The remakes of the 4th generation Pokémon games came out near the end of 2021, and their art style kicked up a fair bit of discussion online. In a stark juxtaposition of the other recent Pokémon games, the remakes went in a completely different direction. Rather than make the characters have stylized humanoid proportions in all circumstances, the remakes had the characters only have those proportions in battles. Instead, while in all other locations, such as walking around the map, the characters have the proportions of a “Chibi” style, in which their forms are extremely simplified and cutesy, with their head being equal in size to their body, a common feature of the style. This obviously made more than a few people rather confused as many thought of it as a step back from previous titles, such as Pokémon Sword and Shield, which was also criticized for its graphics, though for very different reasons. However, this is, as with many things, a subjective matter and I would like to give some reasons as to why this, along with some of the other changes, may have actually been a good idea.
To start, the previously mentioned change in character models. While they may at first seem strange in a modern Pokémon, there are two things that need to be brought to attention. First and foremost, Pokémon is a childrens game, many older demographics may like it but the games are not made with the idea that late teens or adults will play them at the front of their mind. The games have a significant audience at such an age, but it is not who it is being marketed towards, and the soft, round style is very appealing to both children and their parents, as well as many others. While some may prefer the less round style, the decision was very intentional. This is obvious when you remember that they did make more detailed models in the style of the previous game for the battle scenes.
This does not mean you have to like it, obviously, it is subjective after all, but it is worth seeing why they would make the decision. Speaking of which, what is likely another key factor in the design choice is that the game is a remake. One in which they stated they went out of their way to be faithful to the original when creating the game. The original game used 2D pixel sprites instead of character models due to software limits at the time, and had a “Chibi” style in order to appeal to the target audience, much like its predecessors. The remake’s style is actually amazing when it comes to capturing the feeling of the original in a more modern environment. Also, had the game been similar to the title just before it, it likely would have been criticized for reusing character models and not doing anything new. On top of that, it could also be a good way to see if they should change the style of Pokémon games going forward. By sticking to the older proportions in newer software they could try out a different style for the series, while not making it feel too weird by doing it in a brand-new generation, potentially alienating new and old players from an entire story and wave of Pokémon.
Another change is that, unlike generation 8, the camera was fixed to a bird’s eye view like it had been in previous games, unable to control the camera’s position at any times. This was a less controversial move, as it had been a staple in almost all mainline Pokémon games, ignoring certain unique angles. While this may make a brand-new fan feel somewhat restricted it, once again, has been a staple of the series since the first generation, and the only games that really break the mold are the spin-offs, such as Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
To bring this to a close, while the style was a large departure from the most recent games, it gave a nice sense of nostalgia and works quite well in the context of a remake rather than a new entry. Which can be further seen with the new trailer for generation 9 that released on February 27th, and showed a style much like generation 8, so even if you didn’t like the remakes style you don’t need to worry. To end, despite how controversial the art style was, the reasoning behind the decision was ultimately based on several very reasonable factors and as such shouldn’t just be discounted as a backwards step from the modern graphics of generation 8 and 9.