Pokémon’s Gen III Was the Series’ Best, Until Temtem Made it Even Better

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Temtem, a new creature-collecting MMORPG adventure out now for early access play on Steam and Playstation 5, offers a rich reimagining of the formula that Nintendo seems to have abandoned.

On January 13th, “Hoenn” began trending on Twitter in the United States as Nintendo’s official Pokémon account announced they would be highlighting player-favorite regions in honor of the classic series’ 25th anniversary.

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Grab your bikes, Trainers: all year long, we’re revisiting the regions that introduced us to the Pokémon we know and love. Which region is your favorite?#Pokemon25

Fans were quick to weigh in, nostalgic for Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire and Pokémon Emerald‘s Hoenn—the region that introduced a slew of new features to the franchise and was the setting of the best-selling video game titles of all time for the Gameboy Advance.

The history of Hoenn

Released in 2002 (followed by Emerald in 2004), Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire established Pokémon as something deeper than a creature-collecting battle royale.

Under Game Freak art director Ken Sugimori, the games made use of the Gameboy Advance’s graphical capabilities to depict a beautifully detailed and colorful world while retaining a simple aesthetic that the developer hoped would both appeal to children and attract veteran Pokémon fans. The land of Hoenn introduced trainers to a geographically diverse, mysterious country. From a sunny beach city in the shadow of sleeping volcanoes, to a treehouse town nestled in the canopy of a great forest, to windy, desolate deserts and mysterious towers hoarding undiscovered treasures, there was no shortage of exploration.

For the first time, Gen III players were able to personalize the world of Pokémon. They were given the ability to build unique “Secret Bases” anywhere in Hoenn that they could fill with furniture, decor, and significant items collected on their trainer journeys.  Meanwhile, Pokémon Contests, new mini-games that tested a team’s talents rather than fighting prowess, and Pokéblocks, special treats made collaboratively whose quality improves the more in sync its makers are, created space for players to explore the culture of Pokémon outside of battle. It also introduced ways to show love and care to the player’s Pokémon. Even after every trainer had been beaten and every Pokémon had been caught, Ruby and Sapphire encouraged continued exploration and promised ongoing playability in addition to its 40-hour main quest.

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But that’s not to say the battle design was left behind! Ruby and Sapphire introduced Natures, mechanics that gave each Pokémon a distinct personality affecting its stats and how it would grow, and Abilities, unique passive affects that helped bolster the Pokémon in battle. Gen III was also the Pokémon generation to introduce 2v2 battles, which opened up countless avenues for strategic combinations and a new level of challenge for seasoned trainers.

Generation III brought a new level of depth to Pokémon, establishing the series as an RPG for all ages and treating players to new features that became integral to how Pokémon games have been designed since.

But then what happened?

Temtem: A fresh take on a familiar foundation

TemTem up!

Sadly, subsequent titles haven’t quite captured the magic of Generations I through III. As the Pokémon franchise has grown, and the list of monsters to collect with it, little else has seemed to evolve. Users have complained that features starting in Gen IV and onward, from Super Training (the ability to train a Pokémon without fighting) to Z-Moves (super-powered moves that can be used once per battle) have scaled down the difficulty of the games and removed the challenge. Enter Temtem, released on Steam last year and now available for early access play exclusively on the Playstation 5.

Created by Madrid-based studio Crema, Temtem made no effort to hide the fact that it was a game heavily inspired by Pokémon. As a Temtem tamer, you travel a land comprised of six islands, battling and capturing Temtem that hide in tall grass, thwarting the evil machinations of the infamous Team Belsoto, and periodically fending off your rival.
Yet in one game, Temtem has managed to take the monster-collecting adventure genre farther than Nintendo has taken Pokémon in 25 years.

Temtem is a contemporary, inclusive MMORPG

Players are able to buy homes and furnish them in the MMORPG TemTem.
In Pokémon, every young person wants to be a trainer, but the world can feel surprisingly empty. Running around in Temtem with dozens of other trainers makes the world feel so alive. While much of the game is still in-progress, features like player housing, ranked matchmaking, and a soon-to-be-unveiled arcade bar promise more interactions with other players in the future.
By Summer 2021, when Crema plans for Temtem to be completed, players will also have the option to engage in daily/weekly quests, in-game tournaments, and more features promising long-term value and playability. 
It’s also a game that reflects the desires of contemporary gamers for the titles they play to reflect the diversity of the world we live in.  Temtem‘s comprehensive, intuitive character creation allows one to bring their full identity to the game, while playful references like Anak Volcano (anak means “child” in Tagalog) or the city of Uhuru (“freedom” in Swahili) add acknowledgement of the real-life people, cultures, and places that inspire games like these. For gamers who have grown used to having their identities erased in games, it’s the little things about Temtem that hold the most charm.

TemTem is for everyone—not just young tamers

Temtem‘s been described as “hard,” and it’s because its fixed 2v2 battles and damage dimensions of not just elemental type (fire, water, etc) but also time-based (some moves need multiple turns to charge) and pair power-ups (some moves effects are changed depending on the other Temtem on your team), encouraging surprisingly thoughtful strategy once one grows familiar with the system.
Its 30-hour main quest, while grounded in levity with its tongue-in-cheek dialogue and addictively colorful, cel-shaded graphics, still manages to tackle bigger societal issues. In the main quest, the player gets caught up in the middle of a cultish organization’s violent invasion of their homeland, Omninesia, right as they set off to begin schooling at the Tamer Accademia. Between battles, the game offers opportunities to reflect on the effects of colonization, the unfair prejudices faced by indigenous people, and the importance of staying connected to each other and to the land.

The game loyal fans deserve

Underneath its facade of cute creatures, Temtem is a game that builds upon our collective nostalgia to create something completely new.  
Temtem was Crema’s first foray into community engagement in the game development process. On Kickstarter, almost 12,000 people contributed to bring the title to life. Its entire journey has felt like a labor of love, taking best parts that Pokémon had to offer, and asking how it could be fleshed out even further into a game with enough weight to be a mainstay in next-generation console play.
So while Pokémon inexplicably partners with Katy Perry…I’ll be playing Temtem.