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Difficulty in Pokemon Games

So, in regards to the recent announcements of Pokemon Let's Go, I have opinions. I have a lot of opinions. Rather than just stew in my own thoughts, I figured I'd voice them/rant here and ask you guys what you think about all this.

It's pretty obvious from the game mechanics we've seen from Let's Go so far that Game Freak is aiming to pull in the casual audience. The kind of person who just played Gen I when it was released, and didn't touch the series again until Pokemon Go blew up. I don't think this is a bad move on their part, I mean, why not try to capitalize on the most popular mobile game in history, and hopefully get some of those people into the main series right? Plus, catering to a crowd of people who aren't really interested in a mildly hard game and just want to have a relaxed, fun time is a good thing in my books. Not everyone wants these games to be difficult.

The problem is I feel as someone who wants these games to be a bit more of a challenge, the games that have been coming out since XY have been already (kind of) catering to this crowd in the first place, and ignoring the fanbase that don't enjoy this. XY dropped the difficulty right down with mechanics like the Exp Share, constant give aways of powerful legendaries, Mega evolutions, and reduced rosters for Gym Leaders and other major fights which resulted in them feeling barely noteworthy. SM was similar in it's approach, although I did have more fun with it personally because some of the early Totem battles threw me off guard. The games have a very hand-holdy feel to them, which I believe is being amplified by Game Freak's increasing focus on longer and more detailed cutscenes explaining basic mechanics that have existed since 1996. These would be fine, if they were skippable, but they're not.

Yes, I understand that ultimately, Pokemon is marketed to children, and I'm a 22 year old adult. But I feel like the "kid/casual friendly" approach Game Freak has been taking is too gentle, and almost condescending at times. I don't think kids are stupid, or so incapable of dealing with a challenge. It's not like RBY are particularly difficult games for children to beat either - we all managed just fine after all - but there's a lot more to it than just leaving whatever Pokemon you want at the front of your party and just one shotting everything.

But, maybe this is all just nostalgia. Maybe this is all because I've been active in the Pokemon fanbase for 12 years (that's only Gen III btw, there are even more veteran players here) and I've grown up. Maybe I'm just disillusioned because I still haven't bothered finishing playing Ultra Moon through the first time after I one shot Ultra Necrozma on an no exp share run and because of how low effort that game felt. Maybe it's because I've finally gotten my hands on Pokemon Platinum and I've experienced the feeling of go through a new, but older school style Pokemon game again recently and I've fallen in love with it. Maybe I'm just stuck in the past and the games have moved on and left me behind, and I've just got to deal with it.

I dunno, this feeling is a complicated one. But, what do you think? Do you feel the games have gotten too easy, or if this is even a problem in the first place? I'd really like to know. And, thanks for reading this silly little rant.

Psycho Monkey

Member of the Literary Elite Four
I'm with you Aura. I've felt the games have gotten a bit too easy in the last two generations. I found USUM was a bit more challenging than SM but that was only because of a steeper level curve in USUM with Wild Pokemon and Trainers getting higher levels than their counterparts in SM. What I'm hoping happens is that GF will cater to both of their fanbases with Let's Go keeping the casuals satisfied and then the true main series games will have the story and difficulty we veterans want. Best case scenario GF gives us a difficulty setting from the title screen that lets us choose if we want to play on an easy, normal, or challenge mode from the beginning of the game. Not like in B2W2 where we only unlock such a feature after beating the game and only version exclusive. Easy can be for the children and the competitive players who want to bum rush the story so they can get on with their eugenics. Challenge would either skip tutorials entirely or else give us the option to skip them as well as make opponents competent and at higher levels. And of course Normal would be in between. That way there's a little something for everyone.
Well, if the games are too easy (Which I really think they are in my standards), I would always be happy to take it up a notch with an impossible equivalent difficulty level I have been working on.

Additional modifications were made in the Pokémortal difficulty to make the game, Pokéventure: Global Warriors even harder:
  • Enemies are higher leveled.
  • Enemies have 25% more HP.
  • Enemies inflict 50% more damage.
  • Enemies move 30% more faster.
  • Enemies are immune to one hit KO moves.
  • All enemies have new movement patterns and will not telegraph imminent, powerful attacks.
  • The counter mechanic is no longer present if a boss is preparing to use a powerful move.
  • The player starts off with no money and items.
  • Blacking out results in the player losing 75% of their money and having all friendships of their Pokémon dropped by 150.
  • Wounded Pokémon act slower overall depending on the amount of max HP intact and can only be treated with healing items.
  • Revives only revive a Pokémon from fainting with 1 HP.
  • Pokémon will go into comatose if they lose more than their current HP and max HP together at once, making them unable to be revived fron fainting at all until combat is over.
  • Enemies have 25% resistance to neutrally effective moves.
  • Enemies have 95% resistance to not very effective moves.
  • Super effective moves used by the enemy deal 200% more damage if the type of move used is the same as the type of Pokémon.
  • Status conditions and stat decreases carry over into the overworld after combat.
  • Items are significantly harder to find and do not spawn as frequently.
  • Obstacles take more to surpass and traps have dangerous consequences when triggered.
  • Chiral Pokémon are less affected after using Chiral moves and are immune to the effects of all healing items.
  • X-Moves are used more frequently by the enemy.
  • The AI of enemies are highly intelligent and will use moves and items accordingly.
  • The time limit for a turn is twenty seconds.
  • Running away from a wild battle will make the player drop a percentage of money and several random items.
  • The secret ending is unveiled if the player beats the game on this difficulty.
  • A secret item is given to the player if the player beats the game on this difficulty.
I agree with pretty much everything said already. While I felt XY to be lacking and easier than I would like, SM thankfully bumped it up just a little bit in terms of battles, at the cost of handholding throughout almost the entire game.

