Recently, I played the role of sourpuss and expressed my view on four Pokémon side games that I hope will not get remade or redone in some fashion. But I can be a positive Pokémon fan, too, I swear. I couldn’t write a whole piece ripping into some bad or useless games, as well as a fanbase that can have troubles tempering their expectations, without having a more positive counterpoint.
These are the brighter side of things; four spin-off games that for one reason or another, deserve to be revisited by the franchise whether that be a remake, a reimagining, or even a flat-out sequel or reboot. It’s hard to label what Pokémon has done to their redone core series games simply as “remakes” considering how many quality of life changes get introduced to make things almost an entire new experience (see: Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, and the absolute masterstrokes that are Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver).
Side games, however, haven’t had that much luck in the way of getting second chances. We have the recently announced New Pokémon Snap and earlier this year we also had Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. We’ve sort of had Pokkén Tournament make its way from the Wii U to the Switch as a launch title as well. So the record is there showing Nintendo and The Pokémon Company are open to giving these smaller games another go, but which ones are really worthy to take a look at? Let’s strap in again as I try to not be such a downer this time.
4. Pokémon Ranger
As mentioned before, the world of Pokémon, despite being the crux of virtually everything in the series, is something not investigated very heavily in most games. The relationship between humans and Pokémon, the idea most of that world is built on, is even less explored. Sure, we get Pokémon Amie and Pokémon Refresh to at least get to play with our PokéPals in unique ways, but the depth of the human-Pokémon relationship is deeper than making faces and blow-drying fur. Pokémon Ranger, a 2006 Nintendo DS game, made an earnest attempt at investigating both of these ideas.
Whereas the main games focus on the player as a Pokémon Trainer catching and building up your squad for glory, the Ranger games decided to focus on the player doing what they can to help the environment. As a Pokémon Ranger, you are not allowed to capture Pokémon permanently, you can only subdue them temporarily to help with the current task. Depending on whichever of the three games under the Ranger banner you are playing, the Pokémon can leave once said mission is complete, you use it for help, or if it takes damage.
A game like this is quirky and maybe even a bit niche, so it may not be one that gets a lot of attention in general and even less when it comes to possible demand for a remake or revisit. That being said, an exceptionally niche title like Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE got a Switch port, so maybe anything has a chance.
It would be a bit disingenuous, though, without mentioning that the main reason this game probably got played at all was because it was the only way to obtain the Manaphy Egg and obtain the mythical Pokémon Manaphy.
Being a DS original, the game relies very much on things like touch screen mechanics, especially to subdue friendly Pokémon, which isn’t usually the most focused on feature of the Switch. The gameplay itself isn’t so much why I think it deserves another look, but the aforementioned premise of fleshing out two of Pokémon’s biggest “tell, don’t show” aspects, which given what they have been able to do with idea of a habitable overworld like the Wild Area, bringing back a Ranger game could give a whole new wave of things to explore and rescue.
3. Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness
In my previous piece, I mentioned how the Stadium games are probably the most requested remakes. I now introduce you to the game that just might be the silver medal in that category.
Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is the 2005 GameCube sequel to Pokémon Colosseum, itself a spiritual successor to the Stadium games. The main plot and focus of the game revolve around rescuing and purifying Shadow Pokémon, who I think are one of the more horrifying in-universe concepts in the entire franchise. Shadow Pokémon are creatures that have lost all feeling or connection with their heart and only exist to fight. They don’t even attack other Pokémon, instead focusing on the human Trainers. Now you can see why something like that would be so daunting, even just on implications alone.
This one I think commands and deserves a revisit for a few reasons. One is the much darker tone and nature of the very plot. People have been begging the core games to have at least a smidge more mature content, something Pokémon Black and White tackled to glorious applause. It also represents something that Pokémon doesn’t focus tremendously on anyway and that is their story. Something as heavy as trying to snag these poor, corrupted souls from an organization experimenting on them and cleansing their very hearts is something that many in the current climate would adore.
Another big thing is because this game got such a good reception even back in the day, it deserves a much bigger audience. A key thing about many of the games I’ve mentioned in both of these pieces is the fact that Pokémon games are usually locked to whatever system they came out on. Due to the popularity and collectable nature of the games, they command insane prices just to get your hands on them, let alone getting a hold of the original system they came out for. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a copy of Gale of Darkness priced less than what modern games cost anyway.
So why not give this entire game and concept another go by just porting it over to the Switch? Sure, the concept of catching Shadows and purifying them is present in Pokémon Go, but I’m of course speaking about an entire game dedicated to it. Side games shouldn’t be afraid to push things a little, and this is one I would love to see come back around in some form if for no other reason than that.
Oh, and the very idea of Shadow Lugia owns and deserves to be shown off to the world on a much larger stage.
2. Pokémon Trading Card Game (The Video Game)
It tickles me that there is a video game based on a card game that is based on a video game.
So here’s where you can probably call me out as a hypocrite, but I have my reasons. In the last piece, I made a big deal out of the redundancy both the Stadium games and a rehash of the Pokémon Puzzle League would be. This one could be seen similarly, considering the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online currently exists where you can, uh, play the Pokémon TCG online. The original game I’m referring to, the Pokémon Trading Card Game for the Game Boy Color, was released in 1998 in Japan and 2000 for the rest of the world. There was a sequel that was released only in Japan, which makes me a little sad.
