Earlier this year, Eurogamer released leaked details which appeared to confirm the long held rumour that the Nintendo NX would be a home console and portable system hybrid. While this met with mixed reaction from gamers around the globe, Pokémon Go stole the world's attention by becoming more popular than Tinder and increasing sales of walking boots. Additionally, Nintendo hasn't been shy about their mobile gaming ambitions, even considering it one of their four key areas as evidenced by the release of Miitomo.
Meanwhile, amongst all this innovation and development, the Pokémon series has stagnated somewhat. While the franchise will always rely on certain key tropes as it's core game-play, the Pokémon games of late have simply been minor graphical updates and gimmicks. As a player since October 5 1999 (the UK release date of Pokémon Red for the Game Boy) I have been disappointed in what seems to be a lack of desire to drive a series I love forward.
Interestingly, according to MCV, the NX will see a Pokémon game for the console during it's release window. But what could this new entry into the series look like? I think that potential evidence lies in Pokémon Go and the history of the Pokémon games. Here are my big predictions.
Total Graphical and Gameplay Overhaul
With the NX being a portable and home console, Pokémon will finally have the chance to present a main franchise game with real power behind it. While the 3DS games have been a considerable improvement over earlier entries, they were still limited by the handheld's power. Imagine a fully 3D Pokémon world to explore and catch 'em all in. The gameplay footage of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild clearly shows the beauty that Nintendo can create on the Wii U. With the NX being considerably more powerful, the gyms and buildings could be fully realised, thus giving them the true splendour and awe they deserve. It would also give the Pokémon team an opportunity to tell a story with more than screen flashes and facial features.
Furthermore, the detail and polish that could be given to the Pokémon themselves would be a console seller in itself. Many people were happily surprised by the character model quality in Pokémon Go, and have dreamed of seeing a proper HD Pikachu electrifying villains. The power of a home console could mean we see these Pokémon actually roaming free in the wild. Instead of random battles, you could see some wild Pokémon be placid and would need to be engaged in battle. Other more aggressive Pokémon would actively engage you in battle. The NX would offer gamers a new Pokémon experience, but one that is still firmly linked to the series' roots.
The main Pokémon canon has never wanted to stray away from the handheld scene. This has definitely held it back. The hybrid console would mean this barrier would be removed, especially if the rumoured tech spec of the NX turns out to be true.
A Proper Narrative
The problem with a smaller screen and lower processing potential means that some elements need to be simplified or boiled down to almost nothing. Recent Pokémon entries have tried to develop storylines or character motivations but this has mostly been relegated to a character model waving their hand in the air and delivering Bond-villain-esque dialogue.
Given the opportunity to develop a game for a home console, the Pokémon team would finally have the tools to tell a proper story. Characters could fully emote, the world around them could be affected by their actions, and you could see the true majesty of an evil Pokémon reaping wrath in a city named after a colour. I would be absolutely ecstatic to play a character with more motivation than "It'll get me the key/item/NPC to open the next section of the game".
While for many the narrative is simply a side dish to the Pokémon main course, I and a growing number of others are fascinated by the lore of the series. Pokémon Theory channels and YouTube videos are growing daily, evidencing the desire for a richer exploration of the background to the games. The NX, if rumours are true, would allow the developers to demonstrate the depth of the Pokémon universe.
Mobile and Social Integration
You can be sure that Nintendo haven't ignored the impact of Pokémon Go. Furthermore, you can be sure that Nintendo wouldn't lend out it's power series without expecting something in return.
The Pokémon Go app could be updated to communicate with the Nintendo network and have the Pokémon NX critters added into the mobile app. You would be able to (possibly exclusively?) catch NX Pokémon using the app and transfer them into your game. You could transfer eggs and Pokémon between the NX and Pokémon Go. This creates the mobile integration Nintendo are aiming for, and produces a reason for people to keep the app on their phones in 2017.
This also continues to drive the importance of the social aspect in the game. A study done by Prof. Dr. Claus-Peter H. Ernst of the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences highlighted that the physical meeting of people, and interactions between them while playing Pokémon Go, may be a key component in it's success. Nintendo would be wise to tie this into the next entry in the series.
While these may all be based on speculation and prediction, these three key ideas would seem to fit into Nintendo's affection for out-of-the-box productions. If they truly want the Nintendo NX to compete, they have to have more than one flagship title. For Nintendo, Game Freak, and the Pokémon Company this means using the hardware to revitalise a series which is in danger of being less effective, or fainting completely. Hopefully, the NX will be the Pokémon Centre the franchise needs. And maybe Nurse Joy will be there.
Do you agree with my predictions? What are your thoughts on the future of Pokémon games? What would you like to see changed or kept? Let me know in the comments below, and don't forget to subscribe to keep yourself updated with all things GameOrNought.