Last month, Pokémon Sun/Moon developer GameFreak unveiled the games’ first global mission – fans across the world were challenged with catching a combined 100,000,000 Pokémon in their games. Today, they quietly announced that this mission ended in failure – and as a result, were re-evaluating future challenges.
The question on everyone’s lips now, is where did it go wrong? While the number seems ridiculously high at a glance, with over 7m copies already in the wild and an understanding of how many critters you personally catch in the average play session, it being met seemed like an inevitability. Fortunately, many who have experience with the games’ online features have been quick to identify the most likely cause – this failure isn’t on the Global Mission, but the Festival Plaza.
An extension and re-imagining of the “Join Avenue” from Pokémon Black Version 2/White Version 2, the Festival Plaza is a hub where avatars of players you’ve interacted with either locally or online may visit and request to be shown to one of the many stores or attractions you have there. That sounds wonderful on paper; after all, I loved the Join Avenue! Where the Festival Plaza trips up on itself though, is that every aspect of the games’ online modes are tied into it.
In the Generation VI Pokémon games (X/Y/Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire), connecting with other players couldn’t be simpler – just see their icon on the lower screen’s PSS (Player Search System) and select the activity you want to invite them to. This process was made even easier with other players being sorted into three categories – “Friends” who are registered on your Nintendo 3DS system, “Acquaintances” who you have connected with before and “Nearby”, strangers in the vicinity. Obviously, the feature was considered too good by developer GameFreak, as it was scrapped and replaced with something far more cumbersome.
All network features have been relocated from the lower screen to the Festival Plaza. With separated lists for friends and strangers removed in favour of a single list and a manual “VIP” tab, even figuring out how to set up trades and battles can become a game of trial an error. Obtaining a Game Sync ID and entering a Global Mission however, is a journey. After being easy to access on the lower screen since its introduction in Black Version/White Version, the Game Sync feature has now been taken out of the menus entirely and relegated to a single PC within the Festival Plaza’s castle.
Perhaps the Global Mission would have succeeded if entry was automatic as opposed to the rather hidden sign-up process in Pokémon Sun/Moon. Just to highlight how cumbersome it all is, there is an NPC dedicated to Global Missions stood right next to the Game Sync PC, when they could have just been combined into an accessible menu option! With the C-Gear and PSS of previous generations, Game Sync used to only be a click away, so it’s no wonder that hiding it away would impact the number of people using it!
After so many years of streamlining the series’ online features, the added “Menu Bureaucracy” of Pokémon Sun/Moon unfortunately feels like an unnecessary step back in a game that otherwise, makes so many strides forwards. The Festival Plaza is a fine feature by itself, but please GameFreak, uncouple the online features from it.