What I would like to see: More battles on the same scale as a Totem Pokemon. Personally, I enjoyed the totem battles and found them applying strats we know of as platers, but typically don't see in the game. For example, Lurantis and Sunny Day castform, Kommo-o calling in a Scizor for coverage on all it's weaknesses aside from Dragon, etc.
I'm not expecting the same level of difficulty as with online battles, but it would be nice to see things ramped up a little bit. My take is that, while the Exp Share is helpful in that it lessens the time spent grinding, everything else around in the game isn't yet properly scaled. I'd like to keep using the Exp Share, but I want harder battles in return. And when I DO need to grind for said battles, it won't be as much of a hassle.

LGPE is doing the complete opposite of that, by not only making things EVEN EASIER, but also by completely removing features that casuals will find "too confusing". No breeding, no proper way to EV train, no GTS, no Wonder Trade, no Battle Spot... The more info we get, the more things are being scrapped in order to casualize the games. So what's going to happen if a casual player picks up LGPE, then actually buys the regular 2019 Game? It's going too be to hard for them. We've already seen that these types of players hate change, given the constant repitition on how they think "only the first 151 Pokemon are good."

I've heard rumors about how GF might be splitting the entire series. How theyre going to release Casual Mode games of past regions alongside the regular new releases. I'm not too big of a fan of this idea, especially if LGPE does so well that they decide to stick with that formula from now on because it makes money. If people wanted to get into Pokemon because of Go, why couldn't they replay an older game like FRLG, or try out SM? They had the time and dozens of options, but for whatever reason, GF still wants to pander to a hopeless side of the fanbase.
GameFreak was on the right track with Black/White and their sequels difficulty. It tried a lot of things and I think that Gen V is all the better for it- but then never tried it again. Honestly, I think if the stupid key system wasn't in B/W2 and it was just a straight up "Choose a mode- Normal, Hard, Easy" that would be the defacto game to play through. And I wish XY, ORAS, SM, and USUM kept that. But they didn't! And I don't know why.

My personal hope for this inbound main series game is that because the "casuals" will enjoy Let's Go, the series can actually see a difficulty boost. Now that may be wishful thinking, considering that Let's Go might just be a "introductory point" to ease people into the main series. But if they just include a hard mode, and some other things like skip cut scenes, and some good postgame content (Battle Frontier, stop teasing us and just do it Game Freak!) that would be the defacto Pokemon game. That will be the one. It could help bridge the gap between the casual players and the ones who want a challenge. And I'm not saying hard mode has to be like perfect IV and EV Pokemon with a multitude of STAB and TM moves and an Item that benefits them most, but right now most trainer Pokemon are just sort of RNGed into place with no item or anything, though if I recall correctly Lusamine actually did have perfect IV Pokemon...

That's my scrambled thoughts at least. tldr; Pokemon needs a hard mode rather than a general difficulty increase.
My personal hope for this inbound main series game is that because the "casuals" will enjoy Let's Go, the series can actually see a difficulty boost. Now that may be wishful thinking, considering that Let's Go might just be a "introductory point" to ease people into the main series
I'm really hoping this is the case. I never understood why the Pokemon games needed to be "dumbed down" for the more recent titles. I grew up playing Gen 1 and had no issues grasping things. You play the game & learn it. Multiple playthroughs are indeed a thing. I can't even count how many times I replayed gens 1 & 2. At least 30 for gen 1... And I'm still trying different things and different Pokemon.

Games in general have become way too easy in my opinion, sometimes for the better & sometimes for the worse. Sometimes I just wanna blast through a game and relax (Diablo 3, for example). Other times I want it to challenge me (Celeste, Dark Souls). For me, Pokemon sits in the latter category.

I've said before that the one thing that irks me is the Exp. Share. Why is this such a "gimmie"? Why can't players be made to earn it? I realize it's a very handy thing, but at least be required to beat the main game before it's given to you. Even with it turned off I flew through ORAS. I realize there's more to the difficulty issues that that, but if they are going to keep the difficulty where it's at, at least make it a requirement to beat the game to acquire the Exp. Share.
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I feel the same way too. XY seem to be the start of the series getting easier with the Exp. share being broken. ORAS was probably even worse in that regard. Especially how early it's given to you. Even with it off, the game is still easy. Sun and Moon isn't as bad, but then again I STILL haven't beaten it yet. And I'm not sure if I'll ever get to USUM (or maybe I will, idk).