Pokemon
Pokemon's world has changed greatly in recent iterations.Nintendo

This week Game Freak release their latest Pokémon remakes - Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (OR & AS) - but despite the connotations remakes carry the series is far from treading old ground.

Last year the classic franchise got an overhaul with X & Y, which introduced 3D-modeled characters and creatures, diagonal rather than the grid-based movement, sky battles, customisable clothing for trainers, and horde encounters for the first time in the mainline series.

It also introduced Super Training for quickly increasing EV stats, made the decision that Fairy Pokémon would now be their own type, and brought to the table the most robust online component in the series to date. These features in particular greatly altered how pro-Pokémon players approached the game.

Pokemon
Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire's three starter Pokémon.Nintendo

All that without mentioning Mega Evolutions, which introduced new super-powerful forms for forty six Pokémon (so far) across X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.

So what about that Pokémon MMO?

It is a dream players have had for years: an online console version of the beloved handheld role playing game in which individuals happen across and battle other trainers from around the world.

What got me thinking about this was one new feature in particular which made me realise we're closer than ever to seeing that MMO become reality.

In OR & AS players can physically fly a Pokémon (with the HM move Fly of course) across an aerial version of the map to various locations, where once they would have been swept off their feet and plopped at their destination after a cut to black.

It opens up the worlds of Pokémon games in a way we haven't seen before, and after the eight-way movement introduced in X & Y, shows how recognisably closer the handheld Pokémon games are getting to what fans had envisaged for consoles.

Pokéfans only ever clamoured for a console version because on handhelds their dream couldn't be realised. However in 2014, with the tech at Game Freak's disposal and with what they've achieved recently, it is entirely possible to create such a game on 3DS or future handheld hardware.

However there's still a lot that needs to be done to make the idea work.

Nintendo has always approached online with caution, and even in X, Y, OR & AS, the online and single player components occupy very different spaces. It's in integrating them that the MMO idea will be realised, but it shouldn't be an MMO in the classic sense.

Pokemon
Choosing a starter Pokémon is something every child should have to do.Nintendo

For an online-driven mainline Pokémon game to work it needs to be sparing with its use of multiplayer. Only a handful of players should ever occupy the same place, not dozens, and various balancing issues would need to be addressed.

Traversal would also need to be different, with the world broken up into bigger areas and offering a deeper layer of exploration.

Nintendo's natural coyness will serve them well in fact, but they're a company that has finally realised in recent years that they must embrace online play.

For it to become central to any of their famously single-player titles would be huge, so if it happens, it would need to happen naturally.

But then of course Pokémon never really was a single player game. The joy of it was in sharing your experiences, trading and battling with friends. This used to be reduced to two rooms in a Pokémon Centre and a link cable, but has expanded naturally ever since.

Imagine the possibilities of that multiplayer expansion beginning to absorb the single player in some way. Imagine being able to share a portion of the game world with a handful of other players – to be able to battle them, trade with them on the fly, or to team up to tackle areas overrun by Team Rocket or their ilk.

The difficulty is in connectivity and how smoothly such a game could run. It would need to simultaneously rework how Pokémon games work, remain pleasingly familiar, and leave the possibility for it to be played solo at no detriment to those players.

It's a tall order, but for one of gaming's most popular and enduring franchises, it's a future they can't avoid.