Pokemon has always been a game that has moved in cycles. Like clockwork, every three years we get a new mainline game. Even the pandemic didn't stop it, although given the state of Scarlet & Violet, maybe it should have deviated from this pattern. It's not just the release cycle though – the games move in all the same ways. Even as Game Freak plays around with how gyms work and how you explore the world, the core building blocks are the same as they have always been. There is a new region, and with it, a bunch of new Pokemon, plus three new starters. There's a new protagonist, who learns from a new professor, and explores the world with a new rival. Exactly how much of a rival they are varies, but someone starts their journey with you and meets you at all your significant story beats. But Pokemon has a rich history, and it should be more willing to explore that.
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While Pokemon has also been steadily making its way through remakes (unfortunately, less progress has been made with Let's Go), these are still very confined experiences. Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl were just new versions of Diamond & Pearl, and didn't even have the upgrades of Platinum. We're in Gen 9 now, and we essentially have nine versions of the same game with a few minor tweaks. There are even more, when each gen has two base versions and then minor upgrades on what are themselves minor upgrades. But what I'm proposing isn't even a new idea – it's just one that Pokemon has refused to revisit, despite its popularity.
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At the end of Pokemon Gold & Silver, you travel through a cave from Johto to Kanto, with the region from the previous game available for you to explore. This itself is a wildly popular gimmick that has never returned, despite the advancement of technology making it a simpler process than on the Game Boy Color. That's not what I'm talking about though. I think it's too big a deviation from the formula Pokemon has committed to. However, hidden inside this major addition is a much smaller gimmick – the return of Red.
In Gold & Silver, you can essentially battle yourself from the previous game. Red is even armed with Venusaur, Blastoise, Charizard, and Pikachu to ensure all four starters are 'canon'. He also has an Espeon, his one Gen 2 Pokemon to offer something fresh, and Snorlax, who must be caught (or at least defeated) while playing as Red in order to progress to the later towns. He's one of the toughest trainers in Pokemon history, and realising who he is (then overcoming him) is an iconic moment in the gaming careers of many young trainers.
And yet, this has never really been replicated. It feels like The Pokemon Company would rely too heavily on Gen 1, but it has iconic characters across each generation. Not only is each trainer a fresh character, but the supporting cast could come back too. For example, we know Bede becomes a gym leader at the end of Sword & Shield, so wouldn't it be worth catching up with him at some point? Silver, the most interesting rival ever, also has more story to tell. And are we really the very best, like no one ever was, if we haven't beat Cynthia? The only time it appears is in the post-post-game in Sun & Moon, when it’s just a succession of battles without the gravitas of Red’s moment. Personalities aren’t there, and it doesn’t feel like a natural part of the story.
The dynamics with other characters would be interesting too. Hau and Hop would be best friends, right? Marnie and Nemona, meanwhile, might have a spikier dynamic. That's just across the two most recent games, and it’s clear there are opportunities for so much more. Asking for changes in Pokemon is usually an even more fruitless endeavour than it is in most games, but this is something the series has done before to great success. It feels like a waste to never bring it back. Please, Pokemon. Let us see Barry and Blue together.