8 Hopes And Dreams For Pokémon Legends: Z-A

8 Hopes And Dreams For Pokémon Legends: Z-A

On February 27, Game Freak announced its next Pokémon RPG will return to the Kalos region with a new game in the Legends subseries. Pokémon Legends: Z-A is still many months away, as The Pokémon Company is skipping a year and releasing the Switch game in 2025. But the announcement was also pretty open-ended, so we don’t know much about the game at this point, other than where it takes place. That means we’re primed for speculation, all while potentially setting ourselves up for major disappointment. But that’s never stopped a Pokémon fan before, so why would it now? Grab your Poké Balls, trainers. Let’s run through our hopes and dreams for Pokémon Legends: Z-A.

The return of action-based mechanics

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

One of the most jarring things about going from Pokémon Legends: Arceus to Scarlet and Violet in the same year was that the latter feels like a significant step backward in terms of how you navigate and interact with the world. As an open-world game, Scarlet and Violet excel thanks to a seamless map that you and your friends could explore together, but it doesn’t have the fluidity of movement and capture mechanics that Arceus does. The Legends name, despite only having one game, already carries certain connotations in the Pokémon community, and that includes the implementation of action-based movement and throwing your Poké Balls in real-time.

Z-A will further establish what the subseries means, as there are no guarantees that it will be beholden to anything Arceus does. But if we’re talking about hopes and dreams? Z-A will be infinitely better if it keeps the best mechanical changes of its predecessor. Let us throw Poké Balls and capture Pokémon in real-time, dodge roll to escape powerful foes, and traverse the environment without the jank of Scarlet and Violet.

Keep leaning into the world-building

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

One of the most rewarding parts of Arceus is going back in time to see major historical events. Some of the best moments come from witnessing the beginnings of the Sinnoh region from Diamond and Pearl, such as the Temple of Sinnoh becoming the ruined Spear Pillar we see in the modern-era game. Z-A and the Kalos region have a lot of potential on this front, given Kalos’ own messy history. There was a whole war in that region! While the teaser suggests it probably doesn’t take place during that conflict, the fallout can still have a tangible effect on the world. This is a chance to further explore the region and its history, so fingers crossed the narrative stays strong this time around.

Authored environments over open-world blandness

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

Controversial take, but I would not be too upset if Z-A did away with the open environments of Arceus. Part of this is because if the game is going to take place entirely in Lumiose City, there might not be the same environment variety that keeps Arceus fresh while traversing the Hisui wilds. But also, setting the game in just one city sounds like the perfect opportunity to craft the world for more than just Pokémon spawning. Arceus covers multiple biomes, but with the exception of a stray landmark or village, the world lacks character. Arceus paints the Hisui region as an “untamed” world where civilization hasn’t been established yet—for better and worse. It makes sense that Z-A would focus on establishing a sense of place for Lumiose City, so it would be great to see a corresponding pivot in environmental design.

Give us some city scaling

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

Z-A will be Game Freak’s chance to establish the pillars of the Legends sub-series. If open-world exploration remains part of that, having a city setting means we’ll probably navigate the environment differently this time around. Lumiose City’s defining landmark is the Prism Tower, the city’s gym and Pokémon’s in-universe equivalent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Based on what we know about Z-A, this tower and most of the city may be under construction throughout the main story, but it would still be great to get Spider-Man-style city scaling in a Pokémon game similar to some areas in Scarlet and Violet, including climbing to the top of Prism Tower to take in the view.

All of that depends on if Z-A is more open-world like Arceus or Scarlet and Violet, or if it goes for a more ground-level style of traversal like Grand Theft Auto. If it’s the latter, hopefully we can still ride on Pokémon to get around, or maybe even go back to the Let’s Go games’ way of letting you ride on your party Pokémon instead of designated transportation characters.

Let multiplayer stay minimal

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

While Pokémon is typically a social-driven series, Arceus’ only multiplayer compatibility is in trading. So, there are no battles or co-op modes to allow you to travel through the Hisui region together. I would like Z-A to keep multiplayer minimal. Game Freak won’t have to balance Pokémon builds around competitive play, and that means it can do more experimental battle systems, like the turn Agile and Strong Style moves, that let you trade speed for power and vice versa. Less of a focus on hypothetical fairness would free the systems up for more interesting scripted battles that aren’t beholden to the same modular competitive toolset.

Arceus, decenters battling in favor of catching and collecting, so a lot of the fights you take part in aren’t that memorable, with the exception of the action-based boss fights and the battle against secret antagonist Volo. If Game Freak can shed any notion of catering to competitive rules, that opens single-player battles up to new possibilities. Keep the competition in Scarlet and Violet.

Bring back the shiny indicator

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

Scarlet and Violet take several steps backward from Arceus in terms of how they adapt Pokémon to an open-world format. But one of the features I’m surprised Game Freak never even patched into those games is Arceus’ shiny sound indicator. This is a little jingle that plays when a shiny Pokémon, or a rare, differently-colored Pokémon, is in your proximity. It helps collectors track down these little anomalies, especially in an open area where it’s easy to overlook more subtle changes. Scarlet and Violet still have shinies in their much larger open-world map, but they don’t include the sound that makes it clear they are close by. As such, it is much more difficult to track these Pokémon down, and Z-A (and any future Pokémon game, really) should not repeat this mistake.

Mega Raichu

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

Come on, Game Freak. Give Raichu a Mega Evolution. He deserves it. I deserve it.

In all seriousness, one of the few actually concrete details we know about Z-A is that it will bring back Mega Evolutions, the temporary transformations that give Pokémon a new look, a power boost, and sometimes even a typing change. It would be a wasted opportunity to bring back one of the community’s favorite battle gimmicks and not capitalize on it with new Mega Evolutions. Yes, Raichu is on top of my list, but a lot of new Pokémon have come out since X and Y last took us to the Kalos region, and there are plenty for Game Freak to choose from.

A game that actually runs well

Screenshot: The Pokémon Company / Kotaku

Sure, wanting a video game to run well is the bare minimum. But after both Arceus and Scarlet and Violet had so many technical issues and also looked pretty ugly, it would be ridiculous not to point out that Z-A has the chance to buck this ongoing trend. Game Freak is taking a little more time with Z-A, as The Pokémon Company is skipping 2024 for a big Pokémon release after years of annual launches. Hopefully that gives Game Freak more time to polish the game and make sure it’s in working order this time around. Fingers crossed. For all the wonder and adventure these games offer, The Pokémon Company can’t keep getting away with putting out these technical trainwrecks. Hopefully it doesn’t have to rely on a beefier Switch successor to get past these technical troubles.

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