In recent years, the mainline Pokemon game series has slipped into what some refer to as 'the Call of Duty rut'. Each addition does little to advance the series, barring a few gimmicks, and each annual or biannual release is pretty much the same game as the one before. It's hard to work out if the games have become stagnant, or if people are just outgrowing them, but with other Nintendo staples like Mario and The Legend of Zelda getting new entries that push the franchises into new and exciting directions, Pokemon fans have been feeling let down.
The mediocrity of the newer games is rendered even worse when you compare them to the peaks of the old. One particularly damning comparison comes when stacking them up against one of the best games in the franchise, Pokemon Heartgold and Soulsilver. These games were remakes of Gold and Silver, but made full use of all the new mechanics and graphical tricks that had developed in the time that had passed. There were also a number of expansions to the game areas and overall plot, meaning this remake was far from a copy-paste job.
Content-wise this game put Sword and Shield to shame. It has all the standard Pokemon fare, a wide-array of creatures and battles to keep the player entertained, but it also has a revamped daycare system, roaming legendaries, pokegear, apricorns, bug-catching contest, a freaking pokemon olympics. It even, in a move never repeated in the franchise, has a vast and entertaining postgame.
Once you defeat the Johto league and vanquish the resurgent Team Rocket, your character, as per tradition, wakes up back in their hometown. In other games, your remaining tasks will largely consist of exploring a limited newly unlocked area, filling up your pokedex, and mopping up any legendary pokemon you missed during the story. Heartgold/Soulsilver has all of this and so much more.
Once you leave your house, you're approached by the pokemon professor of the Johto region, who gives you a ticket for a ferry that takes you to the Kanto region, the setting of the first game. This new region contains another eight gym leaders, new pokemon, new trainers, and even lets you fight the protagonist from the first game during an intensely difficult, climactic battle on a mountaintop. All of this adds a solid amount of hours to the game, going above and beyond to encourage the player to keep training their pokemon and filling in the national dex.
It's hard to picture another Pokemon game living up to the franchise's legacy, particularly after a representative from the series' game designer confirmed that the newer games are intended to compete with mobile games rather than AAA games (despite being priced like the latter rather than the former) but Pokemon Legends: Arceus looks to be making efforts to advance the franchise, so there's hope for the fans yet.