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Thinking on Black and White: Road to X/Y


Sometimes you look at things, you see them as they are and you ask... Y?
Sometimes you look at things, you see them as they could be and you ask... Wynaut?

I wanted to share some little reflection over this year's pokemon big announcement and add my speculation to those of you, all others optimists, that are expecting the upcoming new games this October.

Of course, to think future, you often think past.
Reflecting about Pokemon White and Black: Road to X/Y, speculation about upcoming games and videogame history by your frient B€tntley

You may not know this if you haven't hang around in the Pokemon Plus forums for sometime, but I've been quite critic about the Gen V games in the past. My position was that of a critic that didn't agree with the evidence he was playing, I thought that White/Black were half-cooked when compared to the previous generations lacking of many interesting features that made the previous generations great. Today I intend to revisit my position with the aditional information I have now: the upcoming release of two brand new pokemon games that must've been in the works for a while now.

I should probably clarify that I haven't played White 2 and Black 2 as of yet, so my experience about Gen V is limited to the first couple of games. I understand that the sequels are vastly superior to their elders, but this happens to be the case pretty much through all past generations. Either way, I'm going to be referring to elements about W2/B2 without having played these games, so there may be some corrections to be made in that regard. Still, the sequels are pretty important for my argument, so I cannot just ignore them, let me explain exactly how my vision of the Gen V games has changed.


Oddities that just jumped into my attention.


The White and Black names are more tightly linked to the original games than any of the other generations. From Gold and Silver to Platinum, the pokemon names introduced a material notion that was absent from the abstract colors used in Red and Green. This seemed quite unimportant until we learned that the next Generation would abandon the color themes altogether.

While the most recent games in the series featured some cameos, White 2 and Black 2 went the extra mile to include the World Tournament feature, which is an incredible throwback to the history of the series. In a certain way, they were aiming for an all-stars game, a way to honor and aknowledge the history of pokemon gaming that started in the Game Boy originals.
The Gen V games are also the only ones that were launched in the same console as the previous generation. This may not seem meaningful at all, but it's important to keep it in mind, because it's 100% sure that the W2/B2 games and X/Y were in development at the same time. By the same token Gen V is the shortest generation of all time and arguably the less innovative one of them all as far as connectivity go. Of course they introduced the DW, but that's another topic worth discussing on and by itself.


A little bit on Pokemon history

Now... Many of the things I want to expose are only assumptions and in the light of future knowledge they can be refuted, but I'm moved to publish my theory-crafting because I find it particularly beautiful, and it's a way in which I can express my affection to the series that I've followed for all these years.

The oddities I just listed lead me to believe that the Gen V games were intended as closure. They were linked into the first series of games because the Pokemon franchise wanted to reinvent itself. They included throwback features because they were closing the narrative from all those games implicitly. They were released in the DS because they wanted 3DS games to have a clean slate and really break the mold, without trying to look back into the previous games. White and Black were probably intended to be ported into the 3DS at some point, but the port was abandoned to favor a drastically different gameplay on Gen VI.

The amount of easter eggs in Gen V is impressive, pretty much every item that ever appeared into the series since Gen III was replicated. I do think that this concept of a closure generation greatly influenced what W/B would become in the end. They wanted these games to be the biggest pokemon events they could be, so much that they didn't manage to include everything in the first series of games and had to wait until W2/B2 to actually get it all.

This idea of White/Black being released early to meet deadlines while the sequels were trying to add more content could account for the somewhat inferior gameplay. But Diamond and Pearl were also inferior than Platinum, obviously the most recent games have better content. The exceptional thing about Gen V is that everything leads to W2/B2, even the games from that same generation find some continuity towards them. This establishes a linearity that goes beyond the regular expansion of your every Gen, W2/B2 can only be read as the last games in the series.

The concept of them being sequels probably appeared late in the design of the games, but it proved to be easily justified by the dual notion of these games. But it secretly backed the notion of these games being the last ones on the series, because this was probably the intention from the beginning.


What did just happened...?


