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.
As 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.
There 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…