When I was just a young boy, I remember my uncle had a GameBoy Color with Pokémon Yellow attached to it. I can recall every minute I played that game, whether I was catching my first Caterpie or taking on Misty at the Cerulean Gym. From that day, I was hooked into the world of Pokémon and believed that it would be a love that would never stop.
As the years have gone by, I became excited for subsequent releases, all the way up to the newest Pokémon Sun and Moon. That’s the first Pokémon game that I have yet to beat. As I stopped to wonder what was going on with me, the most recent Pokémon Direct revealed something to me: the series simply isn’t as good as it used to be.
I don’t get excited for new games like I used to. As I sat in my room trying to discover why that was, it was clear to me that the series is starting to become a run of the mill franchise that never does anything new anymore. Nintendo and Game Freak know that the series will sell whether it’s the same game released over again or a new adventure entirely.
In short: Pokémon has become kind of dumb recently, and here are 15 reasons why that’s the case. Just hear me out before you burn me at the stake.
15. Pokémon GO
A lot of times, something is cool because not everyone likes it. However, the moment everyone gets on board, it loses its appeal. If you agree with this philosophy, look no further than Pokémon GO. This game exploded in popularity when it released. While that in and of itself isn’t a fault against the series itself, it presents a significant problem.
The big issue here is that the game isn’t all that good. It’s bogged down by poor servers, a lack of features that were promised from the beginning, and difficulty that makes it impossible for newer players to get anywhere. Despite the issues with the game, it became one of the biggest mobile releases in history, which is mind-boggling. A game should only get credit in relation to its quality.
14. All of the Strange Apps
When you think about the properties that Nintendo would allow to have smartphone apps, Pokémon is probably not on the top of that list. Yet, they have somehow managed to build quite the impressive collection of apps, from Magikarp Jump to Pokémon Shuffle. What makes these choices strange to me is that they’re no different from many other games you can get on a mobile device.
However, because there’s a Pokémon logo attached to them, they get much more attention that other games (that I would argue are better). Now, the Pokémon Rumble series is even making its way to mobile, and it’s clunky, to say the least. Any other company wouldn’t be able to get away with these strange apps, but you bet that Game Freak will keep at it.
13. Free-To-Start Games
One of the most infuriating formulas I’ve ever seen in a game is free-to-start. These games don’t charge you anything up front, but instead, will make you pay to go through more levels or get some kind of in-game currency that can enhance your experience.
I personally prefer it when a company puts together a full game and charges you one price at the beginning. That way, you won’t be faced with the idea of spending an indefinite amount of funds to get ahead. However, this formula is something that Game Freak is extremely guilty of. They even used this formula for the 3DS title, Pokémon Rumble World. Many of the mobile games are also bogged down with this structure. Let me be the first to say that it’s more frustrating than beneficial.
12. The Same Game
Something that people criticize a lot of other franchises for, like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, is that they just release the same game over and over again every year. Unfortunately, people that feel that way would have to criticize Game Freak for doing the same thing. With the exception of Sun and Moon, Game Freak is guilty of releasing the same game. Sure, you can go to different regions and catch different Pokémon, but kids today are doing the same thing on their 3DS systems that we were doing on our GameBoys.
11. Enhanced Versions and Remakes
Speaking of UltraSun and UltraMoon, another problem with the series is that Game Freak relies heavily on remaking their old titles to double dip in a sense. While sometimes, there are plenty of enhancements and graphical differences to justify doing something like this, that’s not always the case.
If Game Freak isn’t sure of what Pokémon game to release in a particular year, they could either remake an old property or just give the “complete” version of whatever their most recent title was. It’s kind of a lazy tactic overall. The only time that this method has ever been justifiable was with Pokémon Yellow because it was a tie-in with the anime. Now, people are already clamoring for a Diamond and Pearl remake.
10. Weird Creatures
With so many Pokémon being created these days, Game Freak is bound to have some duds in their mix. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of duds over the years, even going back to the original 150 mons. Remember Jynx and Mr. Mime? Well, it only gets worse from there. Now we have Pokémon based on ice cream, gears, keychains, and even literal garbage bags. I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried.
All of these strange creatures communicate a message that Game Freak cannot keep doing this forever. It’s only a matter of time before they run out of ideas and start coming up with only stupid-looking Pokémon. They came pretty close with Black and White already, so who’s to say that it couldn’t happen again very soon?
9. Strange Spin-Offs
For some reason, the Pokémon series has been one of the prime candidates for releasing spin-off titles. While that’s fine for what it is, many of them are either bad or don’t make sense. There are some winners in the mix like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or Pokémon Snap, but the rest of the bunch don’t make sense.
I’ll never understand why the Pokémon Rumble series has had less content and imagination with each entry. I’ll also never understand why Poképark Wii was ever a thing. If they want to do spin-offs, that’s fine. But I speak for many of us when I say that they should put more effort into creating good ones rather than just slapping an idea together. Pokkén Tournament DX is promising; now, what else are they going to come up with?