When Iwata-San introduced the next pokemon generation he did it so we were aware of the history of the franchise. This was necessary for people who were unfamiliar with the franchise, but also serves to introduce this notion of history that was behind the idea of Gen V being the last of the series. I should probably say, "the last of a series", Iwata-San certainly made no effort to present the X/Y games as something ground-breaking and new. I read this as a marketing decision: Pokemon is steadily one of Nintendo's favored games, it has a strong following and to say that the pokemon world will never be the same could alienate the established fanbase. But there are also some elements in his presentation that makes me think that a huge reinvention of the franchise is still in the air.

By describing the history of Pokemon games, Satoru Iwata did put some emphasis in the technical developpements that each generation introduced. He decided to talk about lesser know features such as the wireless GBA connection device and the original cable link trades. It's pretty clear by that presentation that there is a strong relationship between connectivity in Nintendo consoles and Pokemon games. The implication is simple: expect something big from your Pokemon X/Y games in regards of connectivity, the next generation is introduced something that will improve greatly the pokemon experience when it comes to exchange with other players.

The changes to be introduced will go well farther than just the jump from 2D to 3D graphics, something so big that it was worth delaying Gen VI and to produce a big send off generation still in the DS. Needless to say, my speculation makes me wonder the kind of thing we can expect, and which elements we currently have to make a reasonable guess of what will come in the near future.


The prediction game

Before you shoot down the next part of my speculation I want to share a personal anecdote. Me and my friends were talking about the soon to be announced Wii U console just a few weeks before the system became official. The speculation was about which kind of specific gaming hardware this console would have, knowing that the Wii's gyroscope technology made it a major hit. My guess was that it had to be a touchscreen controller, because it would introduce superior interactions to those ever experienced before and it was an affordable technology that Nintendo had some experience using -with the DS itself-. One of my friends argued that having a touchscreen controller would make it too expensive because of the technology, I assumed that Nintendo would try to keep the console economical because they had chosen that niche previously. By now you probably know how right I ended up being in this matter, so my speculations aren't to be scoffed at... I've been a Nintendo follower since the very beginning and by now I think I understand their policies quite well.

We have two connectivity features that I can qualify as testing towards the new pokemon games. One is the Dream World and the second one is the Pokemon Radar. The Dw may seem like a pretty underwhelming feature as far as technical connectivity goes, but it has achieved something that was critical for future success: introducing servers actively dedicated to pokemon features, running all the time through all of the world, implementing constant updates and producing new content perpetually. Without this, any attempt of generating online play and online content would be risky. The Poke Radar allows to introduce content to your games using software developped for the 3DS, this actually opens an important door to produce expansions for the future pokemon experience. Technically speaking, we're getting closer to the possibility of releasing new pokemon after the first game is released in the same generation. Memory limitations such as the lack of Gen V sprites in the White/Black games would no longer be an impossible problem to solve.

Take note that the current generations are already capable of loading trainers into your World Tournament feature, so it's not entirely unlikely to be able to download full trainer sets to your game after the AI is programed. The games could be released earlier and some details added down the line, this could be entire quests downloaded as if they were events, it could include gyms or even short regions. Even the possibility of limited online regions could enter the fray.

Also, the fact that the next pokemon generation will be composed of 3D models instead of sprites will open the door to something entirely new: Pokemon costumization. GF and Nintendo have been very conservative in this point because certain customizations could be suggestive and would make the online experience less family friendly. Being able to store and distribute all possible customizations in an external server that could be accessed by each game would keep this kind of deviation from happening.In all truth, customizations are long due into the franchise, but we're probably just reaching the point in which is reasonable to expect them.


Conclusions

These are my hopes and conclusions about our current generations and the one to come, maybe I'm setting myself to disappointment, but I'm also partially making peace with the White and Black games, as the stepping stone for what comes next. And I'm allowed to expect big for pokemon because its the prime handheld franchise that comes in the 3DS console which is quite powerful... Seems like the perfect moment to see it flex its muscles.
May your hopes be met without too much disappointment!


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