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Pokemon Should Leave Random Encounters Behind

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  • Posted on 24th Sep, 2022 18:50 PM
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Going from Pokemon Sword and Shield to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl has made one Pokemon tradition significantly less enjoyable.

p>The Pokemon series has evolved quite a bit since the series debuted back in 1996. Fans grew accustomed to the features that became mainstays of the series: evolution, trainer battles, and catching wild Pokemon. However, as the series progressed, these core features continued to be refined and iterated on. As they too evolved, they retained the core idea behind the features but made quality-of-life changes to make them more enjoyable. With the debut Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee, as well as Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, the premise behind catching wild Pokemon changed significantly with the introduction of one of the many nice quality-of-life changes in Generation 8.

In these titles, Pokemon, for the most part, were not hidden in patches of grass in the traditional sense. For 22 years, Pokemon encounters were completely random, and players had little to no clue of what they were fighting against until the battle started. However, in Pokemon Let's Go and Pokemon Sword and Shield, wild Pokemon roamed the overworld (though there was still some semblance of random, unknown grass encounters). Players were able to hunt specific Pokemon that they saw in the wild, instead of hoping that the random encounter in the grass was the Pokemon they were looking for (without using specific helpful tools).

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However, the recent Generation 4 remakes, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl, did away with this feature and returned to a more classic approach to wild Pokemon encounters. After returning to Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl, it is clear that the old way of encounters was a product of its time, and now it is time to leave it behind.

Breathing Room

There are few visceral feelings more synonymous with early Pokemon games than being bombarded by Zubats in a cave, or stumbling upon the 20th Rattata or Pidgey in just as many steps when trying to navigate peacefully to the next town over from the starting town. Wild Pokemon encounters can be inconvenient at best and oppressive at worst when players are not looking to grind for experience. The constant stream of wild Pokemon can be annoying to those trying to make progress in the game or those just trying to get from Point A to Point B with little resistance. While Crobat is a great Pokemon to get, players don't need a dozen Zubats before the second gym just to get this powerful bat. Yes, Repels exist, but wouldn't it be nice if they weren't needed to begin with?

In Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, wild grass encounters were, for the most part, replaced with wild Pokemon roaming the overworld in or around tall grass on the routes and the new Wild Area. This allowed players to not only see when Pokemon were going to try to start a fight but also allowed players to, at a glance, see what Pokemon were available on the route. Players could easily make a path through the route without encountering Pokemon if they did not want to. While there were still some small, random grass encounters, they were relatively easy to avoid as well. The main exception to this came in the Isle of Armor DLC because nobody can outrun the Sharpedo that patrol the waters surrounding the Island.

Being able to deal with wild encounters when the player wants to is a great philosophy, and in turn that makes the encounters that are forced on the player (like the Sharpedo) that much more memorable. Players being able to explore the routes and caves without being stopped every three steps to deal with a Zubat is a breath of fresh air that the Pokemon series desperately needed. Going through Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, several areas really struggled with this, namely caves like Mt. Coronet and Wayward Cave. Being stopped in Wayward Cave every couple of steps to deal with a Geodude or a Bronzor got tiring really fast, especially for newer players who do not know which direction to go in the cave to find the items and Mira. Sword and Shield really showed a better alternative to this, and that is how it should stay.

Creating Atmosphere

Outside of a mechanical standpoint, there is good reason to switch away from grass encounters and move to purely overworld encounters: atmosphere. Going from Sword and Shield back to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl really showcased how empty and lifeless the routes feel. The Wild Area in Sword and Shield may not have been perfect, but there was something truly special about seeing Pokemon of all shapes and sizes wandering around in the overworld. In Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the closest thing that players get to this are the occasional overworld sprite (like the Psyducks) or the trainer's Pokemon following behind them. Having Braviary fly overhead or Mudsdale gallop around nearby really made the Wild Area feel alive, more so than nearly any other Pokemon game to date - with Let's Go being the only other game to come close to this.

Pokemon Legends: Arceus appears to be doing a similar approach with their expeditions. Players seem to be able to wander around the Hisui region and see all the different wild Pokemon that are inhabiting each area roaming around. Judging by the marketing material released so far, the Hisui region is set in a time before Pokemon were largely domesticated, so wild Pokemon would be running rampant. It certainly fits thematically to see a plethora of wild Pokemon just wandering around the region. That certainly goes a long way toward building the untamed atmosphere that it sounds like Pokemon Legends: Arceus is going for.

Having overworld Pokemon permanently instead of random grass encounters would be a tremendous quality-of-life change that players got a taste for in Pokemon Let's Go and Pokemon Sword and Shield. Not only does it save players the headache of dealing with constant unwanted wild Pokemon encounters, but it lets the worlds that Game Freak is creating feel more alive and lived in. Seeing wild Pokemon wander freely through the routes really helps the routes come alive with activity, and frankly, it is a beautiful thing to see for longtime fans of the series. Going forward, Game Freak should leave the industry standard "tall grass" in the past and let wild Pokemon wander the regional routes and allow trainers to encounter them in the overworld, not just random encounters.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl are available now for Nintendo Switch.

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