8. Expensive Merchandise
Never let it be said that Pokémon is a cheap hobby. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most expensive franchises on the market. Game Freak and Nintendo have pushed out a lot of merchandise based on their characters, but they’re not cheap. Just go to your local Wal-Mart and try to walk out with a plush of your favorite character. You’ll be spending somewhere close to $20 for a medium-sized one.
That’s just the toys, though. You also have to remember that each game costs $40 when it comes out. Then there’s the card game, which will set you back upwards of $4 for each booster pack of ten cards. You start doing the math, and you’re looking at a sad wallet and not enough merchandise to show for it.
7. Poor Business Decisions
Game Freak is known for adhering to a specific formula, even more so than Nintendo. However, they’ve limited themselves by following this structure, and that’s extremely evident today. Take the most Direct, for example: they announced Pokkén Tournament DX for Switch and UltraSun and UltraMoon for 3DS. Many people were expecting a completely unique Pokémon game for Switch. Had they simply held off on the fighting game (or put it on 3DS) and had UltraSun and UltraMoon on Switch, then they would’ve not only increased their publicity, but increased their revenue as well.
Their history is filled with weird decisions like this. When a new console comes out, they’re still focused on releasing games for old hardware. What makes this worse is that if they were to create something new on a different platform, people would lose their minds! The potential is there, but Game Freak hasn’t chased it.
6. Lack of Effort
When companies find a formula that works, they tend to get lazy after a while. They release variants of the same product time and time again because they know that it will sell at the end of the day. That’s where it seems that Game Freak is at with Pokémon. The most original thing they’ve done again is Sun and Moon. Apart from that, it seems that there’s no originality. They simply use the same formula, give it a bit of a graphics boost (sometimes) and call it a new game.
This communicates a lack of effort, especially with UltraSun and UltraMoon coming out so soon after Sun and Moon. By only waiting a year in between releases, Game Freak is not giving themselves enough time to perfect a game or come up with anything stellar. They’re simply getting things out for the holiday season.
5. Poor Amiibo Support
While it’s true that Amiibo don’t offer the greatest things in terms of functionality, they still give players some incentive to have them. That is, all of them, except the ones based on Pokémon. The only Amiibo we have based on these characters are Pikachu, Charizard, Lucario, Greninja, Mewtwo, and Jigglypuff. They only exist because they were characters in Smash Bros..
I guarantee that if Game Freak created an Amiibo line for Pokémon, it would sell very well. Yet they seem adamant on doing away with the toys to life altogether. Not only have no more Amiibo been created for the characters, but they have very minimal functions in the games they work with. They can give AI for Smash Bros and costumes for Mario Maker. Other than that, there’s no point.
4. Convoluted Card Game
When it comes to card games, there are two that stand above the rest: Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon. Unfortunately, it’s the latter of these that has the most problems. Whereas Magic can easily allow for an old player to get back into the fold, Pokémon demands that you get some new cards in order to make any waves.
There are a lot of problems with the TCG in this way. The balancing is terrible when compared to older cards, and it seems to only get crazier as times go on. It’s designed only for newbies and young children to get into it and then fall out eventually. There is no consistency with it. Did I also mention that it only gets more expensive as time goes on? I still remember when those EX tins used to cost $15.
3. The Anime
Oh, where do I begin with the anime? When Pokémon first aired, it was interesting, new, and inviting. Following the journey of Ash as he learned about being a trainer was fascinating. We got to watch him grow from a stubborn kid to a fairly competent battler. Then, he got to go to new regions and find new partners to help him in his quest to become the best like no one ever was.
Then, it all started going downhill. The writers of the show continuously make Ash incompetent with each series. For someone we’ve watched grow for years, this is completely unacceptable. Then, any time he starts to get powerful, the writers find ways to get rid of everything that made him interesting. Remember Serena and Ash Greninja? They’re no longer part of his life.
2. No Console Pokémon
It’s been years since fans have been asking for a main Pokémon game to be released on a home console. It seems like such a no-brainer. Yet, for all the years that this series has been alive, it’s never happened. Sure, we got Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness, but those were more of side adventures rather than complete experiences.
What’s even more perplexing about this is that the Nintendo Switch is out, and we haven’t received so much as a whisper about a main Pokémon game on it. Granted, this could be because they’re hard at work and want to save the announcement until later, but knowing Game Freak’s history, I doubt it. Such a game would be so incredibly successful and mind-blowing that people would rush to stores just to get their hands on it. Why haven’t they done it yet?
1. Don’t Listen To Fans
Many of these issues are symptoms of a much larger problem with the Pokémon series: they don’t listen to their fans. Even Nintendo, for all of their problems, has at least gotten that right. We asked for a Mario game styled like Super Mario 64, and now we’re getting Super Mario Odyssey. We wanted an open-world Zelda, and we got Breath of the Wild.
We’ve been asking for a console Pokémon game for years, and we still haven’t seen one. We’ve been begging for them to let Ash win a Pokémon League, and he’s no closer to it than when he started. It seems that Game Freak is so dead set on their tried and true formula that they refuse to listen to what the fans want. Those of you who want Diamond and Pearl remakes, I doubt you’ll be seeing them anytime soon.