the pokemon company delivered their promise to make an open world pokemon game this time around. they genuinely commited to it, they didnt hold our hands and railroad us on some cheesy feelgood bullshit this time around. this, in an essence, is everything we wanted pokemon to be, and performance issues aside they really tried to meet the fan expectations... but they were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
this is an open world game. this is also a JRPG-lite. i do not think they mesh well.
in another open world game where your destination is your choice, you might encounter something that is too ferocious to deal with, but with your cunning and wits, you might still be out to outgun whatever baddie you encounter. in a JRPG, fighting an enemy that's twenty levels higher than you is almost always impossible without some form of exploit that makes you play the game entirely differently. this is true of pokemon too, you might be able to take on a gym where the pokemon are so many levels higher than you, but it will be because of some bullshit, or because you had a fuck tonne of potions/max revives. i hate using items in pokemon because it feels so cheap; for a game where the premise is equal opponents against each other, using items just feels like cheating. as a result of this, winning a fight against a gym i'm not levelled for is an impossibility. there's simply no point! doesn't really matter how well I know my type matchups, if you have a dragonite that's 40 levels higher than me there's no way my wooper and dunsparce are surviving that. as a result, the open world nature of pokemon kind of failed here i feel like! i just ended up using a guide to go to the recommended next area because it felt like otherwise i was getting my shit kicked in, purposely avoiding trainers and wild pokemon until i could reach the gym and cheese my way through it, and that wasn't fun at all.
another aspect of the open world is navigating it; we're given Miraidon/Kiraidon for this purpose, and it's cool how our mount evolves with each titan that we beat. it's so much faster than running on our feet it feels absolutely necessary to use, but honestly, i felt like i didnt get agood picture of what paldea looks like because of it. sure i explored, but that quickly got boring because there was never really anything worth finding. sure there's items and TMs, but they're both boring. there was never, as far as i'm aware, a case of only finding a certain pokemon in a certain place. each pokemon kind of wanders round aimlessly in each area, feeling less like actual animals with habitats and more like freckles that are scattered across your skin. the towns too are completely bland, totally lacking in personality. i would say they might be the worst towns in the franchise. you can't enter any buildings except for the gyms, which are just boring ass gray buildings with nothing going on! i get that there's an emphasis on being outside but man, i didnt get that feeling of "oh cool a new town!" that you get when you find one in an older pokemon game, which was a real shame. they used to be so colourful. i guess the mount controls okay though. side note, the game's overstated horrific performance issues do not make paldea a nice region to look at either! paldea was not particularly fun to explore for any reason! it wasnt bad it was just... not good?
the story is pokemon as always. team star was absolutely the worst bit, completely lacking in flavour at all. the bosses are all boring, and cassiopea was boring. i DID like clive though; i wish he would have got flustered everytime i called out who he really was though, that would've been funny. the champion storyline is also pretty meh, the gym leaders this time around are mostly forgettable, some of them being memorable only for their visual designs and not much else. i didnt like nemona at the start but whatever reason she grew on me! the game seems to realise that she's stupid and that makes me like her more.
arven's story was the best one with the titans. the titans were the coolest thing in it, and i wish they had been a bit tougher or stranger, but i did enjoy them a lot, and arven's thing with sada/turo is good too... speaking of...
area zero takes the game into a totally different, bizarre for pokemon, act. nemona, penny, and arven have all this expository banter while you explore this dazzlingly beautiful area on foot, it's tough and dangerous. for once a pokemon game also acknowledges that people can dislike each other; the characters are witty and have banter with each other, and they're mean about it sometimes! even penny has a level of sarcasm to her that gives her some flavour, and i suddenly found myself invested in this little friendship group i was in. the paradox pokemon are genuinely cool, and the mystery of what's going on genuinely caught my attention. the fact that the real professor turo/sada has been dead the entire time is a genuine shock, and the final battle with their robot clone is tough and super exciting! it's not a long final act, but it's a really good one! it made me wish for not an open world pokemon game, but a focused one with a decent story... kind of like colosseum, but with more choice of pokemon in the team!
the new pokemon this time around are really good, i surprised myself by managing to finish the game with a team full of entirely new pokemon, which i dont think i've ever done before in a new pokemon game! that's genuinely awesome!
final note, i think making your first open world game also the game with the boarding school was a HUUUGE mistake! boarding school fiction is fun because it's a centralised location that the audience becomes intimately familiar with; dropping that in a game where we have very little incentive to go back to is insane! and now we're likely to never get it again which is a shame, bc i love boarding school fiction! ah well!