This is Why The ‘Pokemon’ Series Hasn’t ‘Evolved’

Published 2 years ago by

Pokemon Games Evolving

The Pokemon franchise has been around for over 14 years and yet every new version still manages to be a runaway success for Nintendo. The upcoming Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 have already sold gangbusters in Japan (moving over 1.6 million units the first two days it was on store shelves), and its popularity doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Still, even after all these years, many fans believe the series may be growing stale, and that it’s time for some change.

Gamasutra recently interviewed Game Freak director Junichi Masuda, and they asked the famed Pokemon director how his team goes about trying to keep the series fresh even after all these years. Masuda instead defended the overly familiar nature of each iteration of the Pocket Monster franchise, comparing the series to sports such as basketball and soccer as an example of games that have changed very little over time.

“Finding that balance every time is very difficult. But when you think about games, just like playing, for example, soccer and basketball, they’re games that have been around for a very long time. The core gameplay of those – the core of how you play basketball and soccer – hasn’t really changed. Over the years, there’s regulation changes or rule changes to those games, but the core gameplay doesn’t really change for those, and that’s how we kind of feel about Pokemon as well.”

Junichi’s comparison of Pokemon to real world sports is an odd one, but readers will understand where the game director is coming from. More accurately, Pokemon is comparable to annual video game franchises like FIFA and Call of Duty, where few changes occur in order to provide the core audience with a very familiar, yet somewhat different, gaming experience — while still meeting time restraints put on by publishers.

There’s certainly no debate that the series hasn’t, ironically enough, evolved much over the years, but there have been some noteworthy changes made to the core gameplay mechanics since the original Pokemon Red and Blue games launched in 1998. Game Freak has added online trading and battling, new creatures, and enhanced battle mechanics to their franchise, and it’s all been for the best too — that much is evident after reading our review of last year’s Pokemon Black and White games.

At this point, consumers know exactly what they’re getting when they purchase a new Pokemon game, and quite a few like it that way. But as long as fans keep forking over the cash for the latest installment, Game Freak and Nintendo will stick with the tried and true formula that made the property such a success to begin with. In an industry where many say originality is rare, it’s safe to say that long-time fans with a “gotta catch ’em all” mentality don’t really feel the need to fix something that isn’t broken, and the gameplay formula that millions have continued to support for over a decade is far from teetering on the brink of obscurity.

That being said, there are always a few things that can be refined, and the jump to the Nintendo 3DS should act as a nice catalyst for plenty of new enhancements and additions to the Pokemon series. Now, let’s hope we’ll be able to see how much has changed between the original Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire and their (hopefully) forthcoming 3DS remakes in the near future.

Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2, the newest additions to the core Pokemon series, will be available on October 7th, exclusively for the Nintendo DS.

Follow me on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.

Source: Gamasutra

TAGS: 3DS, DS, Game Freak, Nintendo, Pokemon, Pokemon Black 2, Pokemon White 2, The Pokemon Company

  • Kholdstare89

    I definitely agree with the man. I would argue that older fans play the games still BECAUSE they know what to expect out of them. I certainly do, and you’re right when you say they enhance the battle mechanics each time. The competitive scene is so fun and it stands to get even more fun as more mechanics are changed or added. The only thing I think I would like to see out of a future Pokemon generation is a Farfetch’d evolution (c’mon Game Freak!)

    If people really want Pokemon to change, they should play the spin-offs. Who is to say that they won’t eventually be what you’re looking for while the main series can stay true to itself?

  • boogoo

    As much as I love the Pokemon games, there’s definitely room the evolve. There’s a lot of potential to expand it passed handheld games. I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t see a full fledged Pokemon game for a console system. The possibilities are endless for the Wii U!

    • Felix

      my thought exactly

    • UnbuildTheGame

      They kind of did this with Pokemon Colosseum on the Gamecube.

      • Arnold_dajar

        and colesium was the best.

  • jwalka

    the japanese to me have always sucked at sequels ot great ideas, they either make things worse (resident evil as an example) or give more of the same thing (pokemon), which gets stale fast, like CoD and the GoW series (both GoW series). not only that but the narrative for most japanese games takes a back seat to the visuals and gameplay, that’s another field they need work on.

    as it stand the asian developers are the ones with great designs, concepts and visual aspects of gaming, but suffer everywhere else, where as US and european devs balance things out, generally making a ‘almost epic’ game that is ruined by the short development time (2 years imo is pretty short if you want to go for epic).

    • UnbuildTheGame

      Jwalka, you need to learn how to make a point and back it up. You stated a strong point, but your argument became irrelevant upon saying “like CoD and the GoW series.” You were talking about Japanese developers, so use Japanese examples. Call of Duty, Gears, and God of War are all made in the U.S., so that piece of information, being the only thing to back up your thesis, made your argument pointless and irrelevant.

