Over 20 years after its debut, the Pokémon craze is as strong as ever, and the franchise is once again preparing to evolve on new hardware. With no official word, fans are left to speculate whether the upcoming Pokémon game for Nintendo Switch is the beginning of the eighth generation, a return trip to Sinnoh, or something else entirely. Recent rumors suggest the mystery game could even be a series reboot.
All of these are viable options, but another possibility that Game Freak should consider exploring is a return to the beginning. For the first ever main series Pokémon game in HD and the first ever main series Pokémon game on a home console, Game Freak should consider returning to Kanto with remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue.
"But those games already got remakes!" I hear you cry, and that's an excellent point. Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green were excellent remakes, and they're some of my favorite games in the series to date. However, those games are rapidly approaching their 15th anniversary, and there are many compelling reasons why it's time to triple dip.
The Games Desperately Need an Update
Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green made their debut in 2004, and the Pokémon series has gone through some drastic changes in the decade and a half since then. The most obvious difference at first glance is just how much the graphics have changed. Fire Red and Leaf Green came out during the third generation, and from the fourth generation onward the Pokémon series has used 3D graphics. The results have been hit or miss (at least in my opinion), but that's largely due to hardware restrictions and the low resolution of Nintendo handheld screens. If ever there was a right console to bring the original games into the 3D space, the HD-capable Switch is it.
Another big way that Pokémon has evolved since the Game Boy Advance days is in the realm of online play. The Wireless Adapter that let players trade and battle without a link cable was pretty impressive stuff for a handheld in 2004, but it's time for the first generation to embrace wireless play on a global scale with all the features available in newer games.
The fourth generation of Pokémon games also brought some pretty big changes to the battle system. Most notably, physical and special attack classifications have been reorganized in a way that makes a little more sense. Whether an attack was physical or special used to be based entirely on its type. For instance, all Fire attacks were special and all Steel attacks were physical. Ever since Diamond and Pearl, each move's status as either physical or special is determined individually, based on the attack's description. So Surf is special and Aqua Tail is physical, even though they're both Water-type moves. While more casual players might not notice the difference, it drastically changed the face of competitive Pokémon battling forever, and returning to Fire Red after four generations with the new battle mechanics can be a bit jarring.
Even the control scheme of the Game Boy Advance is showing its age, as Pokémon began its shift towards touch screen controls on Nintendo DS. Switch offers plenty of other features that could enhance the experience as well, including HD rumble, the ability to take and upload in-game screenshots, Amiibo support, and, of course, the ability to play both at home or on the go.
It's the Right Time For Old and New Fans Alike
I think it goes without saying that remaking some of the most popular and influential games of all time is a guaranteed recipe for millions upon millions of sales, but the timing is especially advantageous right now. Thanks to the incredible success of Pokémon GO, interest in the franchise has skyrocketed to an all-time high, and millions of people have become new fans of Pokémon. Because GO initially included only monsters from the first generation, they are bound to be some of the most popular among new fans.
There's also been a revival of Generation One love outside of the games. Last year The Pokémon Company returned to Kanto with their latest film, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You. The new movie served as a reboot to the film franchise, introducing many new viewers to the Indigo League quest for the first time. How many of these new fans would love to play that story out for themselves on Switch?
The timing is also right when it comes to longtime or lapsed fans of the series. Back during the high point of Wii's life cycle, New Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country Returns each sold astronomically well, and nostalgia was a major factor. For many players, Wii was the first Nintendo console they owned since Super Nintendo, and Nintendo capitalized with two top-rated 2D platformers that reminded those lapsed players of the gameplay they fell in love with decades ago. We're seeing a repeat of that situation on Nintendo Switch, with Nintendo strongly appealing to lapsed gamers from the Nintendo 64 era and before. How many millions of Pokémon Red and Blue fans fell in love with the series 20 years ago, but haven't picked up a new game in two or three or six generations? Remaking the games that started it all on Nintendo Switch is the perfect way to bring them back into the fold.
Game Freak Should Take Their Time on Switch
Creating a new generation of Pokémon games from scratch requires an immense amount of time and effort, and that will be more true than ever on Nintendo Switch, as main series Pokémon games have never been in HD before. The developers will have to pay even greater attention to detail than usual, and the pressure to deliver an impressive, polished world filled with imaginative and well-crafted Pokémon will be high. You only get one shot at nailing Pokémon's HD debut, so it's not something you want to rush.
By starting with a re-imagined Kanto, Game Freak's developers can practice developing an HD Pokémon game in a familiar setting, significantly reducing the challenge. This means they can take their sweet time quietly and carefully sculpting each new eighth generation Pokémon while fans joyously relive the Game Boy days or experience Kanto for the first time. Given Switch's immense popularity, it's certain to be many young gamers' first console, making it the perfect platform for a return to square one.
While the talented team at Game Freak dreams up a new story, a new land, and new monsters, they can also use the extra time to master the new hardware. As Pokémon Sun and Moon director Shigeru Ohmori recently revealed, it can take quite some time to realize what a new console is capable of creating. Game Freak initially thought what they achieved with Pokémon X and Y was the pinnacle of the capabilities of Nintendo 3DS (boy what a letdown that would have been!), but their mastery of the hardware continued to evolve with Sun and Moon before culminating in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Remaking the first generation of Pokémon games in HD should give Game Freak ample time to gain an intimate understanding of Nintendo Switch development, allowing the eighth generation to be a true example of a Pokémon game that pushes Switch to its limits.