Since the original release of Pokémon Red and Blue back in 1996 in Japan, the Pokémon franchise has spanned numerous consoles and handhelds, each title garnering critical acclaim and sales. In the main series of the franchise, every new generation has been accompanied by a new handheld. But with the upcoming fifth generation of Pokémon, the games are being released on the same handheld as the previous generation: the Nintendo DS. Without the usual leap in technology, what should Nintendo look for to ensure that their next title isn't just more of the same?
The original Nintendo DS Pokémon titles, Pokémon Pearl/Diamond, featured a new game engine which showcased numerous improvements, most notably introducing 3D graphics into what had previously been a 2D-only affair. While the controls were still rooted in 2D movement, the game's environment included numerous 3D touches, such as elevated buildings and moving objects. While the next titles in the fourth generation, Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver, didn't radically alter this approach, they nevertheless further refined the graphical design set by the original Nintendo DS games. While many might say that Nintendo should radically upgrade the graphics, it would make more sense for Nintendo to expand on other areas of the game which have languished as of late in the recent generation of Pokémon games.
Unbeknownst to most casual players and onlookers, the most recent Pokémon titles have included what are known as IVs (individual values) and EVs (effort values), both of which are hidden from viewing within the game. As many Pokémon players already know, every Pokémon has stats such as Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Speed, etc. Where IVs come into play is in determining how a Pokémon stats will evolve, ranging from 0 to 31, with a greater stat increase as the value gets closer to 31. As for EVs, instead of being set when you obtain the Pokémon, these stats are increased as you battle other Pokémon. Each Pokémon will give a set amount of EVs, depending on their evolutionary status. For competitive players, these two hidden stats are paramount, where only a slight difference in points can shift the entire outcome of the battle. Nintendo has made keeping track of the values slightly easier with items that can alter EVs or pass IVs of bred Pokémon, but this requires players to keep constant track of these hidden values or use complicated formulas to determine the values if they lost track of them. Having a way to keep track of these values, either in a menu or by a NPC like Nintendo has done for teaching and removing a Pokémon's moves, would make the job of competitive players easier while at the same time opening up an entirely new facet of the game to players who might not have the time otherwise to keep constant track of their Pokémon's evolutionary development.
Another issue that has languished in the recent games is the sounds, both in and out of battle. Even though the sound processing for the newer Nintendo handhelds has improved leaps and bounds above the original Game Boy, the Pokémon cries when sent out into battle have yet to keep up with the times. These sound effects still sound exactly the same as they did in the original Game Boy titles, which is unacceptable in this day and age. The music outside of battle also feels like it is stuck in the past, with many of the songs feeling like they are slightly upgraded versions of the originals. While there is nothing wrong with nostalgia, failing to keep up with technology is no excuse for a lack of attention to detail.
While there are other minor issues that could be fixed in the next generation of Pokémon titles, fixing the two above issues would bring a great improvement to what is already a very deep and rewarding franchise. While the fifth generation of Pokémon might not be on a new platform, hopefully with the above changes and other improvements, it won't feel like the titles are just a slightly improved version of the original Nintendo DS titles.