Reliance on OthersPokémon games have always been designed to work in pairs. You either needed someone else or a second Game Boy to do certain things. There were Pokémon exclusive to either edition, and certain ones only evolved when traded. Sounds nice, as long as that particular generation of Pokémon games is being played by the people around you. After that? Screw you. Even though the games are technically backwards-compatible to a certain point, things keep changing from generation to generation. At least the spatial factor has been removed since the games got an online function.
And even if the games are being played by those around you... what's the main demographic for Pokémon? Kids. And kids can be pricks, especially to each other. And if you're not a kid and playing Pokémon... good luck finding other players in your non-gamer environment.
Another thing that bothers me is that there's more and more things that require another player. Since Sapphire's the last game I played, I can't talk much about the games after that, but my god, so much stuff. Sure, some of that stuff is purely for funsies, but that there's more and more things that actually give you advantages. No internet on your handheld console? No extra features for you!
Not to mention all these events where they handed out exclusive things. Pokémon has always been a sell-out franchise, but I feel like it has gotten worse.
It's a Secret to EverybodyPokémon has tons of features, even if you never come into contact with any other instance of the game. Many have been introduced in Gold and Silver, as well a Ruby and Sapphire. Too bad that the game doesn't tell you. For an RPG (which it is), it's very secretive about the inner workings of stats, for example. There's tons of values that influence which stats are rising and which don't, like Effort Values and Internal Values. You'd never even find out about these if it wasn't for the internet. (My R/B/Y never said anything about that, so screw that.) I get keeping the exact inner workings of random events from the player, but stats? Stats are kind of important.
Aside from that whole EV/IV thing, there's just a metric f-ton of features introduced in Gold/Silver. Like shiny Pokémon. Which is explained to you, and you even get to see your story shinies. And then there's stuff like the Pokérus. Your Pokémon can randomly catch that and it doubles the EV they get. That's never mentioned, unless you catch it. Not even a throwaway line. And even if you catch that, the only thing you get is "when Pokémon have it, they grow faster." I'd accept the fourth wall as an excuse to not mention EV at that point, except that EXP (Experience Points) are mentioned everywhere. No, no, EV should stay a secret, even though everyone with internet can look them up. This is silly.
The World Is DeadThis is my main non-technical issue with the games. The world isn't really alive. The only time I've seen a world that static was in the game I kept using as an example in my other posts. But let's start with the beginning.
Generation 1: Okay, It'd be unfair to harp on the first two games, since they had enough problems fitting the thing onto one cartridge. But still... the majority of non-trainer NPCs is uninteresting. They talk about the gym, or the cave/forest/thingy that lies ahead... and occasionally, they give you stuff. Trainers just spout bad puns in relation to what kind of trainer they are. The only place where things get more specific is Lavender Town. And maybe the lab on Cinnabar Island, but for such a big story, that was really underplayed.
Generation 2: Gold and Silver got a bit better with their worldbuilding. I remember the town where Team Rocket tried to steal Slowpoke tails. Ew. Still, all that information came from a few key NPCs. The rest was still busy saying inane things and give me the occasional item. Since there were more features, they had more NPCs to explain these features, but other than that... eh.
Generation 3: The graphics got spiffier, and with that the text boxes. The dialogues got bigger, but I still can't get myself to talk to people.
Everything's a Feature
Let's have look... we've got instant healing sprays. We've got software to implant knowledge into sentient beings. We can transfer living creatures into energy/data and back without problems. We can clone creatures from either fresh or ancient material. We can build teleporters. And I'm pretty damn sure that there's at least one Pokémon out there whose natural abilities can be used to make faster than light travel possible.
But none of these things are really looked into. They're just there and contribute barely anything to the world. Sure, the TV series does more with them, but the games? Nope. All these things just casually exist. I mean, the evil teams of the respective games wouldn't even need their own gimmicky things to pursue. Tinkering with existing technologies would make a fine plot already. Instead, we get stuff like people making a ruckus over... Team Aqua turning off a volcano next to a village. It's a volcano that's active enough to be filled to the brim with lava. You should cheer for these people and throw Team Magma off the damn mountain.
The World Is a StageSimilarly to my favorite example of doing it wrong, the world in Pokémon has always been a stage for all these features and sell-out things. Hence the point before. Adding more features won't change that if the worldbuilding itself isn't improved. I know that the games can't have the same story depth as you have in the non-interactive media, but you can, at least, try.
Breadth GrowthI like to think of games in terms of breadth and height, where breadth is the quantity and diversity of things, while height is the actual value these things add to the experience. Every generation of Pokémon games added things to the game, but to me, that's mostly breadth growth. More Pokémon in a battle (2-on-2 in Ruby/Sapphire, 3-on-3 in Black/White), more stats (friendship, natures...), more things happening in the game (contests, berries, a day/night cycle...)
Still, most of that feels like "yet another feature" to me. New stats mean more complexity in terms of balancing, but they don't really show to the casual player. As for added gameplay mechanics, contests were a good idea, but they still feel too much like battles, and yet you'd need a completely different set of Pokémon, considering that the best battle moves aren't always the best contest moves. And again, contests are just yet another feature.