Basic character customization has been a feature of the Pokémon handheld titles since their 2nd generation titles (Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal) with the player being able to select the gender of their character. However with the success of Dragon Quest IX on the DS and more recently Fire Emblem Awakening, I believe that 2013 may finally be the right time for Game Freak to give the Pokémon franchise more in-depth character customisation options.
By this i don't just mean change your avatars attire or hair colour, I woudl actually go as far as to impelement a dedicated class system with classes such as Pokémon trainer, collector or breeder. Such a concept will not seem to foreign to fans of the Pokémon anime, which has for over a decade seen Ash encounter people whose interests in Pokémon have not been solely to the Pokémon League Champion for their local region.
This wouldn't involve Game Freak massively tinkering with the core game too much. Players would still have to increase the levels of their Pokémon while also capturing new and more exotic monsters. I would even still be happy for Game Freak to create a new villainous team for you to challenge.
However, I believe that the system of arriving in a new town or city, and having the option to challenge the local Gym leader and enter a Pokémon contest is too daunting for newcomers and verterans alike. A more focused quest that is based on your character class woudl alleviate some of this frustration, while also giving the player a more clear vision of their long-term objective.
A Smaller More Manageable Pokédex
Prior to the release of Pokémon X & Y, the current number of monsters found in the series National Pokédex is well over 600. In fact, the number of monsters contained within the series' Pokédex has become so large and unwieldy that the famous Pokémon catchphrase of "Gotta Catch Them All" has not appeared on a Pokémon game box since Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire in 2002/2003.
While I am sure many fans of the Pokémon series personally love the challenge of colecting this vast numebr of creatures, I personally believe the Pokédex has become too large and that it could benefit from Game Freak massively culling the total number of Pokemon to roughly 150-200 monsters.
Such a decision would no doubt gain a hostile reception from verteran Pokémon players, whose nostalgia for the original 151 Pokemon has coined the phrase "Original 151 for life", but I think it would be better (especially for newcomers to the franchise) for there to be a smaller Pokédex that would make it easier to complete this near-impossible mission.
This reduced Pokédex could contain entirely new monsters from some far-flung region where the curent species of Pokémon have yet to be found, or it could simply be a mix of new and older, more popular monsters. Either way this is something that I believe needs to occur, and it should happen sooner rather than later.
Greater Online Options
My final suggestion is one that I do not envisage Game Freak implementing in the Generation 6 titles, but one I think they should consider for the next major Pokémon handheld title.
In my opinion, Pokémon has always been a franchise that would greatly benefit from an extensive online mode, whether it is competitive battling or trading. However, with the launch of Nintendo's Wi-Fi network in 2005, one avenue I believe Nintendo should consider exploring is the concept of a Pokémon MMORPG.
While this would require a humungous number of servers to run, in execution the idea would be relatively easy to implement. Players could take a survey which would determine their character class (if Nintendo decided to adopt this idea) and also which region they would start their quest.
The usual game mechanics of Pokémon battling, beating the local Gym or Pokémon contest, and online trading would remain intact but this time you could encounter real life trainers, as opposed to the usual collection of NPCs.
So there you have it, those are just three ideas I believe Nintendo should consider implementing in their upcoming Pokémon titles. Whether any of these will make it into future Pokémon titles remains to be seen, but I really hope that Generation VI does see simpler ones such as character classes and a smaller Pokédex are ones they have already taken into consideration.
I would also love to hear from you, the members of the Destructoid online community, and particularly veteran Pokémon players, about wether you are planning on purchasing Pokemon X or Y, and also how you would change the formula of future iterations of this iconic series.
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