Every Pokémon game begins with a variation of Professor Oak’s speech made famous in Pokémon Red and Blue. “This world is inhabited by creatures called Pokémon! For some people, Pokémon are pets. Others use them for fights.” Except, we never have the luxury of seeing them as pets. Everyone who comes to one of Nintendo’s Pokémon games is forced to see them as living weapons. It’s only in 2013 that we were finally given an opportunity to see the other, friendlier side of these creatures with Pokémon-Amie, a feature introduced in Pokémon X and Y. And so, our view of these virtual creatures opened up.
It took six generations for our view of the Pokémon to open up. We’d see other people in the world with creatures casually standing alongside them, keeping them company and warming their homes. We’re see fan clubs and interactions. But only Pokémon X and Y extended this peaceful opportunity to interact with our characters in Pokémon-Amie. We were given the chance to feed them Poké Puffs, pet them and even take part in mini-games. All of these things would boost affection with the characters, influencing their in-battle performance and even allowing Pokémon like Eevee to evolve.
All of these happened in a manner that made sense. Feeding a Pokémon a treat between battles would be a natural means of rewarding characters. Especially since it’s been established that all creatures, regardless of type and species, enjoy berries. So does petting them, since Pokémon X, Y, Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby take into account areas of Pokémon that shouldn’t or couldn’t be touched. Facial recognition works, since the creatures display signs of intelligence. Of course they would know you.
We even get to see how socialized these creatures can be with Pokémon-Amie, another benefit that would only happen when you’d begin to treat them as both partners and pets. Our in-game avatars speak differently to Pokémon they’ve bonded with, with varying levels of affection revealing more intimate dialogue choices. In turn, the Pokémon will respond differently, with visible actions and text that notes they’re more trusting of us. They may endure deadly attacks, avoid assaults, recover from status effects and even perform critical hits. These are things that a character you’d consider a friend, maybe even a part of the family, would do, not a basic tool.
Pokémon-Amie even solves a problem. While the idea of petting and caring for Pokémon is fun, could a spin-off focused entirely on caring for them even work? A simulation like Nintendogs does, because we have reasonable expectations for dogs. We know how all creatures that fall under that category behave. We’re able to teach them tricks. They all require the same sorts of care and play with the same toys. Pokémon don’t. Their moves are far beyond simple actions we could teach. They wouldn’t all engage in the same activities. The most that can be reliably offered is a means of occasionally offering someone an opportunity to care for the critters within the main game.
Fortunately, it’s a trend that Pokémon Sun and Moon seems to encourage. Nintendo has already confirmed this next installment will offer Pokémon Refresh to players. People will get closer to their partners by feeding them Poké Beans, petting the characters and caring for them after battles. They’ll be able to clean and tend to their allies, making them look their best and removing status ailments. Again, we’re seeing our characters getting an opportunity to bond with the creatures they’ve caught in a more peaceful way, but one appropriate to the situation at hand.
Pokémon games give us access to this world where we can catch hundreds of characters and create memories as we go on a journey with them. With the first five generations, we were only able to enjoy one aspect of the characters. From the sixth generation on, Pokémon-Amie opened up our world. It enriched our experience; we set foot into a more balanced world. While Pokémon X and Y introduced this notion, Pokémon Sun and Moon suggest we’ll have a bright future where our allies aren’t just living weapons, but valued friends. No matter what form it takes from here on out, Pokémon-Amie has improved and expanded our relationships with Pokémon.