Well Pokemon fans, I’m sure a few of you saw yesterday’s Pokemon Presents presentation. While I don’t think many people were surprised that a long-rumored remake of Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl dropped, it did have a few surprising twists. More than that, though, were the announcements of an open-world prequel to the games, as well as online photo-sharing in the upcoming New Pokemon Snap. While details on the first two games are scant, there are a few details that might help us get an idea of how much online multiplayer may factor into the games.
A new shine on old gems
I think considering the series staple of “two games with their own exclusives” and the emphasis on battling ensures that Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will at least have simple online multiplayer features we’ve seen from the past few generations. That means simple trading and 1v1 battles at the least. While I suppose it’s possible that the games could also have a “wild” area with online, multiplayer raids ala-Pokemon Sword/Shield, I have my doubts.
The simple graphics in the open world are cute, but they don’t inspire the awe of Gen 8’s Galar region, with sprawling mountains and open fields with pokemon seen in their natural habitat, not wholly seen until you’ve wandered too long in tall grass. While at release Galar didn’t have pokemon following you around, both of its expansions did, as did Pokemon Let’s Go. By keeping the remakes much more in line with the original series, The Pokemon Company is really playing it safe here, which may not mean a lot for MMO fans who want the series to fully embrace the world-building TPC has become better at fleshing out when the company choose to do so. That’s where Pokemon Legends Arceus comes in.
Before I go any further, I should note first that, having never played the original Diamond and Pearl (and for future reference, Black and White), I don’t feel any nostalgia pull from the Sinnoh region. But Hokkaido, the real region that inspired it, does, as does the old-timey feel.
Legends is essentially a prequel to Diamond and Pearl, as it has you, the player, establishing the original Pokedex for the region. Unlike the remakes, Legends visually and mechanically look more similar to Sword and Shield’s wild area combined with Let’s Go‘s emphasis on your partner being with you at all times. It then turns that up to 11 by not cutting away into an RPG menu for all your interactions, but having catching and some battle-aspects occurring in the open world.
The game actually looks like an official version of various action-oriented Pokemon mods and fangames that have been released over the years. The only issue, however, is whether or not the game will actually have an online multiplayer component. We reached out to PR specifically asking whether or not multiplayer will be an option and were told, “There is no additional information at this time.” However, I do think there are a few things to consider.
In terms of the “no multiplayer,” one argument could be the story-based nature of the game. While we’re always trying to complete a Pokedex for some professor, it feels like Legends is more like the Pokedex, and unlike other console-based Pokemon games, this one hasn’t got two versions to signal that we need to coordinate with other players. Also, unlike most Pokemon main-series trailers, this one shows absolutely no trainer battles. No gyms. We don’t even see other people on screen, just swathes of wilderness and wildlife. The only other main series reveal to do this in recent years was Sun and Moon‘s reveal that basically showed some art assets and UI screens.
There’s also an interesting basic issue to address: the new Pokeballs. At the 9-second mark, notice how retro it looks. The official website notes that “the Poké Balls of old were apparently built a little differently from the ones we know so well. They were made mostly of wood, and steam puffed from their tops when Pokémon were caught.” This could be a signal that Legends won’t interact with other Pokemon games at all. It may even be that, at best, we could send pokemon from Legends to Home but not vice-versa.
But in the for multiplayer column, I’ll lead with the PR statement: “There is no additional information at this time.” This isn’t normal when asking about basic gameplay features. For example, with the recently announced Neon White, Kotaku had originally and uniquely claimed the game would be multiplayer, but when I took to Twitter to ask the devs about this, they flatly stated it would be single-player. That is normal.
Nintendo and The Pokemon Company, though, has a tendency to vocally avoid answering questions that might turn into big reveals, such as with multiplayer in Mario Odyssey and in several instances for Pokemon GO. Conversely, some readers probably have noticed I ask PR about gyroids and Brewster in Animal Crossing: New Horizon for just about every update announced. The reason I don’t update those posts is that Nintendo says nothing. Literally. It’s a different kind of communication, and one that has me slightly worried about my gyroid buddies, but I digress.
But let’s forget that for a moment. One of the key things in the Sinnoh region is the emphasis on time and space, as per its legendaries. Giratina, one of its big legendaries, even has different forms based on which dimension it’s in. This could allow for a lore reason for players to at least participate in online play at best, whether that’s simply trading and battles or assisting with raids. The latter is of great importance because, in my experience, attempting Pokemon Sword and Shield raids with AI only is a lesson in pain and failure. Gamefreak would have to adjust the AI in terms of power and abilities for players to still be successful should a new game further threaten the playerbase.
Raids also seem as if they’d fit into an open-world game better, especially one where giant God pokemon exist. Sword and Shield did pretty good with world-building, especially with acknowledging the destructive power of giant pokemon suddenly appearing around the world. As your starters in this game actually are not from Sinnoh but other regions (Rowlett from Alola, Cyndaquil from Johto, and Oshawatt from Unova), it wouldn’t be surprising if this game could interact with other generations in some way.
In fact, it could also be that Legends may be more multiplayer than usual. I won’t go as far as saying it could have online-zones like early MMOs, but it could potentially allow for inviting friends along. There was local co-op in Let’s Go, but as the series has been arguably moving more towards online play, it suggests that leaving that out all online-multiplayer would be a step back and keep the game almost as a test-spin off. We’ll just have to wait for more details.
Snapping up points
And finally, the new trailer for New Pokemon Snap shows an online component. While the photo-editing shown was an additional I immediately got excited about, the additional reveal that there would be in-game, online photo-sharing to gain points was completely unexpected. My friends and I had a blast with it in high school, showing off our pictures and comparing scores manually.
Adding an online component feels like a modern way of supporting that, but the addition of earning some kind of currency for popular pictures incentivizes that online component. While this is not an MMO in the slightest, I think most of us had assumed photosharing would be limited to the Switch’s integrated connections to social media, similar to in-game photo support in Sun and Moon and Pokemon GO are also handled that way. I don’t think a photography themed MMO could really stand its ground even as a niche product, but New Pokemon Snap does feel like it’s making a kind of social media platform within its game to incentivize interactions. How that currency will be used is anyone’s guess, but it’s a feature I didn’t see coming and has gotten me excited about how I’ll be able to interact with other friends who play the game.