This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Pokémon has long been a series that makes small changes to each game that are nigh imperceptible to non-fans. To people who haven't kept up with the series, Pokémon Sword and Shield might as well be a 3D version of Pokémon Red and Blue. They wouldn't be wrong, as far as the basic mechanics go. While there have been new types of Pokémon introduced, and new wrinkles like Dynamaxing, for the most part you'll be taking on one-on-one battles with the creatures you train, same as it ever was.
Temtem, which entered early access on Steam last week, seems laser targeted towards hardcore and casual fans that are itching for something that feels familiar but new. The battle system is fully two-on-two battles, which have long been the preferred battles for competitive play in Pokémon, despite their sparse inclusion in those games. Temtem also changes the flow of battle with an added stamina bar, which means you can't just spam the same move over and over again.
Nintendo should take a good hard look at the changes in Temtem, but will they? This week on Waypoint Radio, we discuss Kentucky Route Zero's final act, the new Kingdom Hearts DLC, and how Nintendo tends to make baffling choices with their franchises. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full episode below.
Patrick: Isn't the fate of this that [it's] actually the best thing that could have ever happened to Pokémon is the existence of Temtem? It is unlikely, given the history of Nintendo, that they were ever going to make the more serious [Pokémon]? I mean more serious by making more complicated battles, more systemic gameplay...
Cado: When you start up, you make a character. All of your character choices are not bound to a gender. You open up the [game] and you have all the choices in front of you, you can mix and match as [much as] you want, and you choose pronouns at at the end of character creation. It gives you the choice between he/him she/her and they/them, which was really cool. I really liked my little character that I made. They have some really good hair choices, hair colors and stuff. It's good.
Patrick: Even stuff like that. Nintendo is an immovable object, they're going to do what they are going to do. Sometimes they listen to feedback from fans, sometimes they don't. You come from it as a Pokemon fan, I come from it as a Mario Maker fan, but [Nintendo will] do so much good, and then it's just "why?" You kind of tear your hair out. And Temtem has got some obstacles in terms of iconography and the emotional weight [of Pokémon], but if they can get their shit together, in some ways it's really helpful to the larger ecosystem.
Pokémon is what it is! Just accept it, instead of trying to graft something onto Pokémon that's just not going to happen because Nintendo is not going to do it. Temtem can make a really compelling alternative that goes in the direction that people want. People have dreamed about the Pokémon MMO as long as there have been internet connected devices in our homes. It just seems unlikely Nintendo is ever going to make that game, or if they did, it wouldn't have a billion things that you think would be on the on the list of dream stuff to have in a game like that.
Cado: That's part of what the wild areas were in this last game, right? It is that small step that they're making, where in that space, if you're connected online, you see other players in the world that you can kind of interact with.
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