I choose violence today. Here’s a message for all the hateful clickers: I said Game Freak makes the worst Pokemon games, not Game Freak makes bad Pokemon games. When I look at all my favorite Pokemon games, none of them were created by Game Freak. Based on all the Pokemon Legends: Arceus trailers and images we’ve seen so far, I’m not sure that’s going to change anytime soon.
It’s weird to think that the main games of any series are the worst. Spin-offs and side games made by separate teams are almost always inferior to basic entries. WB Games Montreal’s Arkham Origins pales in comparison to Rocksteady’s Arkham Trilogy, as do all non-Ubisoft Montreal Assassin’s Creed games, like Rogue, Syndicate, and Chronicles. It’s usually just better when the main studio handles any entry into a beloved franchise – call it the Metal Gear rule of survival. The only exceptions to MGSR are Fallout: New Vegas, of course, and Pokemon.
The best Pokemon games aren’t made by Game Freak – which I now realize would be a less hostile way to phrase the title, but you’re already there, so it’s too late now. Last year, New Pokemon Snap and Pokemon Unite were both in my top ten list and neither were developed by Game Freak. The new Pokemon Snap came to us from Bandai Namco Studios – the same team that developed Pokken Tournament DX – while Pokemon Unite came from mobile giant Tencent Timi Studio Group. Both teams brought a fresh perspective and level of expertise to the brand, making them an ideal partner for every game. There’s no way Game Freak could have made Pokken or New Pokemon Snap as good as Bandai Namco. Could you say the same for Sword & Shield? I’m not so sure.
This is by no means a new phenomenon. Pokemon Go is developed by Niantic. Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness were developed by Genius Sonority, Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Pinball and Pokemon Ranger were all developed by Hal Laboratory. My favorite Pokemon game of all time, Pokemon Conquest, was developed by Tecmo Koei. Aside from Pokemon Quest, Game Freak has only ever created the core Pokemon RPGs. I’m not saying they’re bad games, but they were a lot more fun when I was eight than they are now.
I admit that there are worse Pokemon games that weren’t developed by Game Freak. Ambrella’s Hey You Pikachu on the Nintendo 64 was disastrous, and I’m not going to claim that Spike Chunsoft’s Mystery Dungeon series is better than the base Pokemon series. Currently, however, of all the companies making Pokemon games today, Game Freak makes the worst.
I know exactly what to expect from Game Freak because there has been so little evolution in its games over the years. When a studio like Bandai Namco or Hal Laboratory makes a Pokemon game, I have much higher expectations. I love when other studios apply their expertise to Pokemon and allow it to explore new genres, whether it’s fighting games, tactical games or MOBAs. Game Freak does one thing and it does it well, but Pokemon can be so much more.
That might change with Legends Arceus later this month, but I’m not so sure. This transition to full 3D with real-time combat must be a colossal undertaking for a studio that has been making the same game for 25 years. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems Legends is all about dodging rolling and throwing Poke Balls and not much else. I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised, but right now I’m much more excited for Pokken Tournament 2 and the next Pokemon Unite character than I am for Legends: Arceus.
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