When Pokémon Sword and Shield were released, fans were excited to see Pikachu and friends in a home console for the first time in an all-new mainline Pokémon game. However, the game came with its faults, such as the exclusion of hundreds of Pokémon, some textures and animations straight out of the GameCube era, and an unfinished narrative. Fans excused these faults, attributing them to Game Freak’s lack of experience designing a fully 3D, semi-open world.
Game Freak’s latest game, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, is by most metrics, an inferior game to Sword and Shield. Technical problems persist six months after its release, and the DLC will come suspiciously late in the year. Furthermore, the game’s Pokémon HOME integration was announced, unannounced and then announced again, and whole tournament results got wiped out by glitches.
While the game has excellent music and a wonderful mechanic called Terastalization, the overworld runs poorly. The game has a lot of great ideas spread throughout it. However, it could have been much better if Game Freak and The Pokémon Company weren’t content to churn out undercooked titles. Cassette Beasts and Temtem add refreshing ideas and innovations to the genre, but these games challenging Pokémon is akin to a level 22 Charmeleon going up against a level 80 Mewtwo.
The Need for a Rival
Game Freak and The Pokémon Company require a rival to keep them honest. A game that makes people say, “Why play Pokémon when I can play ‘Other Creature-Collecting & Battling Adventure’ instead?” Pokémon’s custodians have no incentive to make a technically watertight game when they continue to break sales records regardless.
Pokémon’s one-time rival, Digimon, is a shadow of its former self. Smaller titles, such as the recent Cassette Beasts or the superb MMO Temtem, add refreshing ideas and innovations to the genre, but these games are not challenging enough to Pokémon.
To challenge Pokémon, a game would require a massive publisher behind it with an established fanbase. Epic’s Fortnite, which has thrown 150 critters to find and capture as you build, dance and shoot around the island as Spider-Man, could be a possible rival. Pearl Abyss’ DokeV might surprise us all whenever it eventually releases, and Atlus’ Persona 5 Royal targets a completely different, and much more mature, market.
Capcom and Square Enix are two publishers with creature-collecting history that could take a piece of Pikachu’s pie. Capcom is the publisher/developer best poised to make Game Freak sit up in their chairs, as it has proven in recent years that it values quality and delivering on fan expectations above all else. Capcom’s own monster-battling game, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, is superior to every Pokémon game on the Switch.
Square Enix’s announcement of a new Dragon Quest Monsters game could be the perfect Pokémon rival. Dragon Quest Monsters has a similar storied history to Pokémon and a massive company to support it. Both games have you collecting hundreds of monsters while battling in gyms/arenas. Breeding, adventuring, great tunes, and all the hallmarks of the genre are there.
While Dragon Quest Monsters and the main series haven’t traditionally sold well outside of Japan, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age changed that. If Square Enix can bring the quality of Dragon Quest XI to the monster-rearing series, it could make fans, critics, and most importantly The Pokémon Company take notice.
The legendary Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame is responsible for the monster designs, which range from the iconic Slime to the absolutely amazing Sham Hatwitch. A quality Dragon Quest Monsters game could improve the genre and make fans say, “Wow, I wish Pokémon did this.”
Pokémon needs a rival to keep them honest. The recent games have fallen short, and fans want a game that challenges Pokémon. Capcom’s Monster Hunter Stories and Square Enix’s Dragon Quest Monsters could be two publishers to rival Pokémon. If Dragon Quest Monsters can bring the quality of Dragon Quest XI to the monster-rearing series, it could make fans, critics, and most importantly, The Pokémon Company take notice.