Ever since Pokémon X and Y introduced mega evolution, Pokémon has been looking for ways to change the battle system in the franchise. After Mega Evolution came Z-Moves in Pokémon Sun and Moon, and now in the run-up to the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield on November 15, Dynamax has been revealed as the next game play mechanic to throw our balls at. Problem is, too many ingredients ruins the poffin, and the Pokémon game play is becoming heavily saturated with underwhelming ideas.
There’s no denying Mega Evolution was a fantastic idea. It gave new life to pokémon that were once overlooked in competitive battling, giving them an edge they once never had. Venusaur was a personal favourite, with its Mega Evolution able to take down a fire-type with ease due to its new ability, Thick Fat. The new designs were often cleverly done too, utilizing their already predominant features and styling them in more powerful aesthetics. In hindsight, Mega Evolution was the only additional concept to battling that seemed to fit the Pokémon DNA without going over the top.
A Max Move for maximum cringe
Z-Moves, on the other hand, seemed to be trying too hard. It became the core of Pokémon Sun and Moon, with the trainer collecting Z-Crystals rather than badges, which were then used to produce a powerful move. Z-Moves do have a lot of tactical prowess, changing terrible moves like Splash into something more usable, but the novelty wore off pretty quickly, particularly as Sun and Moon were one of the weakest generations of Pokémon. It is unfortunate then, that Dynamax is essential Z-Moves on a grander scale.
When a pokémon ‘dynamaxes’ they become much larger and much more powerful. They develop this red tinge to their appearance to show off how mighty they have become and how much raw damage they can now inflict. Dynamax can only be used once per battle and last three turns, giving plenty of time to showcase some moves to the max; a Max Move for maximum cringe.
To simplify the concept of Dynamax, it’s essentially Mega Evolution and Z-Moves mixed together without the style or the substance. Three turns of plastic totem pokémon. Three turns of Pokémopolis. Three turns of Gary Oak’s much more impressive Krabby. The bigger is better mantra delivered straight from an equally bigger pokéball.
As a way to connect players together, max raid battles could certainly be positive
The worry is how much Dynamax has been integrated into the Pokémon Sword and Shield gameplay. From the trailer, it does appear the gyms will use Dynamax quite frequently, meaning it’s going to be a mechanic difficult to escape, particularly as part of the overall story. Gyms were sorely missed in Sun and Moon, but with them played out on a football field to an audience demanding max power, totem pokémon might find themselves increasingly popular.
Max raid battles will also appear in the new wild area – the wild area is a beautiful idea and does seem to allow much more freedom of movement for the player. Max raid battles are actually quite interesting, particularly as a multiplayer concept. Essentially, the player and three friends can battle a wild Dynamax pokémon and attempt to catch it. As a way to connect players together, max raid battles could certainly be positive. The concern will always be whether Dynamax is the right approach to connecting pokémon fans closer.
Admittedly, as it has been only one trailer worth of Dynamax, it could easily be better than it first appeared. As someone who grew up with Pokémon from the first generation, radical changes can seem self-defeating. The jump from Red and Blue to Gold and Silver was huge but an entirely positive one. Likewise, the jump from Black and White to X and Y was quite big but hugely beneficial. Some jumps though have been sideways rather than forwards, particularly the introduction of pokémon contests that offered very little in the way of gameplay. At first viewing, it does appear Dynamax will be a sideways mechanic rather than a forwards mechanic that doesn’t improve on the core gameplay.
When making poffins, it’s best to use only ingredients that blend well with each other. Pokémon has a core gameplay that rarely needs tampering with. A new world with new pokémon is more than enough to get most pokémon fans onboard. All this ‘dynamaxing’ just leaves a sour taste in what was meant to be a sweet recipe.