Written on May 8, 2010 by Pokémaster Jeff of The Pokémasters
Wow, it’s hard to believe that it’s that time again, time to eagerly anticipate and speculate on an all-new generation of Pokémon games. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was rushing to Best Buy in Annapolis to pick up my copy of Pokémon Diamond Version on Day One, and I still feel like I was just getting to know Lucario, Electivire, Gallade, and all of the other Gen 4 Pokémon. But hey, we can’t live in the fourth generation forever. The only thing that’s constant in this world is change, and if there’s one thing we can expect from these new games, it’s just that, change.
Now “change” is a pretty vague term. We already know that plenty of things are going to be different in Black and White, but what exactly and how? To start answering those questions, I think we should look no further than the most recent Pokémon games, HeartGold and SoulSilver. HG/SS seems to have been a testing ground for features that are going to be in the new games. One example that we already know of is the use of 3D. HG/SS had 3D areas that look very similar to the 3D style used in Black and White. While we’ve also seen a moving camera in Black and White, that will likely be specific to certain areas, with most areas retaining the fixed camera seen in HG/SS’s 3D sections. Another feature from HG/SS that we can expect to be expanded on is the touchscreen interface. I can’t see the interface being changed too much however, as HeartGold and SoulSilver got it right in pretty much every way. There are a couple of areas that could still use improvement though. The PC box interface was actually harder to use in HG/SS, so I’m expecting that to be fixed in Black and White. Also, while I don’t see them allowing you to move your character using the touchscreen, I do see them offering an option to flip the button controls so that all you lefties out there will have an easier time using the stylus. Other DS games in the past have offered a left-handed mode, Pokémon should too.
Also, chances are it won’t just be new features from HeartGold and SoulSilver that’ll be returning in Black and White, but old features as well. It’s not unheard of for remakes of old games to bring those games’ long-forgotten features back to the series. So what features from Gold and Silver might we be seeing in Black and White? Apricorns are a likely candidate. The balls made from them will certainly have to be in, and due to Gamefreak’s love of consistency (you know, the reason we have to use incenses to get newer baby Pokémon), we’re likely to get them in the same way we got them in the Johto games; by having them made from Apricorns.
Another old feature that may see the light of day again is the ability to go to an old region and get its badges. What region might we be going to? I believe it will be the only region that hasn’t appeared on a DS game yet, Hoenn. Now this has been a pretty controversial piece of speculation, and for a good reason: Many fans are expecting to return to Hoenn, not in Black and White, but in remakes of Ruby and Sapphire. But let’s stop and think about this. There were two big reasons for remaking Red and Blue, and Gold and Silver. First, Pokémon found in those games were difficult or impossible to obtain in the current games, and second, the originals could no longer hold a save, so fans who were nostalgic about the old games wanted to see them remade so they can play them again. This was particularly true for HeartGold and SoulSilver. In fact, the creators even mentioned fan speculation about possible remakes of Gold and Silver when HG/SS was announced, so it’s not that much of a stretch to think that the fans influenced the decision to remake Gold and Silver. So are those reasons there for creating remakes of Ruby and Sapphire, or “RSEmakes” as I’ve dubbed them? I believe the answer is no. Ruby and Sapphire use flash memory, allowing the games to hold saves indefinitely, so any fan who is feeling nostalgic about these old games must have played one of them before and therefore probably has a copy lying around, so they’ll be able to play it again without any problems. Gamefreak probably realized this, and therefore decided that they won’t spend the development time on remaking Ruby and Sapphire. The inclusion of Hoenn legendaries in HG/SS further solidifies this. After all, why would they include them in HG/SS if they’re just going to be available in RSEmakes anyway? RSEmakes or not, I still think Hoenn should get some representation this generation, which is why I think we might be seeing it in Black and White.
Now, those things alone don’t make a new generation. If there’s one thing that defines a new generation, it’s new Pokémon. Each of the past generations has added at least 100 new Pokémon. This time around 107, which was the same amount added in Diamond and Pearl, would bring us up to an even 600. So we can expect around that many Pokémon this generation, maybe more, but anything upwards of 620 would be pushing it. Of course, we’re bound to get evos and prevos of existing Pokémon among the new ones. Farfetch’d, Dunsparce, Jynx, and Pachrisu seem to be good candidates for getting evolved forms, and given the tendency to give Team Rocket Pokémon prevos, we’ll probably see a Pokémon that evolves into Carnivine.
