Gotta cash em out

Watching my favorite franchise turn into a soulless cash grab

Aniket Panicker

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Snorlax sitting on top of a pile of money.- Graphic created by Angel Harper.

My legs instinctively sprang toward the entrance as the soft chime of the doorbell echoed throughout our apartment complex. Hopping through the air in an uncontrolled frenzy of excitement, I slid the door bolt open as my eyes were greeted with the sight of a delivery man with a rectangular cardboard box in his hand.

I should have waited for the box to touch the ground, but I didn’t. I snatched it from his hand and shut the door in his face without saying a word. I’m still surprised that he never needed my parent’s signature.

Looking back, I most definitely should have been a bit more polite to him. After all, he did go through the trouble of delivering my childhood to me. As soon as the box was in my hands, I rushed to the kitchen table and tore it open haphazardly like any sixth grader would.

Inside were two rectangular boxes that contained pure magic. There were two names plastered onto the front of each box: “Nintendo 3DS” and “Pokemon: Omega Ruby.”

My first game console. And my first video game.

There was nothing like it. I know I sound dramatic, and it may even be my nostalgia overtaking my rationality, but for a kid who had never seen colors as vibrant and lush as those that were in front of the console screen that day, it was nothing short of magic. And no matter how much I look back to those days, I can never convince myself to say otherwise. It was simply surreal.

When the game was on, I was no longer sitting at the edge of my gray, living room couch. Instead, I was stuck in a world that was filled to the brim with annoyingly friendly characters and colorful creatures that ranged from adorable to cool to downright weird.

If my eyes had allowed it at the time, I would gladly have spent 5-6 hours running around the bushes of ‘Route 101’ trying to catch a shiny Poochyena. The lush forests and volcanic terrains of the Hoenn region had my eyes glued to the 3DS for as long as they could stand it.

I do regret leaving my 3DS on its ‘3D’ mode while playing the game. My eyes are definitely not gonna recover from that.

And you know what else my eyes aren’t gonna recover from? Watching my childhood degrade into a monkey making, cash-grab of a franchise.

Starting from Pokemon Sword and Shield, the declining quality of these games has become painfully obvious. Sword and Shield themselves contained major flaws ranging all the way from the infamous “Dexit” controversy, to a noticeable decline in various aspects of the game such as graphical quality and challenge.

“Dexit” in and of itself was a huge blunder for the Pokemon Company. The controversy single handedly killed a majority of the hype for the game, served as a massive slap in the face to longtime Pokemon fans and led to an even bigger avalanche that would highlight the Pokemon Company’s infinite greed. But apart from all that, the lack of polish and challenge is also apparent throughout the game.

Gym leaders are a walk in the park to beat, and at occasions, it looks as though the game is running on a literal potato. The lack of care was blatant, and there was no effort made to hide it.

But despite all this, I decided to turn a blind eye to the disappointment that the game brought me. It could have been a fluke, right? There was no way that one bad apple meant the tree itself had turned rotten. So I waited. Most of all, I hoped. I hoped that this wasn’t going to turn into a trend.

But the thing about companies is that once they figure out that something works, regardless of its quality or presentation, they are most certainly going to turn it into a trend. And Sword and Shield signaled the Pokemon Company to do just that.

In its first week, the two games sold over 6 million copies, making them the fastest selling games on the Nintendo switch up until that point.

And once that happened, the downward spiral began.

Following the release of Sword and Shield, the franchise saw a sharp downturn in quality. The following two releases, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, weren’t just disappointing, they were plain bad.

As the remake of two decade old games, they were faithful to their originals. And that’s the best thing I can say about them. Riddled with game-breaking bugs and a lackluster artstyle, the two remakes seemed almost proud in their lack of effort. And at the time of their release, the games were simply unplayable.

And that brings us to today, to the newest release in the pokemon franchise, Scarlet and Violet.

I never had big expectations for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, yet the games still somehow managed to disappoint me. Coupled with all the previous issues that I mentioned, the games also featured lackluster environmental designs, a consistent low frame rate, and mediocre pokemon designs.

And yes, although the innovation of Pokemon Arceus was a breath of fresh air to the static pokemon franchise, it isn’t enough to revitalize it as a whole.

Maybe I’m wrong. And I hope that I am. But as it is right now, the most magical fragment of my childhood seems to be descending into a downward spiral of greed and desperation.

And if the Pokemon Company doesn’t change the way they approach their franchise, I’m afraid the magic that covered my childhood in vibrant colors will turn to nothing more than a broken husk of lost potential and unfulfilled promise.