For me, Pokemon has always been a franchise that I enjoy to visit, but never really stay too long. Typically, my Pokemon cycle goes something like this: a new game is announced, excitement, the game is released, play halfway through, get bored, pick it up again months later, finish, and have an enjoyable experience. Surely I am not the only one who plays Pokemon games in this fashion; for those who do, we are most likely in the minority. This is the way I enjoy the Pokemon franchise, and because of that play style, is the main reason I believe Pokemon’s resistance to change is a strength.
Pokemon as a franchise has always remained one that never changes much from version to version. This isn’t to say no changes are made, but the ones that do are always natural or small evolutions rather than complete redesigns or advancements. A new Pokemon type might be added, battles might have a different type or mode, a few unique features for a specific generation are added, and a slew of other minor advancements and changes are made, but the essence of the game remains the same. There are still gym battles to be conquered, Pokemon to be caught, and lands to be explored—and while these all remain a constant through each entry, it is how these consistent elements are refreshed in each entry that keeps the charm in each Pokemon game.
Everyone plays Pokemon differently, but for those who like to treat each Pokemon game as a chance to start again with a familiar formula, this method of adding something new couldn’t be more perfect. From the time that I first played Pokemon Blue (yes that was my first, not Red) to the time I played Sun and Moon, I knew the type of experience I was getting into. There would be a whole new array of Pokemon for me to discover, learn their evolutions, and spend countless hours on Bulbapedia in an attempt to find whichever Pokemon happens to catch my fancy. It would be a process that I would repeat time after time in each and every Pokemon entry I would happen to play, and for me, it is the best part. I know what kind of game I was getting into and what kind of experience it was going to be, but now it would be in a whole new environment and with all new Pokemon to discover. I didn’t want an entirely new experience, instead, I wanted a chance to relive what I enjoyed before but with just the right amount of “new” to set it apart. Because this is what Pokemon is, a nostalgia trip, that’s a good thing for the franchise.
We don’t always need something to always be changing or advancing, sometimes those things we enjoyed in the past can be just as enjoyable in the present; Pokemon is that for me. With the announcement of Pokemon Sword and Shield, I see another opportunity to get lost in a similar world that my 6-year-old self enjoyed but with just enough of modern trappings to prevent it from being stale. It offers a type of game and adventure that only it can offer and that’s why it’s strength lies in staying much of the same.