New Pokémon may define a generation, but there are other things that new generations have always brought with them, such as new and improved features. This time around, one thing that could use refining is the HM system. After all, one of the biggest complaints from fans in the past has been the need to carry HM slaves. One solution to this problem would be to allow you to carry extra Pokémon that can’t battle, but can use field moves. The question is, is Gamefreak listening enough to the fans to fix the HM system? For that matter will they give us the female professor, female rival, and Dark-type gym we’ve been wanting for years? It all depends on what they want for the series and how much they’ve been listening to us.
Another thing that each generation has always introduced is a major change to the metagame. So what will we be seeing this time around in that area? It’s hard to say what, if any features will be added to the battle system. At this point, adding too much to the battle system runs the risk of overcomplicating it. New type combos on the other hand, don’t complicate things too much and have been added each generation, so we’re sure to see some new ones this time around. There are plenty of combos that we haven’t seen yet, but perhaps the most speculated of all isn’t a type “combo” at all, and that’s pure Flying. The problem with having a pure Flying type however is that Flying is different than the other 16 types. All type combos that include Flying always have it as the second type (in other words, there’s no such thing as Flying/Fire, only Fire/Flying, etc.), and because of this, any Pokémon that we could think of as just a Flying type is always Normal/Flying. For the sake of consistency, the only way to give us pure Flying types would be to retcon most, if not all, Normal/Flying types as pure Flying types. Changing the types of that many Pokémon would certainly be a major change and it’s entirely possible that we’ll see that in Black and White, but not likely.
Continuing to add more combos of the existing types might not be enough to really shake up the game however. Perhaps what we need now is not just new type combos, but an entirely new type, something that we haven’t seen since Generation 2 and are long overdue for. The best candidate for a new type seems to be Light. Light would serve as a counterpart to Dark; with Dark representing both evil and literal darkness, Light would represent both good and literal light, so for example, both Helping Hand and Flash would become Light moves. Light moves could be strong against Dark, Ghost, and Ground, and Light-type Pokémon could be weak to Grass and Poison, two types that could use a boost. Pokémon that could become Light types would include the Chansey family, Ampharos, Volbeat, and Illumise. Of course, a discussion of the possible Light type isn’t complete without pointing at the games’ titles, which is probably the biggest reason so many are speculating that we’ll get a Light type this generation. “Black” and “White” sound like they represent the ultimate battle of Good vs. Evil and finally adding a good counterpart to the evil Dark type would fit right in with that. Naturally, if a Light type does get added, we can expect the box legendaries to be Dark and Light types. The next best candidate for a new type is Sound, basically because there are already plenty of sound-based moves and Pokémon out there, and they could easily be retyped as Sound. Hyper Voice, Howl, and Roar could all become sound-type moves for example. As for Pokémon, the Whismur line would make perfect pure Sound types and Kriketot and Kriketune could become Bug/Sound. Another appealing feature of a sound type is that it makes sense for it to be strong against the defensively overpowered Steel type since sound waves travel efficiently through metal.
So what’s left to talk about? Oh yeah, the system. Yeah, I know Black and White are already confirmed for the DS, but that doesn’t mean they can’t include special features that can only be accessed on a DSi and/or 3DS. Imagine being able to store extra boxes of Pokémon on an SD card, or being able to take your picture and put it on your trainer card. These little extra features are probably the best we’ll get out of the newer DS systems since Black and White have to be compatible with the DS. Then again, it’s possible that there might be an extra area like the Distortion World. Maybe that area would require a more powerful system such as the DSi or even 3DS to handle it, and that area could even have a legendary Pokémon that can only be caught there. If this sounds a bit Farfetch’d (sorry couldn’t help myself :P), remember the color dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, and the tunics that were only available there.
With the creators promising a “rebirth” of the series, anything is possible, and by that I really mean anything. They could either be true to their word and really shake up the series, or they could just be talking it up and we’ll really end up just getting a small, incremental update to the series. I, like many other fans, am hoping for the former.