The Elite Fourdinators: Pokemon Contest and What Could Have Been

Ever since the first games, the Pokemon franchise has tried to include side quests and activities, things that change the game from the classic “beat 8 gym leaders and fight the Elite Four.” There’s the “end of game” content that only happens once you become champion. There have been ideas like the Safari Zone and the Bug-Catching Contest, which were alternative methods of catching Pokemon, as well as alternate venues for battling such as the Battle Tower and Battle Frontier, both of which function as a sort of arena for “advanced” players. But it was in Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald that they introduced a concept which came the closest to being a true alternative from the gym badge system: Pokemon Contests.

In Pokemon Contests, elemental types don’t really matter. Nor do things like attack power and hit points. Unlike the Safari Zone, the Battle Frontier, and all of those other extra features, the Pokemon Contest system is the only competitive activity which was so different from the rest of the game that almost none of the traditional rules applied to the way contests worked.

The goal of a Pokemon Contest is to win the votes of a panel of judges in a specific category, such as “Beauty” or “Intelligence,” and in order to do so you must have your Pokemon be more appealing than the others. To this end, every attack has its own unique features and functions entirely separate from battling and trying to KO your opponent. For instance, the attack “Flamethrower,” which is a Fire-type attack in battles, is a move which shows off “Beauty” in a Pokemon Contest. Contest Pokemon have to be fed strict diets and be groomed properly to win the visual portion of the competitions. They eventually even included dancing.

It might sound pretty boring compared to the intensity of taking on your rival in a flurry of lightning and sandstorms, and this might even be the reason that Pokemon Contests are non-existent in Pokemon Heart Gold/Soul Silver, but the big thing that Contests had that previous side games in Pokemon didn’t was 1) rewards and 2) increasing levels of difficulty. Instead of getting Gym Badges, you get Contest Ribbons, and as you go from city to city, the Contests get more challenging. In a way, it could be seen as an alternate path to the Gym system, something that wasn’t so much a game within a game as it was another activity entirely. It might even be perceived as something on par with battling. In fact, the anime tried to push this idea, by having characters like Haruka (May) and Hikari (Dawn) decide to forego the path of collecting Gym Badges and have them focus on obtaining Ribbons. The only problem is that in the anime, Contests resemble battling with a somewhat different flair, and the games themselves don’t give any rewards other than the Ribbons, essentially meaning that it’s still considered “inferior” to hitting the Gyms.

I think that Pokemon Contests could have become a really viable alternative to Gym Battles, and that it should be an option at the start of games to go on the path of a “Pokemon Coordinator,” the term the series uses to denote people who have devoted themselves to Pokemon Contests. There should be personalities you get to know and the opportunity to practice against opponents. Perhaps winning should net you TMs that are rare and powerful within the context of Contests. There should be an equivalent of the Elite Four to take down, and when you win over them, there should be an ending. Most importantly, you should be able to play against your friends.

I understand that it might be virtually impossible to try and balance two completely disparate systems running off the same basics in the same game. I also think the concept of the Pokemon Contest could stand to have some tweaking, such as making Type matter more, or perhaps even taking a cue from the anime and having it come down to battles where you’re judged on not only your ability to take down your opponent but to look good doing so. But I really believe that, done properly, Pokemon Contests could truly add another layer to the world of Pokemon by giving kids a different kind of opportunity to go off on an adventure.

Here’s hoping to their return in Generation V.

Pokemon types don’t really matter. Nor do things like attack power and hit points.

6 thoughts on “The Elite Fourdinators: Pokemon Contest and What Could Have Been

  1. Interesting thoughts. I can’t comment on the contests since I skipped the third and fourth gen games almost altogether, and because the concept of using Pokemon for anything other than violence sounds completely boring to me, but it would certainly be interesting to see them fleshed out.

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  2. I agree! I always thought the contests could be just as entertaining as battling gym leaders if the system’s complexity was bumped up. I even think it would be possible to create a new series of Pokemon Coordinator games (like the Mystery Dungeon or Ranger games). They could introduce some really cool diet and training features, too.

    Sigh. One day, perhaps… One day.

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  3. Even though I’ve played all the Pokemon games, I never once took interest in Contests. I think out of my hundreds of hours spent playing Pokemon, I maybe participated in one Contest. Raising strong pokemon and figuring out battle strategies is simply what I love about the games.

    But for those who like Contests, I agree that they should make a game where you can choose whether to be a Trainer or a Coordinator. Perhaps even make a game just for Contests. As long as Contests aren’t required to move through the main story of the game, they’ll always be looked upon as inferior to battles.

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  4. I agree entirely. A a contest based side option would be great for the more passive-aggresive among us. My only complaint with the contests would be that all the graphics department seems to do is reverse the battle sequence and remove the opponent.

    If they simply improve the attack graphic and add one or two contest specific moves, it would work even as a stand alone project.

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  5. I also agree!I like being a coordinator.For them not making a game mainly about contests and making them like the show may cause them to lose fans.I barely liked pokemon before but, when contests came out I begin to really enjoy the show.Now I’m still barely liking it cause I mainly like playing the games and the contests ain’t the same I stop buying and watching the show altogether.Another thing I kinda hate is we only able to choose between a fire,water,and grass type at the beginning of each game, why don’t you mix it up.Why don’t you let us choose are starting pokemon in some of the games.So, this is what I have to say about all of this and I hope they really make some changes!

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  6. Pingback: Pokemon Omega Ruby and My Fabulous Pageantry Adventure | OGIUE MANIAX

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