Pokémon X and Y are launching in less than a month, and I have to admit that I'm more than a little excited. It will finally be the game that wills my hand to pull out Animal Crossing: New Leaf from my 3DS (which has comfortably been sitting in the cartridge slot since it launched in June). The break after putting down my Pokémon White 2 is finally over, so now I'm finding myself sifting through my Pokédex, brushing up on my Pokémon types, and arguing with myself over which starter I will choose. But as with every upcoming Pokémon launch, I always find myself daydreaming about how wonderful a Pokémon MMO would be.
Now, I have to give plenty of credit to developer Game Freak for its emphasis on connectivity with other players. In a recent Pokémon Direct video where the company was chatting with Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, there was a lot of talk about the social strides that were taken with every title, even with Pokémon Red and Blue using the Game Link Cable to connect Game Boy systems, and how the ease of connecting improves as technology advances.
Pokémon X and Y will have plenty of multiplayer features, to the point that I would call it the closest thing to an MMO that is not technically an MMO. Using the Player Search System, you'll have access to all sorts of online features. You can easily trade Pokémon, battle with strangers, send messages to friends, get reports from people you've passed with the StreetPass, and even trade buffs to make your adventure easier. But once you finish socializing, you'll return to the campaign, alone.
Sharing, trading, and battling friends and strangers are all well and good, but how awesome would it be to add a few MMO conventions to the mix? The game could have classes to choose from at the start such as specializing in specific Pokémon types or in things like breeding or merchant services. How about a crafting system that lets you create and upgrade recovery items, vitamins, evolutionary items, and Poké Balls? Wouldn't it be great to form a party at a gym to raid a Team Plasma base, or enter an instance to capture a Legendary Pokémon? Sure, one-on-one or team battles are fun, but world vs. world, now that would be epic.
One of the nicest things about a potential Pokémon MMO is that the very nature of the game and the audience it attracts would separate it in a very popular genre. It seems like a new online, massively multiplayer RPG comes out every day, with the same anime artwork and the same tired features, all free-to-play with benefits for those willing to fork out a few dollars here and there. Now, I could see Pokémon utilizing some of the standard gameplay elements in an MMO such as auction houses and chat boxes as well as some more disrespectful aspects such as farming (to an extent) and griefing. However, if Nintendo would moderate the socializing aspect as well as it does the Miiverse, it would be the closest thing to a utopian society you could imagine in an MMO.
One thing that would absolutely have to remain is the turn-based combat. I recently did a review of Pokémon Rumble U, and it wasn't pretty, much like the rest of the beat 'em-up titles of the spin-off series. And actually, I think a well-executed, turn-based MMO is the kind of fresh gameplay the genre needs. It may detract from the fluidity of a persistent world, but I think it would retain both a nostalgic and strategic element to winning matches rather than who has the quickest fingers mashing on hotkeys.
I would even keep the graphical style consistent rather than going over-the-top with realism or, dare I say, the uprising of scantily clad fantasy offerings. Personally, I think the 3D format of the upcoming Pokémon X and Y will be heralded as the graphical hallmark for the series, and I honestly wouldn't want to see it go much further, except cleaning up pixelated edges and adding high-definition if the game were on the Wii U.
Nintendo has made some positive strides in modernizing its position in the online field with both the Wii U and the 3DS. MMOs on a console are a rare sight, which is why Nintendo would steal the spotlight with a mere whisper of a Pokémon MMO. The game covers such a huge population of gamers, from the casual to the hardcore, that if by some miracle this dream of a Pokémon MMO were made official, you would have millions of fans pounding on Nintendo's inbox, desperate to be part of the beta test, and going crazy with anticipation until the game went live.
What do you think? Should Game Freak and Nintendo make a Pokémon MMO, and what kind of features would you like to see? Fill up the comments section below.