      Also, I’m assuming you’ve never played all of the Gears/God of War games long enough to be able to make a complete synopsis, because all three games in both series play vastly different from one another, and I’m not just talking about the inclusion of new weapons and moves, but physics, fluidity, and A.I. reactions as well.

    • ATG

      The first paragraph is a contradiction in Jwalkas comment. Talking about where Japanese devs fail but then using American games as an example, which means it isn’t just Japanese devs lol. He also only used those as an example because he likes to talk about those games twenty four seven and be troll-like.

      And to sum up the 2nd paragraph: Japanese games suck, American and European games don’t.

  • Conner

    Play Pokemon Conquest. There’s your change.

  • Rusty Shackleford III

    Who else wouldn’t mind seeing new types for starters? Fire, Grass and Water are not the only rock, paper scissors types in the game. I’ve been thinking for a long time that they ought to do Fighting, Dark and Psychic for the starter types. Fighting is effective against dark, dark against psychic and psychic against fighting, works fine to me. Might not be a bad idea either so that the final evolution of these new starters turn into water/dark, grass/psychic and fire/fighting. That way no matter what your starter would always have a chance against either of the other two starters.

    • Riley Little

      It’s funny that you mention the different starter types. I mentioned that those exact types were something I wanted to see when Pokemon Black and White were first announced ( ), and I still think the new versions that will eventually hit 3DS should incorporate the Dark/Fighting/Psychic trio. It would make for a nice break from the standard Fire/Water/Grass starters.

      • Rusty Shackleford III

        Definitely, it would have a fresh feel. Not to mention they’re running out of animals to base their starters on by always using the same starting types.

        When do you think we can expect to see a new generation of Pokemon? Isn’t it usually a 3 year cycle for new pokemon generations? Assuming that we should see a new generation within a year or two right?

        The reason I ask is because I am still waiting for my 3DS Pokemon game, they can do sooooo much on the 3DS with pokemon. Although I can’t imagine what the new versions would be called.

        • Riley Little

          If I were to fathom a guess, they probably began development on the next games shortly after Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 launched in Japan. I’d imagine the revamped Pokedex app may be an excuse to display 3D models that future games will take advantage of — providing the developers opt for 3D models rather than sprites.

          The next-gen of Pokemon, however, will depend entirely on whether or not Game Freak decides to remake Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire next. If they decide to, then I wouldn’t expect to see any new Pokemon for another 2 to 3 years.

          • Rusty Shackleford III

            I kind of hope they don’t remake those games. I liked Ruby/Sapphire, but not enough to the point where I want to see them remade.

            Honestly, I am an old school player and wouldn’t mind seeing another Red/Blue remake in 3D, the original games never get old to me. So much of my childhood…..

      • boogoo

        I love that idea. Though I may be a little biased since Fighting is my favorite Pokemon type. :)

        • Rusty Shackleford III

          I’ve always thought that they didn’t have enough good fighting types in the games.

          I would also like to see an Eevee evolution that is a fighting type in the next gen.

  • ATG

    I want a Pokemon game like Skyrim. Graphics can be cartoony to match Pokemon’s style. With less graphics they can probably fit a bigger world into the game with great performance. Battles can be the same just three dimensional. Or maybe let us control our own Pokemon and actually include all of them.

    • Dovahkiin


      • boogoo

        That would make one hell of a game. I’d limit it to the first generation though. :)

        • UnbuildTheGame

          I agree, I would buy this game on launch day if that actually happened, but yes, it would need to be first generation only. I feel like those were the most memorable anyway. (I don’t understand how anyone can keep up with all of them now that there are hundreds more.)

          • Narte

            They are starting to get sad, the last pokemon game i picked up was SoulSilver. Waiting for Magma red, or Ocean blue (or whatever cheesy name) for the next remake 😉 Elderscrolls VI Johto anyone?

  • fanofgames

    I remember a pokemon game where you had a glove and you could catch other peoples pokemon, i have no idea what it is called i played it long ago, but i do know that it had open exploration with skyrim playstyle but cartoony graphics. It was for the gamecube if i remember correctly. I liked that game.

    • fanofgames

      Ah, pokemon collosseum was its name, its sequel is called pokemon xd: the shale of darkness i believe. Only played the first though.

  • ATG

    A man can dream

  • tanto

    “Still, even after all these years, many fans believe the series may be growing stale, and that it’s time for some change.”

    no real pokemon fan thinks that

    each gen brings alot of new things

  • OneGameRanter

    I grew up hearing all these talks around me saying that Pokemon is a “dying” franchise, and believed it.

