This is something I've wanted to talk about for a while, but considering today is Pokemon Day, it seems more fitting to say it now.
I'm a huge fan of Pokemon ever since the series came out. Even if played most of the old ones way after they came out (my first Pokemon game was LeafGreen, and I played RBY and GSC on emulators) all of them have been important titles to me, despite some highs and lows. However, I've been noticing a trend that started with Gen 6, and that has affected all of the games since. It was something I didn't really pay much attention to, because there were other things that made up for it, but after Pokemon ORAS and especially SunMoon, I think it's imperative to discuss it.
So, yesterday I beat a Nuzlocke run of Omega Ruby. I'm a huge fan of Nuzlocke runs, because they add a big layer of challenge and personality to the games, completely changing your approach to them. Beating them can be a gruelling experience, though, specially if you're not prepared for it. It's always hard to see one of your mons taken down after a critical hit, or a mistake you made or simply to save another more important team member. Even on my better runs, I've always had a couple of casualties, either at the very beginning of the game or at the very end. However, my run of Omega Ruby was my first perfect run. I did not lose a single pokemon throughout the game. I should be happy about it, and if it were any of my previous beaten games, I'd be. But I feel the game served itself on a silver platter, rather than me beating a challenge. Exp Share aside (if anything the exp share is an invaluable help to save time with the grinding process), the game does everything in its power to hold your hand and keep you from losing: every gym leader has now weaker pokemons compared to the ones they had in the originals, the AI will go for less lethal strategies and will often ignore obvious oportunities to beat the player, the game gives you a Latios/Latias for free, which is kind of broken if played right, there are many more healing spots outside of the Pokemon Center to heal your team, the player gets to use mega evolutions whereas barely any NPC uses them (not even the Elite 4, only the Champion, the enemy team leader and the rival use them)... It gets to a point where sweeping the League with just one pokemon is a legitimate possibility, and that should never be the case in a Nuzlocke.
This all reminded me of Sun/Moon. I'll probably try a Sun/Moon Nuzlocke sometime in the future (I have to do X/Y first), but I fear it's going to be even worse. ORAS has the distinction of being a remake of a fairly old game, and thus the game does not need to guide you that much throughout the story, the average pokemon fan has played RSE many times before and know where to go every time. With Sun/Moon, my major gripe was the excessive handholding throughout the game, to the point that you really can't even fish outside of specific areas. Combine the linearity of the game with the easy difficulty of Sun/Moon compared to other games, and the game quickly becomes boring. X/Y get away with this by being the first 3D Pokemon game outside of the GameCube, the size of the region and the fact that, in my opinion, the postgame allows the best competitive training to date. But Sun/Moon don't really have that. Hell, ORAS should have had a Battle Frontier, its absence is inexcusable on a remake. There's also the problem of keeping all of the difficult parts of the game on the post-game. That is not a solution in the least, but even then, the more difficult Pokemon games are usually the ones with a better and more rich postgame, whereas the easier ones just get the bare bones "Pokemon Tower" or equivalent.
I understand the need to keep the games accesible to a wider audience, and it's obvious the Pokemon series will always be one of the easiest JRPGs out there, but the lack of challenge on modern titles is something that greatly bothers me. I'm not asking for the Dark Souls of Pokemon games, but even so many pokemon players are seasoned veterans at this point, and it's not like the mechanics are difficult to understand. DPPl, for all of its faults, is one of the most challenging Pokemon games, without really being impossible to novices or younger players. BW also were pretty decent in that department, and HGSS didn't water down the difficulty of the original.
With the the possibility of a Pokemon announcement glooming in the distance, I'd like to ask GameFreak to respect the player's abilities to play their games. Allowing more freedom of action should be essential for any game that tries to be alive, specially because the Pokemon formula is becoming more and more stale (though it's still successful). Difficulty options for the main campaign, a longer story with more degrees of difficulty, challenging gyms and Leagues, a postgame with actual content... Something to make the games more interesting.
You know it deserves the GOTY.