In this article, I will be taking a look at some monster-catching RPGs that are – at least in some ways – each better than Pokemon. I’ll explain what they do better than and suggest what Pokemon could do to improve its stale formula.
“If I want your opinion, I’LL ASK FOR IT!!!” – Misty, Pokemon.
Meet the new Pokemon, same as the old Pokemon
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Oh no! Team (insert random word here) are up to no good! They have awakened/summoned/created the Legendary (insert random word here) Pokemon – a creature so legendary, that it was never mentioned in any previous Pokemon games! Only you can save the world but why rush? With (insert random number here) new Pokemon to collect, you’ll need more than two big Pokeballs to master this game. First you can capture every single Pokemon in this game, then purchase the companion title, Pokemon (insert random colour/object here) to transfer across the ones we made unavailable in this game. Six months later, you can d0 it all over again with the shiny slightly upgraded version, Pokemon (insert mildly more impressive word here), with (insert random number here) extra Pokemon to collect and additions so minuscule, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them before!
Along your way to become the ultimate Pokemon Master and save the world (although not necessarily in that order), you’ll meet such forgettable characters as Professor Something-or-Other, Nurse Thing-ummy-bob and the Not-So-Elite-as-the-Last-Elite-Foursome!
Meet the new Pokemon, worse than the old Pokemon?
I don’t hate Pokemon. It would be easier if I did. I still like it…kind of…and I’ve hope that someday they may release a great Pokemon game. Hope is a dangerous thing though and my hope has grown smaller with each iteration that is released. In terms of creating interesting characters and plots or even just making a game which pushes consoles to their limits, Game Freak have never really needed to even try to do any of that. Until not so long ago, diagonal movement wasn’t even a thing in Pokemon. The games each look like they’d be right at home on whatever the previous handheld console was.
Each new generation of Pokemon doesn’t seem any better than those which preceded it. In Generation V, they’d already resorted to slapping a face on a bag of rubbish and calling it Trubbish. We’re now on Generation VII and things aren’t looking much better. There are a few okay additions but more often than not, I’m left disappointed with the little creatures I catch and left thinking that they’re worse than the original Generation I lineup. They’ve added in new features such as Mega Evolutions but it’s still not really enough to keep it all from feeling a bit stale.
My ideal Pokemon game & why it’ll never be made.
I’ve come to accept now that my ideal Pokemon game will never be made. It would be a game with an interesting plot and characters that you’d actually want to meet. A game where the story is at least as important – if not more so – than the Pokemon themselves. Think an epic early Final Fantasy-like plot (VI – X era) but with Pokemon to catch and train instead of Summons. I’d also like it if you could attack alongside your Pokemon. In an ideal world, it would also be made with home consoles in mind (or at least the hybrid Switch console) and it would push the console to its full potential.
We’ll probably never get a Pokemon game that’s close to my ideal. Game Freak don’t need to push themselves too hard, as each Pokemon title still sells well. It’s also as Game Freak aren’t really targeting older Pokemon fans who grew up with the originals with their games. After all, there’s a whole new crop of kids to sell their games and toys too now.
If like me you have a long wishlist of features you’d like to see but a general awareness that they’ll never be included, it may be time to accept that it’s time to leave Pokemon behind. Thankfully, there are other games to scratch your monster-hunting itch. Here’s some fun old and newer titles that you may want to check out.
1) Jade Cocoon 2, PlayStation 2
Back in 2001, Genki already released a game that in many ways improved upon Pokemon’s monster catching shtick. It featured an excellent storyline, a deeper level of strategy, wonderfully illustrated character art and Divine Beasts that had more personality than your average Pokemon. The character art was created by Katsuya Kondō, who was also the artist for Studio Ghibli‘s Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke. There was also multiplayer battles (although yes, I will concede that odds are nobody else will be playing them now). Post-game there were also additional quests and boss fights. Its predecessor Jade Cocoon is also decent. I love being able to fuse the different monsters together.
2) Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, PlayStation 4 & PS Vita
Looking for something a bit more recent to sink your teeth into? It’s an obvious comparison but you could do a lot worse than Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, which was developed by Media Vision. Set in the not-too-distant future, the line between the real and digital worlds has been blurred. With decent graphics and an engaging and entertaining narrative, it’s worth playing. A sequel was also recently released; Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory.
3) Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, 3DS
The Shin Megami Tensei games featured monster catching back in 1992. Unlike the Pokemon games, these games are much darker. The monsters you enlist to aid you in battle aren’t cute. They’re demons, gods and heroes gathered from many different mythologies. The plot is both more mature and cooler than anything that you will ever find in a Pokemon game. Beyond the excellent plots, one of the best features of these games is fusing together demons to create more powerful beings. It has also been confirmed by Atlus that Shin Megami V is coming to Nintendo Switch. I can’t wait!
4) Persona V, PlayStation 4
Having sunk around one hundred and fifty hours into this bad boy on my first playthrough, it’s safe to say that I’m a fan. Persona is a spin-off from Atlus’ Megami Tensei franchise and the original entry was based on the high school setting of Shin Megami Tensei. Since then, the Persona games have gone on to become more popular than the series that spawned them. It features a huge plot, well-written characters with backstories you’ll go out of your way to discover and a similar Fusion mechanic to the one outlined in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. In short, Persona V is one of the best JRPGs ever made. You owe it to yourself to also play Persona 4: Golden for the PS Vita.
5) Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, PlayStation 3
So, onto one of my favourite PlayStation 3 games. Featuring a beautiful world and an emotionally engaging story line, it was simply a joy to play. With development duties handled by Studio Ghibli and Level-5 collaboratively, it’s simply wonderful. Oh – and it also features over three-hundred Familiars. A sequel – Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – will be coming to PlayStation 4 and PC in March. I’m a little concerned that Studio Ghibli aren’t named as the developer for the sequel but a number of people working on it did work on Studio Ghibli films, so hopefully it’ll still turn out great.
6) Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, PlayStation 4
Developed by Nippon Ichi Software, this turn-based SRPG game has honed the combat mechanics that made the others in the series so great to play. For example, you can now transform monsters into weapons that can be used by your heroes. Think Final Fantasy Tactics only funny and you won’t be too far wrong.
7) Nights of Azure, PlayStation 4
Nights of Azure isn’t perfect but it is fun. It features Dynasty Warriors-like combat, a funny and emotional lesbian romance storyline and monsters that fight alongside you in battle. The sequel – Nights of Azure II: Bride of the New Moon – is available for the Switch as well as the PlayStation 4.
8) World of Final Fantasy, Playstation 4, PC & PS Vita
World of Final Fantasy combines the monster catching element of a Pokemon game with many of your favourite characters from Final Fantasy game. The storyline is simple and the Chibi art style is incredibly cute – both points which will deter as many people as they attract. I have a soft spot for this title though, as it helped me to introduce my daughter to the Final Fantasy series. Each dungeon is themed around a different element, which gives you a reason to alternate which Pokemon – I mean, monsters – you use in battle. Square Enix‘s Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance also featured a monster catching mechanic.
Honourable mention: Pocket Mortys, Smartphones
As it’s technically not a monster catching game, it couldn’t really make the list. Also, as a blatant parody/rip-off of Pokemon, it’s hard to argue that it’s better than Pokemon. But damn, it is funny. If your’e a fan of the Rick and Morty show, this smartphone game is for you. How many different Mortys can you collect?
Oh – and another honourable mention goes to Ark: Survival Evolved. Technically it’s not an RPG and technically dinosaurs may not be monsters but it’s still good fun. What are your favourite monster-catching games?
You may want to read the Persona 5 ULTIMATE Edition & Other Bundles Now Available article next. Alternatively, you could check out the Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory New Trailer article.