    Recently, I picked up HeartGold/Black, and realized just how wrong the talks were. Pokemon isn’t a kid game, it’s probable one of the deepest RPGs series packed with incredible amount of content. Yet, it’s simple enough at the same time to appeal to children. So when people my age may consider pokemons to be “old”, the younger generation certainly doesn’t.

    And are the new pokemons ugly? Oh ya. But I realized that the pokemons from when I was little were just as ugly 😛
    How I wish Pokemon’s gameplay could be combined with Dragon Quest’s monsters.

    I do think that there’s a huge room for improvement in the plot. Pokemon story sucks. They need to start thinking outside of the bubble. Look at Dragon Quest V! Why does the story always need to focus on Badges and becoming the best Pokemon trainer? Or freeing Pokemon?

  • jack

    I just picked up Pokemon Black 2 days ago. This is my first Pokemon game and I like it so far.

  • Ryxxle

    Pokemon is still one of my favorite series. I enjoy it every time I pick it up. Deep gameplay, interesting characters and always so much to do.
    Nintendo/Gamefreak need to capitalize on this franchise. Make that long awaited Pokemon MMO. I’m sure everybody will jump on it launch. Or make a Pokemon game like the portable versions where you create your own trainer and actually see everything thru the trainers perspective. I’ve been wanting something like this since online gaming started becoming a big thing.

  • Samus

    That’s an interesting comparison that was made with sports. Not changing it, because there are people out there who like the game just as it is. Looking at the profits, also proves the makers of pokemon their point. I may buy the newest one for 3ds. I stopped playing it way back with the first ones, because it felt like I was playing the same game, and I got bored. I would love a pokemon rpg game! I was going to get Conquest, but it got bad reviews. However, I always wish the best for this franchise, I love pikachu! PIKA PIKA!!!!!

  • Andrew

    They should just release a pokemon game that has every single one in it.

  • Dragon

    they are obviously living on old glory, what’s next pokemon pink=

  • Daniel

    My problem with the Pokemon games has always been with the single player. After the first couple of generations, you start to realize that the story is largely the same, except that the new team of baddies has a different name. The battle system can definitely be deep, but you can’t have any fun with it until the end-game, which takes hours to get to. Normally, I want games to be long, but that’s when the story isn’t a chore. This is why people created that Nuzlocke challenge. It’s the only way to have any fun with that portion of the game.

    • Daniel

      The story (which you’re required to beat) in Pokemon X and Y will typically take around thirty hours* if you’re not speed running it. That’s an extremely long amount of time to put into a glorified chore.


  • Probliss

    The comparison between Fifa and Pokemon is inaccurate simply because the games are different. Fifa is a game where two teams of players are competing for a common objective. Pokemon isn’t that style of game. It is an RPG, and in an RPG players expect a great plot and character development to say the least. LoL is more like Fifa, because it is also a game where a team of players are competing for a common objective. Junichi Masuda needs to understand that his game is no where near the same game as soccer or basketball and stop being lazy. The whole “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument demonstrates a stance that is unwilling to improve. Why does it matter? Because if I’m going to pay more than $40 for a game it MUST present something different that communicates to me why this isn’t just the same game over. I would like a new approach like Pokemon dungeons. If they still want to do the whole pokemon trainer thing the least they could do is include a story that isn’t a complete replica of the other stories with different names. It’s always about two pokemon gangs fighting for something and you come in and kick everyones ass until they calm the F*** down.

    ALL pokemon games are like this:
    1. You wake up and go out into the world for the first time
    2. Some lazy professor wants you to finish a pokedex he has barely started filling.
    3. You get a rival that will fight always fight you at the most inconvenient times throughout the entire game.
    4. You get badges after fighting the same stereotypical gym leaders with different names.
    5. You find a gang or more than one gang doing something that is too boring to care about, so you beat them senseless until they realise they must stop because you will always get in their way.
    6. You fight the elite four.

    The entire time playing all you really do is grind. This game is a grind fest. This game won’t get one cent from me until they change things…
    Also, why does pokemon have to be about me getting badges? Are you telling me there is NOTHING that can be done in the pokemon world. Do wars not exist? What if I played as a poor character doing whatever I need to do to survive and I use pokemon as a means to defend myself?

    • Imaginatio

      “Also, why does pokemon have to be about me getting badges? Are you telling me there is NOTHING that can be done in the pokemon world. Do wars not exist?”

      There are the Ranger spin off games that everybody seems to forget when mentioning these. Or Pokemon Conquest.

      It’s true, they have a winning formula. Don’t fix what ain’t broke. But there are things (like walking diagonally remember when we yearned for that!) that many fans would love to see implemented in games, or to see the franchise ‘evolve’ into. A bigger Colosseum/XD game version would definitely not go amiss.