game Freak, or Nintendo, or The Pokemon Company or The Illuminati or whoever the hell owns the franchise now. Your games were good, there’s no denying that, especially Platinum, Emerald, and the real shining star that was Crystal. Here’s how you bring them up to date and make them truly great.


OK, so the original Pokemon games were designed for snotty, idiot children, and you know what? I get that. Nobody really expected the franchise to explode the way it did and develop the adult following that it has now. But that audience existed for one reason – not to play against the NPCs in your game, but to play against the much greater challenge of each other.


You… You’re the one that had that muk! YOU BASTARD! I’LL KILL YOU!

See, Pokemon has always been fairly easy at best, and an absolute cakewalk at worst. As long as you had the type advantage, you could be five levels beneath your opponent and still wipe the floor with them. In fact, the older games had a few more teeth, sometimes throwing enemies with tricky tactics at you, forcing you to think on your feet. I’m thinking of that damn Muk and its minimize power, and I know you are too.

But Pokemon, bizarrely, has only gotten easier as it progresses. X and Y practically threw a whole kaleidoscope of variously powered pokemon at you from the get-go, meaning that within ten minutes you had every type you needed, and the game might as well bend over and ask for it gentle. I breezed through the whole thing whilst barely paying attention, and when the stupid gimmick that was “Mega-Evolution” reared its ugly head, I just became annoyed. It’s a mechanic where the most impressive pokemon in the game can get a sudden and cost-free power-up, like they’re auditioning to be a villain in Dragonball.

The game could’ve just played itself for the rest of the story, because whatever useless tactics I took to, I always ended up winning. And that’s not good enough. People sometimes approach the game with self-inflicted rules or handicaps, such as refusing to use the starter pokemon or releasing any that faint during the game, but it’s a failure of the games that the players have to impose these restrictions just to give it life again.

So you know what, Pokemon? Have your toothless, safe, babies-first turn-based strategy game. That’s cool. But have an option for those who want to play against a game with some actual challenge to it. Make enemies tougher, good pokemon rarer, make AI that know how to use a tactic more complex than “use potion when hurt.” Whatever it takes, I’m ready for it. Or, more appropriately, I hope I’m not.


Seven hundred of the little animé bastards? Piss off, Pokemon. No, seriously, why on earth would anybody without severe brain damage want to catch them all these days? In the first generation, OK, I could understand that. There’s a hundred and fifty-one, which is manageable, and they’ve all had a fair deal of thought go into them. The legendary pokemon number only five, making them special, and whilst hiding Mew away from those who don’t live in Japan or a Toys R’ Us is a dick move, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and attribute that to teething problems.

But over four times that many? It’s just not worth the effort, even for the most rabidly obsessive completionist. On top of which, none of the games ever hold more than half of them at once, meaning you have to fiddle about with other, older games to transfer them over. Ugh.

All of 'em.

Yeah, I think I might not, if it’s all the same to you, Nintendo.

But the real nail in the coffin is that collecting them just becomes boring, especially as it’s often hard to do until you’ve completed the main story. Everybody with any sense of fun loses patience before they’ve hit the mid-point, and because the only two things in the game with any value are pokemon themselves, and master balls which have no purpose but to catch the damn things, there’s nothing that the game can reward you with. It always seemed like an enormous anticlimax. You’ve caught them all! You’ve really done it! One hundred percent completion, hell yes! So here’s a primary school certificate and a juice box, now sit down and wait for the next batch of sprites to be released.

So being a collector is pretty much a wash. But not to worry, this is a problem with an answer, and it ties in to my next point.


As mentioned earlier, I still think of the second generation, Gold, Silver and Crystal, as being the apex of the series and a classic example of how to do a game sequel properly. Rather than just splash about in the remnants of the old game, Gen II brought in a new region with less linearity and an interesting mix of aesthetics, put in a rival who was less of an irritant and more of an actual adversary, added new mechanics to balance the game properly and even had an underlying narrative about the schism between tradition and modernity. It took the original concept and improved it on every level, just as a good sequel does.

But as I was dusting myself down after having beaten the Elite Four, and considering another playthrough, imagine my surprise! The old region of Kanto was back, fully available for exploration, and yet having changed dynamically since the last game over the canonical three-year gap. This was a delightful bonus that ended, of course, in the greatest challenge that the series has ever offered – the original protagonist, Red, waiting for the hero to show up and take the Sisyphean task of beating them and becoming a true master.

The series has occasionally indulged in variations on this idea, such as the island cluster at the end of the Gen I remakes, but they never had the same sort of stakes that the original had. Therefore, I invite you to imagine Pokemon Rainbow (or whatever the hell they’d call it), the game with every region featured, containing every pokemon from the series. Every single one, legendaries, the ones you had to download, all of them. Make one enormous saga of a story to keep them all interesting and relevant, raise the level cap to accommodate for a longer game, and let us really go at it with the combined nostalgia and lust for power that the game would bring. Some might say that it would be in Nintendo’s interest to stagger out this content like they do now, but I think this would make for the best final product, and let’s be honest – do you really think it wouldn’t sell eighty-billion copies? Pokemon makes more money than the Catholic church already, and a massive game like this would probably make so much cash that Japan would collapse under its weight.