If Johto Or Sinnoh Return, They Better Bring The Pokeathlon With Them
So you want to be the very best, like no one ever was? Well it’s not enough to just beat the Elite Four. You gotta do everything. Despite what certain blowhards might say, you have to catch them all. But it doesn’t stop there. You must take on the other kinds of Pokemon competitions. You gotta dazzle them in Contests, show your moves in a Musical. And you have to step into the arena, where true masters are born. If any kind of 4th gen remake is happening, it has to bring back the Pokeathlon.
The Pokeathlon made its debut in Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver. It continued the tradition laid down by Pokemon Contests in Gen 3, in which Pokemon stats were translated for a non-violent form of competition. In this case it was an Olympics-style athletics event. Pokemon stats became things like Speed, Power, and Jump. But no fear if your favorite Pokemon weren’t the most fit – you could blend Apricots into Aprijuice to boost stats (an apparently legal form of juicing).
It was on the field, though, where the Pokeathlon proved its dominance. It’s always fun to have a mini-game to break the cycle of go places, encounter wild Pokemon, battle Trainers, then find a new place. Where Pokeathlon takes it a step further is by providing active play. Pokemon Contests and Musicals were strategic affairs, having you wait your turn in order to show off the right move or accessory. Pokeathlon does still reward you for choosing the Pokemon with the right stats (and juicing correctly), but it also challenges your stylus skills.
As part of the early DS era, 4th gen Pokemon was super into the whole touchscreen thing (HeartGold/SoulSilver came out the same year as Angry Birds, for reference). As a result, the Pokeathlon is a series of mini-games that has you swiping and tapping furiously. Yet it wasn’t a total gimmick, because you entered three Pokemon at a time. This meant making juggling all three in a hurdle race, or switching during a strength challenge when one Pokemon got fatigued. By forcing you to pause and consider the best Pokemon for the job, the Pokeathlon avoided being a tap-fest, a trap that caught many games of this time.
Here in 2021, we’re once again predicting that 4th gen remakes are coming. Much of the fandom is hyped for that, while others would prefer Let’s Go Johto. If Johto really does get remade on Switch, imagine what a souped-up Pokeathlon could be. A handheld Nintendo Switch is a big touchscreen, making it prime for Johto’s biggest sporting event. When docked, the player could use the Joy-Con’s motion controls to swipe and swish to victory. If they wanted to really go for it, new Pokeathlon could have a Ring Fit-like exercise component.
The Pokeathlon is by and large the best alternate Pokemon competition. It offered strategy, let you play a more active mini-game, and gave non-meta Pokemon a chance to shine. If Johto comes back, the Pokeathlon is a must. If Sinnoh comes back… find a place to put an arena in.
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Sergio is the Lead News Editor for TheGamer. But usually he asks people to call him “Serg” because he wants to sound cool like the guy from System of a Down. He began as a convention reporter for FLiP Magazine and Albany Radio’s The Shaw Report to get free badges to Comic-Con. Eventually he realized he liked talking to game developers and discovering weird new indie games. Now he brings that love of weird games to TheGamer, where he tries to talk about them in clickable ways so you grow to love them too. When he’s not stressing over how to do that, he’s a DM, Cleric of Bahamut, cosplay boyfriend, and occasional actor.
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