Friday, July 31, 2009

Mainline Pokemon on consoles - like oil and water

A few months ago, Phil Kollar did an interview with the Pokemon developers (WhatTheyPlay) in which they admitted that they focus on creating a handheld experience and they aren't working to bring it to the Wii or to any other console.

Despite this emphatic statement from the creators, the frothing demand for a mainline Pokemon RPG on the Wii increases daily. "Console Pokemon" is right up there with "Pokemon MMO" (which is a whole other entry on its own) on "What game should they make" lists (as seen at the Gaming Age forums).

Which makes me wonder if I'm completely missing something, or if the hardcore Pokemon community has lost its mind.

First of all, everyone seems to forget that the name Pokemon is short for Pocket Monsters. Key word: Pocket. Doesn't that imply that the series is intended to be on portable systems to begin with?

The biggest advantage that being portable gives the series is to allow for trading, and one of the common arguments is that the introduction of the GTS brought wireless trading so you don't have to do any local trading anymore. But as Matsuda would remind us, that's not the point:

"Trading is a core concept of Pokémon. So when you're trading, you meet with a friend and decide which one you want and which one they want. I would like to emphasize real-world communication. You don't see each other online."

Also, a combination of past history and future needs hamstrings the development of a traditional Pokemon game on a console (for our purposes, a "get badges, take down evil team, beat Elite 4, complete Pokedex, beat up everyone you know in a 5-mile radius" game). Although all Pokemon got represented in XD's Battle Mode (and in Colosseum's), the fact is this generation is probably going to end with either a PBR 2 (supporting HG/SS connectivity) or with HG/SS itself. The next gen is going to add another 100 Pokemon at minimum, putting the total near 600 Pokemon with a similar number of attacks to animate.

And development of this game would have to be handled by "Genius" Sonority, who see fit to use models for the original 151 Pokemon that date back to Stadium 1. Let me put this another way: Current 3D Pokemon models were designed for a system that started its design the same year my favourite baseball team made the playoffs.

If they didn't upgrade the models, the same people that want this game to happen would lose their minds, and to get it to a decent 3D model for that many Pokemon would fill a Wii disc with no room for story. Or god forbid, the My Pokemon Ranch models. Why go to all that effort, when they can create a DS RPG at maybe 1/4 of the cost, and sell 5.66 million copies in nine months worldwide like Platinum just did (according to Nintendo's Q1 financial report)?

The last thing to realize is that Nintendo as a whole (giving Metroid to Team Ninja aside) is a very conservative company that has a massive foothold in Japan. And Japan as a culture has gone whole-hog portable between Pokemon/Dragon Quest IX on the DS and the success of the Monster Hunter series on PSP. That, among other things, is why I would be shocked if Iwata stood up at a E3 press conference and said "Pokemon RPG, on the Wii, spring 2010. And it works with the Vitality Sensor."

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