Pokemon games can feel a little stale. Sure, there’s enough spin-offs to keep things fresh, with the likes of New Pokemon Snap, Pokken, and Mystery Dungeon, but the base games are all startlingly similar. You’re a ten year old kid who has never even caught a Pokemon, yet you end up not only becoming regional champion, but also saving the world and capturing a mythical beast that nobody has even seen for centuries – all before you turn 11. It’s interesting enough the first time, but now, it’s getting a bit old, isn’t it? That’s why I’m suggesting we mix things up, and instead of letting us play as the starring trainer, we instead play as a Pokemon desperately avoiding capture.
This is the latest instalment of our weekly column where we talk about how a popular game series would be great… if only it was the exact opposite of what it was. This all came about because I wanted to write about Tony Hawk’s Walking Simulator as a normal article, and everyone shouted at me. Luckily, the more you think about it, the better it gets. So now we’re going to do this each week. You’re welcome.
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You might be thinking “this is a stupid idea,” but to that I say – one, you must not have read my other Mirror Mode columns if you think this one is daft, two, calm down it’s just a joke, and three, it’s not stupid, it’s actually brilliant, and by the time you’ve read the pitch for this game, you’ll either be demanding that Game Freak make it or begging Pixar to pick up the adaptation.
Picture the scene. We open on a young Rattata – not one of those daft ones with the moustache, a proper one. It’s scared, frail, and just gasping after taking its first breath in its parents arms. Your arms, because you’re going to be Mama or Papa Raticate. You start out in your little house inside a tree on Route Two, where you have to go and fetch berries and seeds and whatever else Rattatas eat to help your young’un Junior grow big and strong. You chat to the Raticates in the tree next door, you have an ongoing feud with a nearby Nidoran, and you flirt with Seedot – it doesn’t go any further than that because you’ve got to put your kids first, and Seedot doesn’t want that kind of commitment. You know how it is.
Eventually, your child is strong enough that they can wander outside of the tree… and some ten year old punk with a runny nose siccs a Froakie on them and steals your baby away from you. It’s the day you’ve always feared – and it’s here. Now, you need to take your weak little Route Two self, pack up your tree, wave goodbye to Seedot, and cross the hazardous terrain of the entire region to get your kid back.
You’ll need to fight off other Pokemon who don’t want you in their territory, find new resting spots to recover, and protect yourself from trainers who either want to capture you or use you as fodder to train their ‘mons. Back on Route Two, you were far too mighty for anyone to give you trouble, but once you start to wander further afield, you realise that you’re small time. But you cannot give up. This is your child we’re talking about – you actually have a reason to keep going beyond the usual ‘I wanna win!’ drive of the regular antagonists.
Seeing everything from a Raticate’s point of view also allows the game to reinvent itself. It could still be in one of the old regions, even the original layout, but by dropping the eye level down and forcing you to deal with the rocks and the trees and the grass in a much more direct way, the setting becomes fresh. How does a Raticate cross the ocean? Does it hitch a ride on a Lapras? And how do you know where to go; are you constantly following the trail of the gyms, hoping to find friendly Pokemon ready to give you directions instead of vicious beasts looking to rip your face off because you’re on the wrong side of the tracks? The danger is so much more immediate, the stakes so much higher, and the tried-and-tested formula suddenly feels fresh once again.
And then, as with all the other games, you make it to the Elite Four. Except where usually this arrival is soaked in glory and anticipation, your final victory just inches away from you, things are now tinged with despair. You’ve reached the end of your journey, and still, you have not found your child. You’ve run out of road.
Then suddenly, you hear a cry. You’d know that cry anywhere. It’s Junior! You race off in the direction, trying to avoid the mass of trainers and event organisers trying to grab you, kick you, or toss you out of the building. That’s when you see it. Junior is fighting in the Pokemon League; and they’re winning. That ten year old is still some punk kid, but they’ve got nicer clothes, they’ve brushed their hair, and their nose isn’t so runny anymore. That Froakie is now a Greninja, and little Junior is not so little – it’s a Raticate, just like you. Everyone is cheering for Junior! You were lost without your child, but it seems without you, Junior found their place in the world. They were always destined to be a champion, and you? Well, I guess you’d better head back home.
Maybe Junior sees you and comes running over, maybe they don’t. Maybe it’s a bittersweet tale of parental sacrifice and how loss changes us. Maybe, for once, it’s a Pokemon game where the theme isn’t carried entirely by the villains who just get defeated anyway. Perhaps how Junior reacts to you depends on choices you’ve made earlier in the game, on how much you’ve changed, on how much of yourself you’ve given to the cause. Maybe I don’t want to spoil it, or maybe I just haven’t figured it out yet. Who knows?
All I know is that this is definitely the direction the next Pokemon game needs to go in, and if it doesn’t, I’ll be taking my treatment over to Pixar to get this thing made.
Next: Mirror Mode: The Next Fire Emblem Game Should Be A Dating Sim
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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