Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are bringing plenty of new features to the long-running franchise. Full-on multiplayer, open-world exploration, and a non-linear story are all firsts for the JRPG series. While Scarlet and Violet continue to add to the much-needed supply of cute characters, one detail in the most recent Pokémon Presents shows that taking inspiration from an unlikely source could be the perfect addition. By blending the world of Pokémon with unique gameplay mechanics from the Persona series, Nintendo could make the most compelling RPG ever.
Persona is the perfect series to steal from — For the uninitiated, Persona is a spinoff series of Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei franchise. It keeps the turn-based combat and monster summoning mechanics but adds a plethora of social features. While dungeons are important in Persona, they are only ever part of the story. It is just as important to build bonds (and even romantic relationships) with your party members while balancing the finite amount of time you have in the game’s calendar system.
Persona’s equivalent to Pokémon are creatures called Personas. These are gained through building relationships with party members as well as successfully “capturing” them in dungeons. Each Persona has a different type and can be manipulated by the player. Fusion leads to the creation of new Personas.
All of this occurs while you balance your studies and friendships on a daily basis. Each day only gives you enough time to do a set number of tasks, this requires the player to make choices and balance their time across multiple mechanics. The unique gameplay of Persona would be a perfect first for Pokémon.
Wouldn’t it be cool if the upcoming games incorporated some of these elements already?
Class is in session — Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are switching up the traditional linear story of Pokémon games by promising players they can tackle all gyms in any order. Plot-wise this means a twist on the typical narrative of being a kid sent out to train and defeat gym leaders in a deliberate sequential order. The latest Pokémon Presents reveals that players will be enrolled at the equivalent of Pokémon academy and sent out on a nebulous treasure hunt. This school setting makes me wish for a Persona-like Pokémon title.
Replace Personas with Pokémon and quickly the design shows how well suited it is for Nintendo's creature-catching franchise. By catching Pokémon and building up their collection, players could be given the option to breed Pokémon (a la fusion) to create otherwise unavailable creatures. Pokémon games already have a breeding mechanic anyway, but could just be one way to change up the gameplay flow.
What Pokémon could really take advantage of is Persona’s calendar. Instead of gyms being available in any order, they could be available only during certain dates in the calendar, requiring the player to go out and do other tasks to prepare for a hefty excursion to a gym. This would give the player time to explore the world or build relationships. Improving your connection to your Pokémon has been a part of the franchise for a while, but it has never reached its full potential. By implementing more social features the series would give players more reason to spend time with Pokémon, leading to versatility in party composition.
While Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are changing the franchise in a way that takes inspiration from Nintendo's critically acclaimed Legend of Zelda reinvention in Breath of the Wild, looking to Atlus’s social JRPG series could deepen the Pokémon franchises mechanics in an entirely new and improved way.