What is the best main series Pokemon game of all time? (2024)

@CherryFizz507 @cpm1

All jokes aside, do people really think Scarlet and Violet are the best in the series? Why?

Yes, the glitches are a grave flaw with the games, but here's the thing: even if the games were 100% glitchless, I would still think they were bad games.

That is not to say they did not have merit or bring good ideas to the table. There are even things about Sword and Shield, my most hated games, that I like. And I was charmed at first by Scarlet and Violet when they released. I thought they were the best 3D games for a time. But after spending more time with them, they dropped in my estimation of their quality.

The open world premise is a trap that many developers fell into a decade ago, when it seemed like every game was descending into the Ubisoft open-world mono-game. Thankfully that seems to have been averted, though Breath of the Wild threatened to bring it back. In fact, maybe BotW has more to do with SV's problems than Ubisoft.

There is nothing inherently wrong with open-world. There have been phenomenal open-world games. The problem is a lot of developers take a lazy approach to adapting their previously linear game into an open world. They take a linear design and plonk it into a big empty map and expect everyone to find it more fun and think it an automatic improvement. Because "more freedom = more better", right?

However an open world fundamentally changes how each player interacts with your game, its narrative and difficulty curve.

In SV, this problem is most observable in the gym system. Rather than strictly enforced linear progression from the first gym to the last (maybe with the option to do a couple out of order) you can challenge the gyms out of sequence, but they clearly have an intended order, based on the levels of the gyms, their location on the map and the abilities you have unlocked for your ride Pokémon.

You could go and challenge the later gyms early on if you want and can access them, but even if you beat them, the lower level gyms do not change, so you have made them trivial and pointless to beat where as they might have presented more of a challenge early on.

The solution to this was suggested in the Red and Green chapters of the Pokémon Special manga back in the 90s. Have each gym leader change the number, types and levels of the Pokémon they use based on the number of badges of the challenger. One could even assume that that was what was implied to be happening in the games, you just had little to no opportunity to do them out of the intended order.

But this was the game to do it. The open world game. I assume that the time constraints during development meant that they didn't want to design eight different battles for each leader.

Plus it has always been that way.

That seems to be a consistent defence for the current state of the Pokémon series. A design philosophy was adopted for a 2D Game Boy role playing game in the 90s, so we can't possibly include features other games would be laughed out of the industry for not including.

We only just got a free-camera control on the right stick with this game. Finally Pokémon can aspire to early 2000s era console game design. Maybe we'll get voice acting in 2040?!

The gameplay itself is also shamefully shallow, exacerbated by the now mandatory exp. share and shift battle style. We can't have difficulty modes (it's always been this way, so we just can't, okay?!) but at least you could opt in to a more challenging experience by disabling these options.

But no, no child left behind. Some hapless brat might turn off their exp. share and the game becomes too hard for them. Better to force it on everyone all the time.

Success is at its most gratifying when there was no chance you could ever fail, right? Everyone gets a participation trophy.

That is the only logic I can assume could be behind this baffling decision. Surely it is virtually no work at all to turn off a feature?

The open world and graphics have also led to one of the ugliest Pokémon worlds in a while. Most of the environments are just single colour expanses of open ground, with Pokémon milling about. Maybe you get the odd low texture rock, ruin or building cropping up. It feels empty.

The towns feel like a step down. I had a lot of criticisms for Sword and Shield, but at least the towns looked nice and you could enter buildings (even if the interiors were identical at that point). Now you cannot enter buildings anymore and NPCs just slideshow around town at 5 fps.

The NPCs themselves also look really ugly. Previous games used the same model and portraits for every character of the same class, but at least they were appealing designs. These NPCs look like someone hit randomise on a character creator, with often poor results.

The old students are particularly baffling in Paldea. Given that the school is literally central to the region, I feel it is incredibly vague and poorly defined.

The opening and the classmates you see are all children, implying that it is like a joint primary and secondary school, and the subjects are fairly standard (math, science, etc.), but also include Pokémon.

But then you meet adult or elderly students. Does the school cater to higher education too? Is it one unified campus for pre-school to post-grad students? Are they on a different part of campus? Have they already graduated and kept their uniform to show their connection to the school?

Everything outside of the main characters' storylines seems incredibly poorly defined. Does the entire region revolve around the school? Is Paldea the equivalent of a university town like Oxford or Cambridge? Did one of the higher ups during game development decide "this game will be set in a school" and then every developer had to tweak everything they were making to invoke this ambiguous "school" theme?

That is just a selection of my most immediate criticisms of the games. I could say more on the story, but that would make this long post even longer.

If you like these games, as with anything, that is "allowed". My criticisms can't take that from you. You like what you like.

But I feel that these games were an incredible disappointment given the incredible potential that a 3D, open-world Pokémon game offers.

Hopefully those at TPC, Gamefreak and Nintendo in charge of making these decisions have recognised the problem with a development model that sees three Pokémon games released in the span of a year, and are taking steps to ensure the developers have the time and resources to fully realise a quality Pokémon game in the future.

Some of you might be inclined to point out that it is hypocritical of me to criticise Scarlet and Violet for things like not having voice acting, or poor 3D graphics, or a bad open world, when Black and White didn't even have any of these things, and yet it is my favourite.

A 2010 2D Nintendo DS game does not have, nor should be expected to have, the same modern features as a 2022 Nintendo Switch game. I like BW because, while not flawless, they are excellent installments given the technology and platform of the time.

Pokémon fans should really expect more from their modern home console releases made for the highest grossing media franchise in the world than the standards of a handheld console RPG made over a decade ago.

What is the best main series Pokemon game of all time? (2024)
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