If you ask fans of the Pokémon franchise whether the main games have become too easy, the majority will probably answer with: yet they have. Even Gamefreak themselves have admitted in interviews that they are purposefully making the games easier in order to adjust to the shortened attention span that children have nowadays. However, there is quite a substantial difference between the games becoming easier and games becoming too easy. So how exactly did Gamefreak make the games easier and how will it affect the franchise as a whole.
Leveling your Pokémon up used to be a major part of the grind in the games. In generation 5 Gamefreak decided to give players a free lucky egg which is one of the best leveling items in the game, giving your Pokémon double the experience points that they would normally get from a battle. However, the biggest change came in the generation 6 games. In these games, Gamefreak adjusted the exp. share to give your entire party exp. points when the item is active. This meant that after winning a battle your entire team would gain experience. This made the game much less grindy than before, in-turn making them games a lot easier. Although the item could be turned off, many players argue that it made the games infinitely easier.
Another aspect that has become a big issue within the community is the insane amount of handholding that is currently present in the games. Handholding is one of the biggest complaints regarding the Sun and Moon games as players felt that they lacked freedom within the game. You would always be told where to go next, and trying to go somewhere else was simply impossible due to roadblocks. This stopped players from discovering where to go by themselves which meant that the games are much easier to traverse to. Simply follow all the directions given and practically nothing can go wrong. This is a huge shift from earlier games in the franchise where you would often have to find out how to proceed through the world by yourself.
The most substantial complaint though, is that opponents have simply become too weak. Beating tough opponents like your rival and the Elite 4 used to be part of what made the games so great. Working hard to train up your team and beat the strongest trainer in the game used to give you the greatest sense of satisfaction possible. However, those strongest trainers have become a cakewalk in recent years. In Pokémon X and Y, the Elite 4 were even given only 4 Pokémon each, whereas they used to always have 5. This made the toughest fights in the game completely irrelevant, which meant that there was a severe lack of satisfaction after beating them.
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee
Although we still need to wait a few months before these games come out, it seems like handholding is back in these games, even more so than before. During the gameplay footage that was shown during E3, the trainer eventually got to the first gym in the game, The Pewter City gym. In the gameplay, we clearly see that the player has to have a grass or water Pokémon in the party before being allowed to enter. This removes another essential part of the Pokémon experience, finding out the type advantages. Anyone who has played through yellow at a young age knows how tough it was to beat Brock with just a Pikachu and a Pidgey due to his rock Pokémon but now it seems that even that has been changed.
The future of Pokémon
Judging by the gameplay footage of the upcoming games, it seems that handholding will not be going anywhere. Although Gamefreak has announced that the games coming out in 2019 will be mostly aimed towards veteran players, I highly doubt that they will make the games more difficult than they are now. So will these easier Pokémon games have an impact on the franchise as a whole?
I highly doubt it. There is honestly no real alternative to Pokémon. Players come back for the creatures that inhabit the world, the creatures that they grew up with throughout their childhood. Although the games are easier than ever, they still sell incredibly well. This means that people are still buying them even if they know that they will be a whole lot easier. As long as the core gameplay remains intact people will keep coming back for more Pokémon. This doesn’t give Gamefreak a whole lot of incentive to change their current course of action.
However, there are some things that Gamefreak could do in order to keep the hardcore fans of the franchise happy. The easiest to implement feature would be to include a difficulty setting. Gamefreak experienced with such as setting when Black and White 2 came out although the setting was only unlocked after the postgame. Such a setting could change the levels of the enemies Pokémon, or even give them larger teams. While such a setting would be appreciated by many people, it goes against the Gamefreak’s design philosophy of making the game playable for everyone which means that we most likely won’t see it in the future.
For now, the best thing that fans can do is to wait out the release of the 2019 Pokémon game as Gamefreak has said that they would cater the experience more towards long-time fans of the franchise. Whether this means the game will actually become harder or not, only time will tell.