Why Pokémon Needs to be 3D

Last week, my associate Alex Plant wrote an article on Why Pokémon doesn’t need a 3D World. Today I’m here with a counter-argument on why this move to a fully 3D rendered world is a necessary step forward.

2As a long time Pokémon fan, I am very excited about the recent announcement of Pokémon X and Y versions, and even more excited that the series is finally moving to full 3D rendered worlds. It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to since the first episode of the Pokémon anime aired on US television. Watching how Pokémon were able to move around and interact in a three dimensional world showed me just how much potential there was, and still is, for the games to improve. It was a stark contrast between battles in the anime and those that took place in the games. So much so that, while I’ve never seen any complaints personally, I imagine it alienated some potential fans. That problem isn’t completely solved mind you, since the battles will still likely be turn-based and not real-time, but this is a huge step forward.

There is a more technical reason the games needed to move to 3D rendered visuals as well however, and it has to do with the 3DS’ glasses-free 3D display. While the 2D visuals have had their charm, they lack the depth required to really make 3D interesting. That’s not to say it can’t be done with 2D graphics – 3D Classics Excitebike is proof of that – but the view the camera shows you needs to lend itself to the depth 3D adds, and Pokémon’s isometric view simply does not. And that’s just while exploring the world – the battles have always been extremely flat to the point that trying to add depth with 3D would simply be a waste of time.

In order to support the 3D capabilities of the 3DS properly, it was necessary to move on from 2D. Furthermore, it’s something fans have been clamoring for for a long time, albeit for a home console. While we’ll probably never get a home console version, this is the next best thing.


For me however, the biggest reason of all is that Pokémon’s style in 2D has become old and tired. The addition of a few 3D-rendered objects here and there and playing around with camera angles did help make things look a bit more fresh, but at the end of the day they didn’t really look too different from the original Red and Blue games. Now certainly, this plays on nostalgia, but you can only go so far with nostalgia as your fuel before the player gets bored. I found that I was tired with Pokémon’s 2D look when Black 2 and White 2 were released and try as I might, I simply had no interest in doing anything beyond choosing my starter. You see, some new spots of paint aren’t always enough, sometimes you have to tear the whole house down and rebuild for greater overall happiness.

210px-141KabutopsThere are other improvements I’d like to see, and maybe we’ll get a few with this new sixth generation. For example, I think we’re all tired of either Cut taking up one our monster’s precious move slots, or only bringing five of the monsters we actually want to train and one HM slave. Yes, it’s high time HMs were put out to pasture. Instead, I think they could be replaced with a special new group of moves for Pokémon called “Natural Abilities.” Does a Pokémon have sharp claws? Then it can cut down trees. Can it swim? Then you may surf on it. You get the idea. Because let’s be honest, Kabutops literally has scythes for hands. It shouldn’t be unable to cut down a tree because it doesn’t know HM01.

Maybe someday Pokémon will turn away from turn-based battles and move to something akin to Final Fantasy’s Active-Time Battle system, which I think could be a good fit. With the addition of a “Dodge” command that could be given at any time, battles would be about as close as they could get to those seen in the anime. And for the Pokémon purists and those seeking nostalgia, perhaps these moves forward would finally open the way for Red and Blue on the 3DS eShop.

Then again, maybe not. A fan can dream, though…


  • Twister27

    I agree with your sentiments. From what I have seen so far, I think I would prefer other generations of Pokémon to X and Y; the graphics do not look great, and there do not seem to really be any gameplay changes other than the fact that the world is 3D. However, I have always wanted the games to start mimicking the show. The idea of a 3D Pokémon game is great if it has real time battles, like those present in the show. Nonetheless, if the only difference between X and Y and the older generations is that there are ugly 3D graphics (like in the screenshot at the bottom of this article, which has extremely jagged edges), I don’t approve.

    Hopefully the transition to 3D will at least encourage Game Freak to put real-time battles in future games.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Kakeru Gilbert Warner

      I can’t recall where it was, but I read a comment about how bad Ocarina of Time looked when the first screenshots and videos of it popped up and then how much better the game looked when it was released months later. Suffice to say, Game Freak is still working on the game and the screenshots and video we have now are highly unlikely to be the final product we’ll receive in November.

