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Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Pokemon

“So I have a lifelong dream. It’s something I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid and I think virtual reality could really enable it. I’ve always wanted to be a Pokemon master and that’s really what I want to do. I want to play an incredible, virtual reality Pokemon MMO.If I got my golden ticket, that’s where it’s taking me. I’m gonna catch them all, I’m gonna battle all my friends, I’m going to meet whatever the vague definition of a Pokemon master is. “

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Many of us have had this dream. But these words aren’t from any normal virtual reality (VR) enthusiast, they’re from the creator of the Oculus Rift VR head-mounted display (HMD), Palmer Luckey. The VR figurehead revealed his hopes and dreams for the technology earlier in 2014 at the South by South West (SXSW) Festival. And with Nintendo’s famous franchise branching out into the fighting genre earlier this week with the announcement of Pokkon Tournament, it’s about time to address what Pokemon in VR might be like.

Many of the franchises that VRFocus has looked at in its ‘Make it a (Virtual) Reality’ series present a number of issues that need to be solved before they could provide a truly immersive experience. In Pokemon’s case, a straight up translation of one of Nintendo’s many adventures seems like an ideal fit right from the start. Imagine converting any one of the numerous regions that Pokemon trainers have trekked across into a fully immersive first-person experience, open for players to explore.

Crucially, the Pokemon franchise doesn’t need to rely on accurately replicating a player’s movements to provide full immersion. There aren’t any weapons that need 1:1 tracking, or explosive action sequences that need to provide the feeling of being lifted off of the ground. There’s the player taking a journey and issuing orders to his Pokemon in battle, and that’s really it. Granted any number of VR peripherals could be used to simulate walking, though this doesn’t feel necessary.

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Pokemon battles could finally be played from the perspective of the trainer, standing behind his combatant, issuing orders. Recent VR titles such as Vanguard V has showcased innovative uses of the Oculus Rift’s head-tracking for targeting and selecting options, and this could apply here. Battle could be a hands-free affair, with players simply looking at the type of attacks that they want to carry out and which opponent to hit with them. The thought of some kind of voice implementation system is all the more enticing, though an obvious peripheral doesn’t spring to mind.

Players could become more connected with those Pokemon too, bringing them out of their Pokeballs in the real world to interact with them, feed them and let them journey alongside similar to how Pikachu journeys with Ash in the cartoon show. Having them by your side as you wade through tall grass, spotting a rustling off in the distance and speeding towards it to encounter a rare Pokemon is the kind of thrill many have wanted to experience since Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue’s release in 1996.

While peripherals wouldn’t be necessary to the experience, there are a few benefits to applying motion controllers, such as players tossing Pokeballs themselves to catch wild Pokemon, or raising the Pokedex to their eyes to find out more about new creatures.

It’s quite easy to get lost in the thought of experiencing Pokemon in VR. In many ways the franchise already meets the requirements of an immersive VR experience. Nintendo might not be about to jump into the VR industry, but if it does, then this franchise should be first on their long list of creations.

‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets.