Author Topic: Five Questions About Pokemon Legends: Z-A  (Read 655 times)

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Five Questions About Pokemon Legends: Z-A
« on: February 28, 2024, 03:00:00 AM »

Caution: Although this is a Pokemon article, it is rated PG-13.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/editorial/66442/five-questions-about-pokemon-legends-z-a

Well, that was surprising and in a way, not surprising. I believe I might have referred to a new mainline Pokemon game on Switch being announced in the Pokemon Presents as “the free space on the bingo card”, and it came to pass pretty much as expected. We do have a new Pokemon game coming to Switch, but it’s still leaving a lot of questions. Specifically, I have five.

1) If even POKEMON is punting on 2024, how completely fucked is this industry?

Right before the Pokemon Presents began, word came down from Jim Ryan (he of the rapidly approaching golden parachute) at Sony that they were laying off 8% of their gaming workforce or 900 people. Including a majority of their PSVR2 development, which goes to show: Sony will cut bait on the second attempt way faster than is sane. (See also: Vita, PlayStation). Before I finished work on Pokemon Day, current Life is Strange developer Deck Nine announced they were laying off 20% of their workforce. And then due to a corporate move, Cloud Imperium Games, makers of alleged grand space combat game/ship seller/possible Ponzi scheme Star Citizen, announced they were cutting staff. This is a company that, mind you, somehow pulled in US$140,000 THAT DAY ALONE via crowdfunding.

This year has been looking real bad for the game industry, as the pace of layoffs only seems to be accelerating as we approach the end of most fiscal years. If - Snorlax-sized if - the Switch’s successor was delayed in order to flesh out the lineup even more in 2025, that pushed back a lot of things from third party publishers with it. But a Pokemon at the end of the year plus an assumed return to form from Call of Duty seemed like a good financial note to go out on - but now the former is in 2025 and it’s still an open question what Microsoft will do or put up with for Call of Duty given it’s a not-insignificant part of why they bought ActBlizzKing in the first place.

Pokemon skipping THIS year is a warning shot. But if Call of Duty skips as well, it’s going to take a lot of the more casual money out of the market at a time when most Western or Western-exposed developers (Sony) are already afraid to hire, the rest of this year is going to be painful.

2) Was Kalos the planned site for the generation capper all along?

Although some of them (species of Pokemon) have the dreaded X-Pac Heat (poor Simisear, literally the least popular Pokemon in existence) there’s also some quite popular lines and a frickin’ Smash Bros character who aren’t available unless you use the 3DS to bring them in. - The Collector's Hopes For Scarlet and Violet, May 17, 2022

The Smash Bros. character in question is Greninja, one of the starters of Pokemon X and Y who debuted in Smash 3DS/Wii U. And it’s true: at the time of that article, none of the starter families from X/Y were available on Switch. They slowly trickled into Scarlet and Violet via limited events, then when the Indigo Disk went and gave the Smash Ultimate memorial “Everyone is here!” treatment to the starters, all three became permanently available. It sure seems like that particular group of three got held back for a reason.

Add in Scarlet and Violet clearly taking a lot of influence from the Iberian Peninsula immediately to the southwest of France, and you have a national link between S/V and Z-A. Common (although never officially confirmed) theories about Paldea include the Great Crater being created by a particularly large shot from “the ultimate weapon” that drives so much of the plot of X and Y, so this is a good chance to either prove or disprove that theory.

3) What will Z-A do for people who want to fill the Pokedex with just Switch games?

One of the things I mentioned last week when I hoped for a Legends set in Unova was that it would provide an easy excuse to include nine common species that still haven’t been playable on the Switch to this point. Eight of them were Unovan common spawns, and the ninth (a French poodle) would have an excuse to show up in a historical version of the United States.

It turns out that Kalos would be another option for those particular Pokemon to make their hybrid console debuts. Obviously Furfrou the poodle would be a native to the region, and the elemental monkeys are common spawns in the second area of X and Y you can catch Pokemon in, while Watchog shows up in areas immediately following the 6th badge and would presumably bring Patrat along for the ride. So that part of it should be covered.

As for other playable Pokemon, X and Y still have the largest regional Pokedex of any game in the series, north of 450 Pokemon. So there’s plenty of options to choose from. And that’s not accounting for them having to possibly bring in starters from other regions in order to accommodate the return of Mega Evolution. Maybe a starter trio of Treecko (which has a Mega Evolution as Sceptile), Froakie (Greninja’s old “Ash-Greninja” form being retconned into a Mega) and… why is “My Worldplaying?

A major benefit of Legends: Arceus allowed for all of the Sinnoh-era mythical Pokemon to be capturable in the course of normal play. A side quest gives Manaphy and Phione, save data unlocks postgame capture of Darkrai and Shaymin, and Arceus is the literal final thing you get. If that precedent holds in Z-A, we’ll get permanent access to three mythical Pokemon - DIancie, Hoopa, and Volcanion - that haven’t been distributed in ages. Diancie could fill the Manaphy role since it could be tied to the Kalos-native Carbink, Volcanion could be a S/V save bonus given its Fire/Water typing, and Hoopa… well, it could be the driver of the plot if we’re going to do a second season of “So I’m A Joltik, So What” and have the player character get isekai’d again.

4) Does the focus on Lumiose City mean we’ll see a similar gameplay structure to Arceus?

The “building a city” portion of Legends: Z-A was made quite explicit in the original trailer, and also harkens back to the 19th century Renovation of Paris. A similar concept wasn’t as explicit in the prerelease hype for Arceus, but part of the story of the game involved building up the late 19th century version of Jubilife City into a thriving city that supported the growth of Pokemon as well. So it won’t be Sim City in the way we’re thinking.

But Lumiose City in X and Y has five exits, each splitting off to very different areas. One goes out to the starting areas, one to a swamp, one to a volcanic badlands, one to coastal waters, and one to an area of ice. Coincidentally, those areas in a fashion are the same five zones we explored in Arceus - the Fieldlands, Mirelands, Coastlands, Highlands, and Icelands. With each one being accessible out of Lumiose, it sure feels like it’d be easy to implement a five environment structure here as well - as opposed to Castelia City in Unova which only has two known exits. (Which is a shame, as I hear in Castelia you can be a new man.)

Via Pokearth at serebii.net, the map of Kalos ca 2013.

It’s not obvious if we’ll see the same focus on catching Pokemon to fill out an early Pokedex, or if it’ll be more focused on battling than the original. But I do hope they maintain the most badass trainer class in franchise history: “Pokemon Wielder”.

5) How far into 2025 will it be before Z-A lands, and do we get anything in between?

Pokemon Legends: Arceus shipped 14.6m copies with a launch date of January 28, 2022. If we assume a similar launch timing for Z-A, that would put it to January 31, 2025. Given Game Freak’s usual three year cycles as of late, that seems to be the morning line favorite, especially since it was unveiled on Pokemon Day and every game unveiled on Pokemon Day has been out by the next February 27. This is a small sample size (Sun and Moon, Sword and Shield, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, Legends: Arceus, Scarlet and Violet, and the expansion pass) but much like their partner Nintendo liked to have all the E3 games out by the next one when possible, they probably want to go more into detail on ZA in August and then talk about something new next year around this time if there is anything.

The question is though, has the door really been closed? In our Slack after the presentation, as we tried to figure out why they skipped Unova, John raised the possibility of something Black and White related this year. As of now, I’m doubting it: they have announced multiple games a year before (2021 with BD/SP and Arceus) and they both hit within the next 12 months.

However, a quick turnaround from Z-A to something else for holiday 2025? Not off the table now. I still think it would be an effective gap year (January/February 2025 to holiday ‘26), but the longer we go without a successor the question does need to be asked.

Will this age as badly as my predictions from last week, or is Game Freak and Pokemon Company predictable in their unpredictability? Keep it locked to Nintendo World Report for all the updates.

Donald Theriault - News Editor, Nintendo World Report / 2016 Nintendo World Champion
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