      • RayxConsume

        Ocarina took 4 years of development, whereas GameFreak has stated they’ve only recently begun working on X/Y. However, considering newer tech and how much game development has evolved since then, I’m sure these games will do Pokemon justice.

        In my mind, the X/Y shift won’t be full on Colosseum/XD 3D, but will be one small step towards the three-dimensional handheld Pokemon game Gotham deserves.

    • AdvancePlays

      Anti-Aliasing, motherfucker, do you know what it is?

      • Twister27

        I do now. Thanks for letting me know what the term was!

        I don’t appreciate the name calling though.

        • AdvancePlays

          Sorry about that, I wanted to put it as simply and as bluntly as I could without sounding mundane.

  • Erimgard

    If it’s done right, it will add more to the exploration aspect. It has to really FEEL like a 3D game though, and not just a 2D game trying to be 3D.

  • ………..

    Imagine playing in a 3D plane, you being pikachu, the enemy being meowth. You can move around the arena and have a locked view on your target. The buttons A, B, X, and Y could be used as the four main attacks, L and R could be dodge/jump buttons, and with some button combination, you could do a move combo. Obviously there would be a limit on how much “energy” you used with each attack and dodge, limiting your moves, but it would run very smoothly. The touch screen could also do many functions, like pokeballs and potions. Depending on the terrain and area, some pokemon could be at an advantage. This is just one of the few possibilities of a 3D pokemon game.

  • zdog

    Amen! I was very excited for the move to 3D, and I say about time. Maybe this will get us one step closer to an open world fully 3D console release. Like you say a fan can dream

  • AdvancePlays

    Ok, I can agree with the new addition of 3D graphics being a good thing, but you can’t just change the whole fucken’ game! The battles need to stay the same because that’s the iconic Pokémon battle! Also, the addition of “Natural Abilities” would make the game so terribly linear. For example, either only having surfable plains of water near the end, or no trees to cut until halfway etc. It’s stupid, and would add no depth to the world.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      There’s no reason why the “unlocking” of traversal abilities couldn’t be tied to Gym Badges without actually needing to teach your monsters HM moves.

      • AdvancePlays

        But then it’s not a natural ability. It’s an ability that’s unlocked through gaining a bit of metal, but without the bonus of an attack. Surf, for example, is as good a water-type move as any.

  • stealth

    It doesnt need 3d. In fact sprites are a better art style which is why the game is still sprite based

  • stealth

    “Maybe someday Pokémon will turn away from turn-based battles and move to something akin to Final Fantasy’s Active-Time Battle system, which I think could be a good fit. ”

    your now disqualified from any further articles on the matter

  • stealth

    ” order to support the 3D capabilities of the 3DS properly, it was necessary to move on from 2D. ”

    Is that why sprites in 3d look better than models?

    is that why nintendo is doing sprite games on 3ds?

    god this site went to the dogs when they let people like this write

    • Cable

      Wow this article really ruffled you up huh? For what? Bringing up good points? We’re not in the 90′s anymore, the franchise needs to grow and the 3D models honestly look great so they’re just as nice as the 2D sprites. Not to mention battles will look more alive since they’re in 3D now, as seen in the trailer.

      • stealth

        your just as dumb as the writer

  • http://www.facebook.com/emiel.haakma Emiel Haakma

    In the trailer, trainers are shown. As opposed to previous games, they look really weird watching only their front. This is also what happens with a 3D world

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kyrunox Aaron Laye

    honestly, if it goes “Real Time” I don’t want it to be the main series. Do you realize how broken it would be? Especially for flying/levitating pokemon? Even if we went to the active battles, slow pokemon would have a horrendous disadvantage. Stats would need a complete overhaul.

  • BlackRaven6695

    Ah, that famous Nidorino vs. Gengar battle. I wish X and Y’s trailer had started with that battle rendered in 3D.

  • stealth

    what a trash article