The name of the game is exactly what it sounds like. You collect and battle with NPCs by playing the TCG, getting more cards and improving your deck along the way. The plot of the game is a weak carbon copy of the original Pokémon Red and Blue – you take the Pokémon TCG Challenge, which means going around and defeating eight “Club Masters,” each of them specializing in a different element, before fighting four “Grand Masters” for the title of Champion. There is even a brash and annoying rival you keep having to deal with who constantly has much better cards than he should every time you meet him.
The main reason this is here isn’t because I harbor some kind of love for paper-thin plots, but because I’m a sucker for card games that I don’t have to play with actual real people. I never grew up playing a whole lot of multiplayer games and didn’t have a whole lot of friends, so yeah, single player was the way.
I love the Yu-Gi-Oh games across the Nintendo handheld family (and some console ones) because they allowed me to play those kinds of games solo. Even now, I pop in something like The Sacred Cards when I want to give my brain a quick ten minute rest. I also pop in the Pokémon Trading Card Game for that same purpose. In addition, despite every kid on the block collecting Pokémon cards growing up, I could count on one hand the number of kids I knew who actually knew how to play the TCG. There was flat out no one to play with.
This reasoning is entirely selfish, but I just love being able to play card games offline and by myself. The “online” portion of Pokémon TCG Online is something I could never do, which is where the maximum value of the game lies. I like the idea of being able to earn every card loaded into the game in the game without the need of someone or something else; a finite amount, no using real world money or buying real world stuff to be transferred in game. I want to beat the CPU for booster backs, earn some in-game currency, and use that to buy more stuff.
These kinds of games may struggle to ever see the light of day again because of the lucrative business model of charging for improvements in multiplayer games and a need to stay up to date. While it is neat in the modern day to constantly have online to always update things as new sets and regulations come out, I love the idea of these kinds of games being sort of like time capsules for where the respective TCGs once were and how far they’ve come.
TL;DR: let me play a complete package, quick-paced handheld TCG game by myself while I poop.
1. Pokémon Conquest
Here we go. The best Pokémon game you’ve never played. And if the last entry was selfish, this one is downright narcissistic.
Released in 2012 on the DS, Pokémon Conquest was the first Pokémon crossover game to ever leave Japan. It was Pokémon crossed over with, of all things, a feudal Japan-era tactical RPG franchise called Nobunaga’s Ambition, which at the time had ironically never been outside Japan. That franchise was created by Koei Tecmo, a company I have written more than my fair share of articles about because they also make the Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and Warriors Orochi games that I adore so much.
So you can tell they designed a game deliberately meant to appeal to me. Warring factions? Check. Feudal Japan? Check. Using familiar Samurai Warriors designs? Check. Tactical RPG akin to Fire Emblem? Check. And cross all of it over with my favorite IP of all time? Checkity check check check.
The game is all about recruiting warriors to your cause to help make your territories prosperous while taking over the neighboring states with the goal of conquering the whole continent. How do you fight, you ask? Not with swords or spears or shields, but with Pokémon. It even had a unique way of catching Pokémon via a “link” with the creatures. If you made a high enough percentage link, they were yours and could be used in later battles. Instead of just the Pokémon gaining experience, both monster and warrior would gain more link percentage, up to 100%. A Pokémon and Trainer could only have the potential to reach 100%, however, if you found the creature that matched-up perfectly with the warrior.
There was just so much to this game. Outside the really cool combat features, there was the entire appeal of matching Pokémon up with some historical Feudal Japanese counterparts. There is something otherworldly in seeing names like Takeda Shingen, Hattori Hanzo, and Oda Nobunaga standing alongside Rhyperior, Gengar, and Shiny Rayquaza, respectively. Further than that even was the collecting-within-collecting aspect of not just recruiting these famous warlords, but trying to find just which Pokémon was their “perfect link.” If you did, you were rewarded with not just the Pokémon leveling up, but the warlord as well, changing their gear to a near cosplay level outfit matching their perfect link partner. Yes, this is a game that contains Pokémon inspired samurai armor and kimonos.
Like many Pokémon spin-off or side games, the roster is a bit restricted because they couldn’t design tactical RPG elements for every single Pokémon up to Gen 5 at the time, but that is an understandable limitation. Each territory had its own unique map and gimmick that you had to plan around or use in order to come away the victor, as well as incorporate the battle-tested Pokémon type chart.
The biggest derision, though, is probably the fact that the game is loaded with padding. Beating the game the first time through opens up the option to play the side stories of every major warlord in the game, most of which had the exact same goal. Which means you have to conquer the continent in some form or fashion forty-three different times to unlock the true final campaign. But a remake, reimagining, or sequel could tweak that one, time absorbing weakness, right? Seriously, it is a Pokémon samurai-era game with some of the most unique mechanics under the franchise banner. It is a heavily biased statement, but for me, this is the Pokémon spin-off I would love nothing more than to see again.
Plus, if more people play it or an updated version of it, I’d feel less bad about apparently having spent 275 hours on a handheld spin-off.
But what do you guys think? Did I miss your favorite Pokémon side game? Do you think Gale of Darkness was overrated? Do you not respect the opinion of some weirdo who likes to play children’s card games by himself? Let us know in the comments below.
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