Best of 2012! See Me in 3D: Pokémon

Continuing our 3DS exploratory feature, Adam discusses the future of Pokémon.

By Adam Sorice. Posted 12/27/2012 13:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

See Me in 3D Pokémon masthead

Same Gameplay, A Lusher Experience

There’s an unspoken truth about diehard fans of the Pokémon franchise: it’s a game that we all love but goodness it looks drab. Lacklustre. Even worse, lazy. And when you’re racked with self doubt of your blind adoration of a game based on making adorable little creatures knock Fifty Shades of Grey, Seven Shades of, the stuffing out of each other, the last thing you want to feel is that the developers are just coasting on things. Pokémon looks a lot better than it should, most games still using sprite artwork that basic look dreadful (mainly because they’re from the 90s) but due to the ingenuity of the team and the gradual integration of 3D structures in the overworld and camera trickery, the franchise has managed to look passable. Passable and nothing more.

Pokémon Black and White battle screenshot, Zorua and Zoroark
Foul Play? More like “Gruesome Pixelization”.

Pokémon Black and White and the fifth generation is really time to call quits with the lo-tech aspect of the Pokémon franchise. Not only do the games fail to look noticeably more impressive than they did back in the Game Boy Advance days of Ruby and Sapphire (probably why we’re unlikely to get DS remakes of those games, something to keep in mind) but the efforts of the developers to make Black and White look visually sharp (an attempt to foreground the game in the hopes of pulling in the player to some degree) caused the overall aesthetic to be brutally pixellated and lead to the overall detriment of the gaming experience. Contrast this with the weird distancing used to save time on rendering big 3D aspects of the game’s city scenes and you realise just how backwards Pokémon’s visual actually are.

All of this would be understandable if we were still on the kind of hardware found in the Game Boy Advance, you’d forgive a few rough edges for the boldness of it all, but the DS is a powerful little machine. Much more powerful than what the Pokémon games would lead us to believe. Obvious examples of games that graphically wipe the floor with Pokémon include the impressive handheld remake of Final Fantasy III, which managed to run all its cutscenes from the in-game engine and still looked flawless for its time and even today, and games such as the Nintendo-developed franchise Fossil Fighters (shown below). While Fossil Fighters may not have the widespread popularity of a franchise like Pokémon, it too features an explorable overworld, fossil excavation lifted directly out of Diamond, Pearl and Platinum and turn-based battles just like those of Pikachu in the gang. The difference between the two is that Fossil Fighters: Champions boasted 3D graphics throughout and looked pretty punchy in the process, very smooth, very impressive.

Fossil Fighters: Champions screenshot
Oh, if only that was a Rhydon…

I’m not expecting a genre shift from Pokémon, nothing like battles from the cartoon series of direct control of your team that would result in a action-RPG dynamic. All I want is the same gameplay, brought to life in a similar vein to Pokémon Stadium or Colosseum, something that is definitely achievable. If it was manageable by the competition on DS then there’s no excuse for the next generation of Pokémon games not to be visually dynamic, fresh and polished.

And while I’m complaining about presentation; improve the Pokémon voice work, please. Squirtle is a tortoise that shoots water out his mouth inbetween looking cute and whimsy, he shouldn’t sound like I threw a battery in my toaster for the hell of it.

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2 Responses to “Best of 2012! See Me in 3D: Pokémon”

  • 3 points
    ZackyG74 says...

    Wonderful article, loved it and its true, they need 3D models and a larger adventure because of the way they release their games. The day Black and White 2 came out, I already had 128 hours of play on Black 1.

    Thumb up 1
    • 697 points
      Adam Sorice says...

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I think the next generation of games (rumoured to be revealed or released next year) will see the game make as big a jump as between RBY and GSC. Black and White did great things in straightening out the formula and resquaring the franchise’s logic but it needs a big leap, Super Mario Galaxy-esque, to progress further now.

      Thumb up 0

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