A few weeks ago, another trailer for Black and White was released on the Japanese website, and naturally, the trailer soon spread like a brushfire to fans the world over. Seriously Nintendo, why do you even try keeping one region in the dark in this digital age? This trailer showed off a few more new Pokémon, some new online features, more shots of the Isshu region, and one thing that was possibly the most radical new feature yet shown to us in the forthcoming generation: triple battles.
We’ve all loved double battles ever since Twins Gina and Mia first challenged us to fight with two Pokémon instead of one back in 2003. Generation III introduced many tweaks and additions to the battle system, but this was the most notable. This was something new, something different, something exciting. For Ruby and Sapphire, double battling was a major selling point of the game. Many trainers would challenge the player to double encounters, and even a (particularly frustrating) Gym battle showed off this new feature. Pokémon Colosseum took this even farther: every single battle in the game was a double battle.
Double battling dipped in prominence though in Generation IV, it wasn’t nearly as important or widely used as it had been in the Advance era. A few double encounters littered the map, and the option remained to use in the Battle Tower and multiplayer, but little else. An interesting advance came in tag team battling with partners (either in-game NPCs or another player via wireless or WiFi), and a few rules were changed, such as fainted Pokémon being replaced at the end of the turn rather than immediately as they had been in the previous generation of games.
And now, multiple Pokémon fighting is posed to make a comeback, in a big way. Now, half your traveling team is on the field at once. Some immediately dismissed this idea, claiming it was just another instance of the games’ ever escalating nature and situations. Some embraced it for the very same reason.
One poster I saw had a legitimate concern: How is this supposed to be kept from being more of the same of what double battles brought? Would it simply be the same with an extra two moves per turn? Could half of a full team be demolished in a single turn because Earthquake or Surf demolishes the entire field? There needs to be significant enough differentiation from double battles to justify this feature’s presence. Otherwise, it seems to be posed to become just another shallow and unnecessary feature to the game. Triple battling needs to justify its presence, or it should not be promoted as a selling point of the game.
This feature needs thorough implementation; with numerous in-game trainers using it and a Gym Leader or Elite Four member challenging the player to a triple battle as well. Moves that cater to triple battling specifically should be added to the move sets of Pokémon. Yet the fact that you have three possible moves per turn could at the same time open up new possibilities for strategies. Three turns worth of set up for stealth rock, light screens, etc. can be accomplished at once, leaving room to proceed directly into whatever else is planned the next turn. Again, it all depends on how well this is integrated and constructed.
With that in mind, I’m reserving judgment on triple battles until I send out my three monsters for the first time. It may not be the most original idea to add onto the series, but it is a new idea nonetheless, with possibilities all its own if done right. It may come and go as quickly as the link cable minigames in FireRed and LeafGreen, or it may cultivate its own dedicate niche in the fan community. Only time will tell.