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Was the transition from 2D to 3D inevitable?

ItalianBaptist

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This actually came into my head while watching The Geek Critique’s video on Sonic 06. In it he said some of the questionable character designs had to do with the push in the field towards “realistic graphics” but that now the industry is sort of pushing back. He uses Cuphead as an example of a game that is 2D and unrealistic but highly stylized, and still taking advantage of the next gen systems’ extra power. With all the Sword and Shield drama I can’t help but wonder if the Pokémon franchise should have taken a similar track with the main series games.

We all know about the jump from sprites to models with the 3DS, and at the time it was a pretty big deal. But in hindsight I have to wonder if it was in fact a good thing or even necessary to begin with. I’ve seen multiple posts all saying that the models seem pretty lifeless compared to the old sprites or even the older Stadium models. I’m not sure it’s as pronounced of a difference for me but I at least get where they’re coming from. And then things got even more complicated with the issues surrounding Sword and Shield and particularly Game Freak’s explanation for not including all the Pokemon.

It really makes me question whether they could have done something 2D or sprite based as a “stylistic choice” and then we wouldn’t have some of the headaches we do now. Of course, there would be other headaches to replace the current ones but still :p
 

Aulos

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I don't know. I'd been waiting for a mainline 3D Pokemon game since Gen I. I remember picturing it in my mind, even back in the N64 days.

Personally, I'm not big on sprites. I feel like they were just a product of the technology at the time, and when I see them in modern games I don't get it. I'm not saying that everything translates perfectly into 3D (anime cel-shaded style has never worked for me in 3D, aside from maybe Dragon Ball FighterZ), but on the other hand nothing really works for me with pixelated sprites.

I find it weird to compare Cuphead to sprite-based games. Cuphead, while looking back to older styles of animation, utilizes the technology given and beautifully looks like what the style/era of animation it is conveying. I don't find games looking back at the 2D sprite-based eras to be quite as amusing because games were already there, and in fact, have never left there, since there are plenty of sprite-based games coming out every year. And as I said, IMO, it's just not that appealing. I'm a fan of a lot of antiquated, obsolete things myself such as music, musical instruments, architectural styles, etc. So I do get how people can enjoy it, I just don't.

Anyway, yeah, opinions. Enough of that, I think that Pokemon had to move on. Pokemon remaining a sprite-based 2D game would look pretty awkward up against the rest of Nintendo's line-up, and just wouldn't feel like proper $60 games (which the current Pokemon games already struggle heavily with). GameFreak had already started experimenting with a little 3D since Gen IV. And I, for one, actually really think that they did a fantastic job with the 3D Pokemon models. So much so it actually exceeded my expectations.

One last thing: Even when games try to "stylize" pixelated art to an HD style you get stuff like Octopath Traveler. I'm not saying it is a bad game, but any time I've tried to play that game it hurts my eyes. It just didn't work. I would have rather they just made a 3D game. I know a lot of people like the style, but in my eyes, it's just proof that sprite are an antiquated style, and trying to mesh them with modern effects just doesn't work.
 

TechSkylander1518

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People might consider the models lifeless, but that's probably easier to solve on a model than it is a sprite. You can add new animations to a model, but to make a sprite look different, you'd have to start redrawing every frame with the new detail. It's also been way easier to update graphics-instead of redrawing every Pokemon in a new style, it's just a matter of making the new ones match.
 

Silktree

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I will probably always consider GBC graphics and music to be my favorite, but such a huge series can't stay back in the 90s or even the 2000s.

It's also been way easier to update graphics-instead of redrawing every Pokemon in a new style, it's just a matter of making the new ones match.
Tell that to Game Freak.
 

Bolt the Cat

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Thing is, 2D sprites are generally only accepted in lower budget entries where the developers don't have the time and/or money to do full 3D. Cuphead is a $20 indie game, it's reasonable not to expect complex, realistic graphics from that sort of experience. Full scale retail releases? Not so much. Generally if you're selling a game for a full $60 nowadays, it's expected to be a AAA game with high end graphics and gameplay. So since Pokemon trends more towards the full scale retail side of the market, and now it's even being sold as a full $60 console game, adapting to 3D graphics was expected. The only thing they could've done to get away with not going 3D would be to sell the games as a budget digital title, then it wouldn't carry the expectations of being a AAA game and there'd be no need to push the graphics. Ultimately, 3D graphics aren't the root cause of Sword and Shield's drama, it's the $60 price tag. There'd be less of a stink over things like Dexit and the graphics if this were a $20-$30 eShop game instead of a $60 retail game.
 

Azu

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I've thought about this for quite a while now. I sort of just wish Pokemon would go back to sprites. Instead it's like they're sort of trying to be modern with 3D models, and yet they don't seem capable of going all the way with it. I feel like they should either stick with what they're proven to be the best at (simple graphics, solid mechanics and gameplay) or go all out and actually be "Next Generation".

But this is just a personal preference.
 

lapisora

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IMO the biggest issue the 3DS games and SwSh have is that they have lacklustre animations. Give the NPCs convincing idle animations, make battles look like they did in Battle Revolution, improve the use of the camera, and we wouldn't have this uproar over graphics like we do today. Right now, it feels like the series has awkwardly grafted 3D graphics onto a 2D game.

I love sprites, and personally would be fine with Pokemon regressing if it meant Game Freak could spend the extra time creating a game which feels naturally made for 3D. That is very unlikely to happen, however, and like Bolt the Cat said, only indie games use sprites these days.
 

Poke Dragon

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It was inevitable that Pokemon would enter the 3D era, all other main Nintendo series which are longrunning changed to 3D, Pokemon was obviously going to change to 3D once the 3DS was on the market, and now they can only go forward from here due to many reasons.

My only gripe with the 3D stuff is the fact that many cries weren't updated properly and the fact that for the time being, not much effort is put into having a content filled post-game.
 

Everclear

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I preferred the 2D style because it seemed cuter and ever since the games switched to complete 3D, I haven't liked them as much. The 2D style just works so much better for this particular franchise because the graphics were never the main selling point of the games in the first place.
 

EliteLinnie

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I loved 2D, and I love 3D as well. However I miss the little changes each game would bring us with new sprites.
The poses, the colours and the attitude of every single pokemon had slight changes that made rediscovering all of them so much fun! I miss that.
 

Yami-no-Game

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It was always on the horizon I suppose, but I'm not happy about it because the franchise didn't need better graphics, just a better storyline with a good post game in each installment.
 

Kyriaki

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With everything else moving to 3D, it was inevitable that Pokemon would also move to 3D. But even though I appreciate the more realistic approach they took since Gen7, I didn't mind the chibi-style in Gen 6.
 

colours

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perhaps I'm in the minority, but I honestly feel that even if Game Freak stuck to sprites, there would've been at some point (perhaps around Gen 6) where people would've started perhaps getting tired of them. Gen 5 didn't exactly do the sprites justice because of the weird animations, so I'm unsure what direction Gen 6 would've taken it. so really, it would've been inevitable at some point or another.
 
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I’m personally happy to see everything in 3D and wouldn’t want it to go back to sprites. I’m in the minority with this but I don’t even like cries, I prefer their anime counterparts like what Pikachu and Eevee have in LGPE.

Games like Links Awakening on Switch show 2D is popular but I personally enjoy 3D more. Also being able to see the actual size and scale of Pokémon like Gyarados or Onix.
 
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YumeTsuki

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I'd say it was inevitable. Considering the kind of game, it has lifted an otherwise consistently bigger load of work on the development team, now that they don't have to redraw assets with every new generation released, at most they have to touch up the existing 3d models and rigs so they become viable for use for next generation hardware, therefore also reduces to costs of development.

Personally I find it a shame that pixel art is gone now. But that has more to do with the fact that I learned art by the sprites that were used. At most I'm a bit disappointed to see how the colors of Pokémon are becoming less saturated. On the other hand, it's great because it means greater accessibility for the people who are sensitive to certain bright colors.
 

Shib

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I'm a Gen 1er but I honestly think that the move to 3D models was not only on inevitable but also a very good choice. I really think that the opinion of sprites somehow being more lifelike or more realistic are fuelled by nostalgia.

As for comparisons to Stadium/Colloseum, I always thought the camera moved a bit too frequently on those so I'm happier with the handheld games so far.

I will admit that when X & Y first came out I felt a certain trepidation about the change in style, more so with the overworld than the Pokémon battles, but I lost myself in those games way more than B/W/B2/W2
 

emerson.brant

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Assuming that time, yes.
But I see a comeback to 2d in many new titles, and we can see something like that in the next generations.

Something like "link's awakening" for gen 9 for example.
 

Poke Dragon

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I will have to say that it's unrealistic for there to be any more sprite-based Pokemon games made by Game Freak. Models save them a lot more time than sprites due to the fact that many sprites would have to be created just to mimic movement.
 

FlashFire926

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I've preferred Sprites, but I'm coming around to 3D models now.

I prefer the animated sprites from gen 5 cause of two reasons:
  • Because the pokemon have more interesting movement and stances, in the new game theyre just sorta standing there (or endless gliding if they're flying types). Takes the personality out of some pokemon
  • They felt way more colorful, unlike the 3D models in gen 6/7 which were too washed out.
But with Sword/Shield, seeing pokemon walking around in the overworld, and seeing those same models in full 720p in battle really shows their true potential. And Pokemon camp having all 6 pokemon out at once is rad too, you wouldnt be able to do that with sprites really.

When 3D first debuted in X/Y, I was quite underwhelmed with it.
  • the region was still grid based, and you can still only walk in a grid, which is still 2D in some ways.
  • Animated trainer sprites in Black 2 replaced with just a lame still illustration, for most trainers anyways
  • Those Hovering circle platforms feel out place in 3D
  • A very limited number of battle backgrounds, not as detailed as they could be.
  • And last but not the least, that god awful chibi art style. Looked absolutely horrible.
  • 3D pokemon feel a bit lackluster, for the reasons I already stated above.
And then Sun/Moon fixed almost all of these problems, which I was surprised by.


But with Sword/Shield, seeing pokemon walking around in the overworld, and seeing those same models in full 720p in battle really shows their true potential. And Pokemon camp having all 6 pokemon out at once is rad too, you wouldnt be able to do that with sprites really. And they fixed the washed out colors to a degree. The environments also look better than Sun/Moon (which itself was an improvement on X/Y).

So yeah, underwhelmed with 3D at first, liking it more and more with each new iteration tho. Gen 5 style is still a notch above still, IMO.
 
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