Are Pokémon Games Adding Too Many Battle Mechanics?

You may recall Mega Evolutions, the highly dramatic, flashy, and shamelessly entertaining super moves brought about by Game Freak around the time of Pokémon X and Y. To activate them, the player must simply select the option to Mega Evolve during battle, and assuming the associated “Mega Stone” that correlates with the given Pokémon is currently held, the monster will transform before your eyes into a hulking, formidable version of itself, ready to wreak havoc and deal out vast amounts of damage. The adjustments vary, but generally speaking a mega-evolved ‘mon has a cumulative base stats total of 100 points higher than normal. Perusing sites like Bulbapedia sheds further light on the elusive technical details.

 

Pokémon Sun and Moon has been available now for some time, but a headline today caught my attention and ultimately left me scratching my head. A variety of Mega Stones not previously obtainable in Pokémon Sun and Moon are being made available to download, for players itching to Mega Evolve certain creatures they were previously unable to. The odd part about this is that Mega Evolution itself was de-emphasized in Sun and Moon after its introduction the generation prior, but some Mega Stones were still obtainable in-game, just not all of them. Also, held items don’t transfer when using Pokémon Bank, meaning transferring monsters specifically groomed or mathed-out for the their mega forms in particular isn't exactly worthwhile, especially if the correlating stone isn't available.

If nothing else, Mega Evolution brings seriously revamped monster designs for use on TV and in-game.

Even then, there’s more. The reason Mega Evolution was deemphasized in the first place is because of a new mechanic in Sun and Moon called Z-Moves. Unlike Mega Evolutions, there’s no stone required, but instead a crystal obtained by your trainer in story mode. Any Pokémon can use Z-Moves, and as long as the move type matches the held trainer crystal (not a Pokémon held item, mind you) and at least one already-learned move, that move’s power will be amplified according to pre-set conversion tables. So if I use the Normal-type Z-Move Breakneck Blitz, with Tackle as the base move, its power will increase from 40 to to 100. Not a bad jump.

 

So. None of this information is new for Pokémon junkies, and despite the fact that I consider myself among them I still had to perform dedicated scouting of Pokémon wikis just to recall what exactly is going on here. According to interviews with Sun and Moon developers, the idea behind Z-Moves was to make fights more accessible for trainers who just like to use their favorite Pokémon, and don't necessarily want to strategize. That’s a nice thought, and yields amusing results when a Rattata hurls itself headlong toward somebody’s Salamence and hits for 130 attack power. But what happens when said Salamence itself Mega Evolves, and absolutely devastates the young trainer who, having endeavored Pokémon for the first time with Sun and Moon, had little idea the mechanic even existed? It’s true Sun and Moon makes allusions to the phenomenon via dialogue and the stones that are obtainable, but still, the messaging is a bit mixed.

 

Me, except with Mega Evolution and Z-Moves.

 

It’s good that Game Freak has at the very least identified the silliness of desperately tracking down stones and is making them more accessible via download, but my concern is less about that (obsessive gathering across versions has always been a hallmark of the series) and more about the trend of new mechanics for each generation. Another Z-Move or Mega Evolution-style addition, and Pokémon battles won’t be much more than glorified, flashy cutscenes. I appreciate the effort invested toward bringing the games and anime more inline with each other, but I feel where they’re at right now is close enough. Let both Z-Moves and Mega Evolutions settle into their respective roles, and perhaps seek to innovate on story or world design next time around instead.

 

It’s been suggested that a theoretical Pokémon Stars (or Pokémon Sun and Moon 2) could appear on Nintendo Switch as well as 3DS, or that the next release will simply be an entirely new, Switch-only Pokémon generation entirely. Regardless, the timing seems right to streamline what’s been added of late and reduce complication, be it with the availability of collectible stones or with anything else. After all, IV and EV training, notoriously in-depth and occulted from view until recent generations, are finally penetrable to the common man. For this trainer at least, there’s little benefit in building additional layers of complication in their place.