Paige FTW: A Bigger World, Unexplored

Confession time: I never finished Pokemon Moon. I was climbing the peaks of Mount Lanakila when I abruptly and completely lost interest in the game. I never finished climbing that mountain. Never finished the last island challenges. And never, in the years since and subsequent release of Ultra Moon, have I felt the slightest interest in returning.

This apathy has persisted through the announcement of Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and the arrival of Incineroar to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (seriously, who asked for him of all 802 possibilities?).

I complain about Pokemon’s stagnancy a great deal in this column, but sometimes I wonder if I’m the one out of touch. Maybe the new generation of Pokemon fans really do like these newfangled Mega Evolutions and not-Gym Badges.  

The series has been quiet — relatively speaking — since the rebooted Ultra Sun and Moon released last year, but I find it telling that its main venture since has essentially been the rebooted reboot of the original Pokemon Yellow.

Granted, things have been given a shiny Pokemon Go polish (itself a title that banked hard on nostalgia instead of progress to win hearts), but in my eyes, it’s just yet another return to the base formula that Pokemon has been trying so hard to replicate since 1996.

In my mind, Pokemon Silver and Gold provided exactly the follow-up fans wanted: a far-reaching expansion of a world they had already conquered.

But developers have been reluctant to return to that formula in more than superficial ways — Generations 3, 4 and 6 were standalone adventures, and the Black/White games, while direct sequels, were hesitant to fully acknowledge the far-reaching consequences that Gold/Silver embraced.

In retrospect, it was a bold step towards a wider universe — one that surely would require a great deal more work and thought than simply producing another, new batch of 100 or so monsters every few years.

I can only hope Pokemon rediscovers that courage before its 25th anniversary comes along.